The bloodletting in shares of for-profit education companies grew dire Monday after

Corinthian Colleges

(COCO)

warned that it would miss earnings estimates for its June and September quarters.

Corinthian, one of several publicly traded college operators that has come under regulatory scrutiny this year, said earnings in the fourth quarter ended June 30 will be 19 cents to 20 cents a share, reflecting higher marketing costs and other expenses. For the quarter ending in September, the company expects to earn 17 cents to 19 cents a share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had been forecasting earnings of 28 cents a share in both quarters. Corinthian's heavily shorted stock was recently down $6.82, or 34.5%, to $11.90 in premarket trading.

Career Education

(CECO) - Get Report

, another favorite of shorts, was $4.91, or 14.5%, to $28.90, while

Apollo Education

(APOL)

lost $10.78, or 12.9%, to $72.77 and

ITT Education

(ESI) - Get Report

lost $4.81, or 15.1%, to $31.85.

Corinthian said preliminary results suggest its marketing and advertising expenses will be about 22.7% of revenue for the fourth quarter, compared with 22.5% in the third quarter and 20.3% in the fourth quarter of last year.

"The increase in marketing and advertising expenses was primarily due to the previously disclosed advertising campaign in April to mitigate adverse publicity related to student lawsuits at the company's Florida Metropolitan University system and other increased advertising expenses to achieve the company's new student starts goal for June 2004," it said in a release.

The warning is Corinthian's second in three months. On April 28, the company put fourth-quarter earnings at 27 cents a share, shaving 2 cents of then-existing estimates. Corinthian's president and chief operating officer left the company at that time.