Why Grand Canyon Education's Shares Popped

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of for-profit educator Grand Canyon Education (NAS: LOPE) were getting a gold star from investors today as they rose as much as 18% in intraday trading after the company released first-quarter results.

So what: In most cases, more students mean more profits for an education company, and it certainly meant that for Grand Canyon in the first quarter. Total enrollment increased nearly 9% from the first quarter of last year to 46,300. That helped drive a 15% gain in revenue and a blistering 52% increase in earnings per share. The respective revenue and EPS tallies of $117 million and $0.32 topped analysts' expectations.

Now what: Better than expected backwards-looking results are certainly a good thing, but investors tend to get even more excited about better than expected future results. For all of 2012, Grand Canyon's management bumped up its outlook. New guidance -- at the respective midpoints -- pegged revenue at $482 million and earnings per share at $1.27. Wall Street had been estimating EPS of $1.21 on revenue of $478 million.

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