ARLINGTON, Va. ( TheStreet) -- Strayer Education ( STRA) shares tumbled nearly 25% in the first minutes of trading Monday after the postsecondary education company warned of slower student enrollment growth. Strayer said late Friday that new student enrollments across its campus and online education system decreased by 20% for the 2011 winter term, which began Jan. 3, even as continuing student enrollments increased by 10%.
Piper Jaffray analyst Peter P. Appert slashed his price target on Strayer Education shares by $17 to $119, maintaining a neutral rating on the stock. The analyst noted that "Strayer's much weaker than expected fourth-quarter enrollment growth likely portends similar sharp declines in enrollment growth from most of the postsecondary education companies over the next several quarters. We expect deteriorating fundamentals to keep the postsecondary group in a near-term trading range, even in the context of easing regulatory concerns. We see no rush to own STRA shares or for broad industry exposure."
That led much of the sector lower as well. Everest Colleges parent Corinthian Colleges ( COCO) saw its shares tumble 11.2% to $4.69 while DeVry ( DV) lost 13.4% to $41.17. Apollo Group ( APOL), which is due to report a 12.3% drop in fiscal-first quarter earnings to $1.35 per share after the closing bell Monday, was lower by 5.9% to $35.76.
Investors considering a purchase of Strayer Education, Inc. stock, but tentative about paying the going market price of $66.40/share, might benefit from considering selling puts among the alternative strategies at their disposal.