MINNEAPOLIS ( Stockpickr) -- In the late 1990s, when it was out of fashion to be a value investor, was also when I knew value stocks would outperform the rest of the market by a wide margin. I was right.

While I do consider myself a value investor, I much prefer to be called an opportunist. Socially, that may be unacceptable, but in the world of the stock market, there really is no other way to be. If you want to make big money owning stocks, it pays to buy what others are selling and sell what others are buying.

One never knows when the next opportunity may arise -- you just need to keep searching. There are always contrarian plays to make somewhere. Market inefficiency pretty much guarantees that. Ultimately, on the long side, time heals all wounds, and suddenly what was out of favor becomes a shining star.

The next great contrarian play could be taking place at this very moment in the online education space. Stocks in that group have fallen on hard times over the last year. The value destruction has been seen across the board. As a result, prices today may be attractive.

Related: 3 Dolls of the Dow Stocks for 2011

Typically, I like the online education space at the end of a bull market or economic expansion. Educators do particularly well when unemployment is high. If it is tough to get a job, one of the most popular ways to improve the odds of being hired is to enhance one's resume with some sort of degree. Doing so online has become more affordable and accessible.

The point is that these stocks are cyclical, but what does one do when presented with the selloff that we have seen of late? Are these stocks now value traps, or do they represent a contrarian opportunity for investors like me?

Let's take a closer look at some of the bigger names in the group and find out.

Apollo Group

One of the pioneers in alternative education and a leader in the online education space, Apollo Group ( APOL) was a shining star from 2007 to 2009. Not surprisingly, the company's fortunes changed at the bottom of the recession. Recovery in the economy led some to believe that profit growth at Apollo would falter.

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