Enrollment Decline Hurts Lincoln Ed's 4Q

WEST ORANGE, N.J. (AP) â¿¿ Lincoln Educational Services Corp. disappointed investors with a smaller fourth-quarter profit and weak full-year guidance, adding to the growing list of for-profit education companies that are feeling the pressure from new federal regulations.

Private educators' enrollments soared early in the recession, as the weak economy and high unemployment made education more appealing for job-seekers. But new, stricter government regulations enacted last summer prompted the companies to raise admissions standards and that has cut into their enrollments and profitability.

Lincoln reported Wednesday that its fourth-quarter net income shrank by almost three-quarters to $6.2 million, or 28 cents per share, from $23.2 million, or $1.04 per share, in the last three months of 2010. Revenue fell 31 percent to $115.6 from $167 million as fewer students signed up for its classes.

Analyst anticipated earnings of 23 cents per share on revenue of $114.3 million, according to FactSet.

Lincoln, which offers classes in the health care, auto, business and other fields, said its average student body shrank 23 percent in 2011. The company said it had to make changes to accommodate the new government regulations in 2011, which hurt results.

Its full-year net income fell to $17.5 million, or 79 cents per share, from $69.7 million, or $2.79 per share, in 2010. Revenue fell nearly 20 percent to $512.6 million from $639.5 million.

Lincoln's CEO Shaun McAlmont, said that 2012 will be a year of rebuilding for the company and it expects new student sign-ups to stabilize in the first half of the year and increase in the second half.

However, it expects new student enrollment to be flat to slightly down in the current quarter, which ends in March. As a result, it expects to post a loss of 18 to 22 cents per share with revenue of $102 to $105 million. Analysts were expecting a profit of 3 cents per share on revenue of $107.3 million.

Lincoln expects to earn 25 to 40 cents per share for the year on revenue of $440 to $460 million. Analysts forecast earnings of 48 cents per share on revenue of $443.1 million.

Online classes provider Bridgepoint Education Inc. on Tuesday projected modest enrollments growth for its first quarter. Apollo Group Inc., owner of the University of Phoenix, lowered its expectations for student numbers and operating profit late last month.

Shares of Lincoln Educational fell 40 cents, or 5 percent, to $7.65 in afternoon trading.

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