NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Education Management Corp. shares soared almost 25 percent Friday in their debut in an initial public offering after being priced at the low end of their proposed range.

The stock jumped $4.48, or 24.9 percent, to $22.48 by midday on volume of almost 5 million shares.

On Thursday night, shares were priced at $18 a share, at the bottom of the company's proposed range of $18 to $20.

Many education stocks have seen gains in the past two years as the tough economy drives more Americans to bulk up their resumes. This is the third for-profit higher education IPO since November, following online educators Grand Canyon Education Inc. in November and Bridgepoint Education Inc. in April.

Grand Canyon shares are up about 43 percent since then, while Bridgepoint shares have gained about 40 percent.

The market for initial public offerings took a big hit in 2008 amid the recession. A recent broad rally in equities and a sense that investors' appetites are again whetted for IPOs is prompting a range of companies to go public after long delays, analysts say.

Education Management, a 47-year-old Pittsburgh-based for-profit provider of post-secondary education, initially signaled its intent to file an IPO in December 2007. It had been taken private by a consortium of private equity investors, including Goldman Sachs and Providence Equity Partners, in June 2006.

Since then, a new management team, led by a former Apollo Group Inc. CEO, has bulked up the education provider's online classes division, opened several new locations and improved back-office support systems.

Education Management had consistently shown strong earnings as a private company. It posted a profit of $104.4 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2009, up 58 percent from the previous year. Sales rose 19.4 percent to $2.01 billion.

Education Management had about 110,800 students enrolled as of October 2008 on its 92 campuses, which include Argosy University and the Art Institute. That makes it one of the largest for-profit education companies.

Apollo, which operates the University of Phoenix, said in June it had 420,700 enrolled students. ITT Educational Services Inc. has about 70,000 enrolled students, while DeVry Inc. said in August it had about 86,000 students enrolled.

Education Management expects net proceeds of about $334.8 million from the IPO. The shares are being offered by the company to pay back debt incurred when it was taken private.

The offering of 20 million common shares represents about 14 percent of the company's shares outstanding. Shares will trade under the ticker "EDMC."

Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, BofA Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley are underwriting the offering, and they will have the option to purchase another 3 million shares. The company expects the offering to close Oct. 7.

Robert W. Baird, William Blair & Co., BMO Capital Markets, Piper Jaffray, Signal Hill, Stifel Nicolaus and Barrington Research are co-managers.

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