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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(D) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019

or

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(D) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from           to           

Commission File Number 0-23245

 

PERDOCEO EDUCATION CORPORATION

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

 

 

Delaware

 

36-3932190

(State of or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

231 N. Martingale Road

Schaumburg, Illinois

 

60173

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

(zip code)

 

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (847781-3600

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

Title of each class

 

Trading symbol(s)

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock, $0.01 par value

 

PRDO

 

Nasdaq Global Select Market

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

 

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act of 1933.     Yes       No  

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.     Yes       No  

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.     Yes       No  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).     Yes       No  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

Large accelerated filer

 

 

Accelerated filer

Non-accelerated filer

 

 

 

Smaller reporting company

Emerging growth company

 

  

 

 

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company, as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.     Yes      No  

The aggregate market value of the Registrant’s voting common stock held by non-affiliates of the Registrant, based upon the $19.07 per share closing sale price of the Registrant’s common stock on June 28, 2019 (the last business day of the Registrant’s most recently completed second quarter), was approximately $1,133,000,000. For purposes of this calculation, the Registrant’s directors, executive officers and 10% or greater stockholders have been assumed to be affiliates. This assumption of affiliate status is not necessarily a conclusive determination for other purposes. As of February 14, 2020, the number of outstanding shares of Registrant’s common stock was 70,151,357.

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the Registrant’s Notice of Annual Meeting and Proxy Statement for the Registrant’s 2020 Annual Meeting of Stockholders are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Report.

 

 

 


PERDOCEO EDUCATION CORPORATION

FORM 10-K

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

Page

PART I

 

 

ITEM 1.

BUSINESS

 

1

ITEM 1A.

RISK FACTORS

 

21

ITEM 1B.

UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

 

32

ITEM 2.

PROPERTIES

 

32

ITEM 3.

LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

 

32

ITEM 4.

MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

 

32

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

ITEM 5.

MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES

 

33

ITEM 6.

SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA

 

35

ITEM 7.

MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

 

37

ITEM 7A.

QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK

 

54

ITEM 8.

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS AND SUPPLEMENTARY DATA

 

55

ITEM 9.

CHANGES IN AND DISAGREEMENTS WITH ACCOUNTANTS ON ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE

 

55

ITEM 9A.

CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES

 

55

ITEM 9B.

OTHER INFORMATION

 

55

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

ITEM 10.

DIRECTORS, EXECUTIVE OFFICERS AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

 

56

ITEM 11.

EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

 

56

ITEM 12.

SECURITY OWNERSHIP OF CERTAIN BENEFICIAL OWNERS AND MANAGEMENT AND RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS

 

56

ITEM 13.

CERTAIN RELATIONSHIPS AND RELATED TRANSACTIONS, AND DIRECTOR INDEPENDENCE

 

57

ITEM 14.

PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES

 

57

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

ITEM 15.

EXHIBITS AND FINANCIAL STATEMENT SCHEDULES

 

58

ITEM 16.

FORM 10-K SUMMARY

 

58

 

 

 

INDEX TO EXHIBITS

 

59

SIGNATURES

 

62

INDEX TO FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

 

63

 

 

 

 


PART I

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains “forward-looking statements,” as defined in Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, that reflect our current expectations regarding our future growth, results of operations, cash flows, performance and business prospects and opportunities, as well as assumptions made by, and information currently available to, our management. We have tried to identify forward-looking statements by using words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “expect,” “plan,” “seek,” “should,” ”will,” “continue to,” “outlook,” “focused on” and similar expressions, but these words are not the exclusive means of identifying forward-looking statements. These statements are based on information currently available to us and are subject to various risks, uncertainties, and other factors, including, but not limited to, those matters discussed herein under the caption “Risk Factors” that could cause our actual growth, results of operations, financial condition, cash flows, performance, business prospects and opportunities to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, these statements. Except as expressly required by the federal securities laws, we undertake no obligation to update such factors or to publicly announce the results of any of the forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect future events, developments, or changed circumstances or for any other reason.

 

ITEM 1.

BUSINESS

Perdoceo Education Corporation (“Perdoceo” or “PEC”) was incorporated in Delaware in 1994 under the name Career Education Corporation. When used in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, the terms “we,” “us,” “our,” “the Company,” “Perdoceo” and “PEC” refer to Perdoceo Education Corporation and our wholly-owned subsidiaries. The terms “institution” and “university” refer to an individual, branded educational institution owned by us and includes its campus locations. The term “campus” refers to an individual main or branch campus operated by one of our institutions.

OVERVIEW

Perdoceo Education Corporation, formerly known as Career Education Corporation, assumed its new name effective January 1, 2020. Perdoceo in Latin means “to teach, inform, or instruct thoroughly” and reflects the Company’s commitment through its academic institutions to providing a quality education to students. The Company has spent the last several years transforming the organization to focus on its two universities while responsibly completing the teach-out of its career schools. Under its new name, the Company will continue its journey to become a leading provider of online postsecondary education through its academic institutions.

Perdoceo’s academic institutions offer a quality postsecondary education primarily online to a diverse student population, along with campus-based and blended learning programs. Our two regionally accredited universities – Colorado Technical University (“CTU”) and American InterContinental University (“AIU”) – provide degree programs through the master’s or doctoral level as well as associate and bachelor’s levels. Both universities offer students industry relevant and career-focused degree programs that are designed to meet the educational needs of today’s busy adults. CTU and AIU continue to show innovation in higher education, advancing new personalized learning technologies like their intellipath® learning platform and using data analytics and technology to support students and enhance learning. Perdoceo is committed to providing quality education that closes the gap between learners who seek to advance their careers and employers needing a qualified workforce.

CTU’s mission is to provide industry relevant higher education to a diverse student population through innovative technology and experienced faculty, enabling the pursuit of personal and professional goals. CTU places a strong focus on providing degree programs to meet the needs of our non-traditional students for career advancement and of employers for a well-educated workforce. The university offers academic programs in the career-oriented disciplines of business studies, nursing, computer science, engineering, information systems and technology, cybersecurity, criminal justice and healthcare management. Students pursue their degrees through fully-online programs, local campuses and blended formats, which combine campus-based and online education.

AIU’s mission is to provide for the varying educational needs of a career-oriented, culturally diverse and geographically dispersed student body with the goal of preparing students academically, personally and professionally. AIU focuses on helping busy non-traditional students get the degree they need to move forward in their career as efficiently as possible and offers academic programs in the career-oriented disciplines of business studies, information technologies, education and criminal justice. Students pursue their degrees through fully-online programs, local campuses and blended formats, which combine campus-based and online education.

We refer to CTU and AIU collectively as our University Group.

A listing of individual campus locations and web links to Perdoceo Education’s University Group institutions can be found at www.perdoceoed.com.

Substantially all of the students attending our institutions reside within the United States of America.

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Campus Locations

Our University Group campus locations, as of February 19, 2020 are summarized in the table below.

 

Universities and Campus Locations

 

Website

AMERICAN INTERCONTINENTAL UNIVERSITY ("AIU"):

 

www.aiuniv.edu

AIU Atlanta, Atlanta, GA (includes Georgia online programs)

 

 

AIU Houston, Houston, TX

 

 

AIU Online, Chandler, AZ

 

 

COLORADO TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY ("CTU"):

 

www.coloradotech.edu

CTU Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, CO

 

 

CTU Denver, Aurora, CO

 

 

CTU Online, Colorado Springs, CO

 

 

Student Enrollments Statistics

Our total University Group student enrollments as of December 31, 2019 and 2018 was approximately 36,600 students and 34,400 students, respectively. Included in total student enrollments were approximately 34,400 students and 32,100 students, respectively, enrolled in our University Group fully-online academic programs. Related student enrollment demographic information for our University Group as of December 31, 2019 and 2018 was as follows:

University Group Student Enrollments by Age Group

 

 

 

As a Percentage of Total University Group

 

 

 

Student Enrollments as of

 

 

 

December 31,

 

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Over 30

 

 

61

%

 

 

61

%

21 to 30

 

 

35

%

 

 

35

%

Under 21

 

 

4

%

 

 

4

%

 

University Group Student Enrollments by Core Curricula

 

 

 

As a Percentage of Total University Group

 

 

 

Student Enrollments as of

 

 

 

December 31,

 

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Business Studies

 

 

74

%

 

 

74

%

Information Technology

 

 

13

%

 

 

14

%

Health Education

 

 

13

%

 

 

12

%

 

University Group Student Enrollments by Degree Granting Program

 

 

 

As a Percentage of Total University Group

 

 

 

Student Enrollments as of

 

 

 

December 31,

 

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Doctoral and Master's Degree

 

 

12

%

 

 

13

%

Bachelor's Degree

 

 

69

%

 

 

71

%

Associate Degree

 

 

19

%

 

 

16

%

 

Pending Acquisition

On March 8, 2019, the Company entered into an agreement to acquire substantially all of the assets of Trident University International (“Trident”). Trident is a regionally accredited university offering online undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs with a strong focus on graduate programs. Pursuant to the pending transaction, Trident’s operations will be brought within the scope of AIU’s current state licensure, accreditation and Department of Education approval, with Trident relinquishing its accreditor and

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Department approvals. AIU plans to have Trident continue to operate within AIU, preserving the Trident name as a division or college of AIU. In November 2019, the Higher Learning Commission approved the proposed transaction. We expect the transaction to close in early March, with the timing dependent upon the Department of Education’s processing of AIU’s application to add Trident’s programs to AIU’s authorization. Closing is also subject to customary representations, warranties, covenants and closing conditions. In anticipation of the closing, we continue to work with all of our regulatory partners on the expected regulatory authority transitions.

STRATEGY AND GUIDING PRINCIPLES

To compete successfully in today’s demanding economy, people benefit from higher education that provides a foundation of knowledge and skills they can use in the workplace and to build meaningful careers. We aim to become a leading provider of online postsecondary education to non-traditional students, including adult learners. Our pursuit of this goal is built upon the core guiding principles of:

 

academic outcomes;

 

academic quality and integrity;

 

compliance with regulations; and

 

sustainable and responsible growth.

Our strategic priorities that we believe will support our goal to become a leading provider of online postsecondary education to non-traditional students, include:

 

enhance enrollment processes;

 

enhance student experiences and retention;

 

leverage efficient and effective scalable shared services to support sustainable and responsible organic growth at both universities and as a key enabler for inorganic growth strategies;

 

use technology as a differentiator; and

 

invest in high return on investment projects that support our operations.

We continue to focus on building a strong balance sheet while prudently investing in organic growth projects at our universities and committing capital to inorganic growth strategies. We will continue to evaluate diverse strategies to enhance shareholder value, including acquisitions of quality educational institutions and programs and repurchases of company stock, while emphasizing organic student-serving investments at our universities and maintaining liquidity. Our goal is to deploy resources in the most effective and efficient manner that we believe will lead to increased stockholder value while supporting and enhancing the academic quality of our institutions.

OUR BUSINESS

Through our two regionally accredited academic institutions, we are focused on providing a quality education to our students while investing in student serving processes and initiatives that should enhance overall student learning experiences and academic outcomes. We pursue a student-first mindset in our efforts to provide outstanding student support and coaching throughout the academic life cycle, from enrollment and orientation through ongoing coaching and learning. We are also committed to investing in our academic institutions and student support technology, both of which we believe will contribute to positive student experiences and enhance retention and academic outcomes. Technology is a key enabler and differentiator for us and we are looking to expand the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning throughout the academic life cycle. We believe that our technology innovations continue to provide students with tools that enable them to focus on educational content in a manner that is best suited to their personal learning style.

Student Recruitment and Marketing

Our institutions seek motivated students with both the desire and ability to complete their academic programs of choice. To promote interest among potential students, each of our universities engages in a wide variety of marketing activities. We develop and participate in various marketing activities which build awareness of the CTU and AIU brands among prospective students. Our marketing programs are designed to maximize each institution’s opportunity to serve a targeted section of the potential student population.

We have developed strategies within our marketing functions to provide a holistic experience to prospective students to help them with their decision process. We have invested in a new prospective student contact technology that consolidates data into a single prospective student contact platform and provides us with flexible outreach strategies while improving time utilization as we are able to more effectively provide prospective students with relevant information to help them make more informed academic decisions. We have seen improvement in the number of students we are able to contact and we believe prospective students have an improved overall experience in communications with our admissions personnel.

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One of our initiatives to expand the use of artificial intelligence (“AI”) and machine learning throughout the academic life cycle is AIU’s AI-based virtual assistant “chatbot” that we have named Lucy. Lucy has streamlined the process for prospective students who want to learn about our universities and is able to address over 90% of their questions while continuing to learn from her interactions. If Lucy is unable to address a question, the prospective student is referred to our admissions personnel for additional assistance. We continue to leverage machine learning and data analytics that enhance the functionality and effectiveness of our marketing program initiatives to identify prospective students with interest in our institutions.

The Enrollment Process

Perdoceo serves a diverse student population. Our students have a broad range of educational and employment experiences, which contributes to their college-level readiness. Each of our academic institutions has an admissions function that is responsible for interacting with prospective students interested in applying to an institution after they have been served by our prospective student contact personnel. Generally, to be qualified for admission to one of our institutions, an applicant must have received a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent, such as a General Education Development certificate. Some of our programs may also require applicants to meet other program admissions requirements.

Admissions advisors serve as prospective students’ primary contacts, providing information to help them make informed enrollment decisions and assisting them with the completion of the enrollment process. The admissions advisors also have a responsibility to provide guidance and support through the enrollment application process and student orientation as well as assist each student as they transition into their first class.

To support our objective of sustainable and responsible growth, we have made investments across our admissions and advising functions within Illinois, Arizona and Georgia, which includes the two new locations opened in Arizona in 2017. These investments over the past two years have enabled us to better serve prospective student demand and provide us with geographic and operational diversification. Along with increased staffing, these admissions and advising centers have focused on training and development while increasing productivity across various admissions teams which has contributed to increased student applications. We have also implemented technology enhancements that have further enabled admissions and advising staff to customize their prospective student outreach and engagement strategies based on students’ prior education experience, degree and areas of program interest, thus providing a more meaningful and relevant interaction with the prospective student.

Once a decision has been made to enroll at one of our academic institutions, the student finance team works with the prospective student, providing them with information about various loans and grants available to finance their education. The focus is on getting these students financially prepared for school in a timely manner so that they can focus on their academic activities.

Every enrolled student must complete an orientation process that will expose the student to required classroom activities such as the personalized learning module, discussion board assignments and an individual project. This orientation process also provides the opportunity for students to understand our academic and support services. We believe completion of these activities better prepares a student to make an informed decision about pursuing their education as well as to be more successful as it simulates their classroom experience both online and in a campus-based environment. Campus-based students have the opportunity to engage with faculty, staff and current students during orientation which builds confidence and a comfort level in their new learning environment. Completion of orientation does not financially obligate students nor does it require students to continue their education with the university.

Additionally, new students who attend online programs at our universities and do not want to continue have 21 days after the start of their program to notify the institution of their intention to withdraw. Students who notify and withdraw from the institution within 21 days will not be responsible for any tuition related expenses, and are refunded any amounts they have paid in tuition and other institutional fees.

Corporate Partnerships

Our universities continue to focus on expanding strategic relationships with corporate partners. We expect these relationships to result in new student interest through increased awareness of our brands for the employees of our corporate partners. Corporate partnerships provide us with an opportunity to connect and educate a population of students we would otherwise not have access to. Students who attend our institutions through corporate partnerships are awarded grants from the applicable university to partially offset their tuition costs, the amount of which depends on the agreement with each respective corporate partner. In addition, they typically receive some funding from their employer towards their tuition. Although the lower tuition paid by these students results in lower revenue per student, the recruiting, marketing and support costs associated with these students are lower as well. Further, these students are more likely to start class and tend to be more persistent in their pursuit of long-term learning, which we believe will result in higher life-time value per student. As of December 31, 2019, approximately 19.1% and 5.5% of total student enrollments at CTU and AIU, respectively, are a result of corporate partnership agreements.

Student Retention and Academic Outcomes

One of our strategic priorities is to enhance student experiences and retention. Investments in student serving processes, including the use of technology, is a key focus to support this priority. As is the case at any postsecondary educational institution, a

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portion of our students withdraw from their academic programs for a variety of academic, financial or personal reasons. Our faculty and academic advisors provide frequent assistance and feedback to students during their course of academic study. We support increased communication between our faculty and students by providing faculty with various technology enablers such as a two-way messaging platform and enhanced data reporting and analytics to help them provide the right level of academic support. These efforts are designed to help our students remain in school and succeed in their academic program.

Our student advising model promotes collaboration between faculty and student advisors which we believe elevates accountability and effectiveness between these two areas, which, in turn, provides students with consistent support and communication. Student advisors continue to work with students throughout their program to provide relevant and specific feedback and guidance as they progress through their classes. Additionally, a team of staff members from advising, admissions and financial aid work directly with each new student creating a student-service atmosphere and encouraging quality interactions.

Coupled with the student advising model, CTU and AIU have made changes to course pairing and sequencing to build workload levels slowly as students develop skills and acclimate to course expectations which we believe improves academic outcomes. Courses have been redesigned to accommodate skill development holistically in the first eight courses, which we believe will support incremental and progressive learning.

AIU has fully transitioned to a graduate team model operating structure. The graduate team model structure personalizes student serving processes in admissions, financial aid and advising and we believe this learner-centric structure helps increase accountability and ultimately improves overall student experiences and retention. Teams are encouraged to build critical thinking into their interactions with students. There is also significant focus on training and development that has been improving tenure within the teams. This cross-functional strategy is aimed at improving student engagement throughout the student’s entire academic life cycle, with particular emphasis on the important onboarding phase and first academic term as the students adjust to their academic program. These teams also facilitate completion of the financial aid process and continue to provide support as students work towards graduating in their field of study.

We implemented a new student engagement and retention analytics approach at CTU during the fourth quarter of 2018. As part of this approach, CTU assigns each student an academic coach to support the student through his or her academic life cycle. This approach is intended to better help us reach the right student at the right time with the right support, which we expect will increase learning and course completion by our students. We continue to evolve our processes to provide proactive outreach and personalized advising to improve student learning and experiences. Initial results from this approach are positive and we will continue efforts to determine the best support services to enhance student learning and retention.

Preparing students to find employment in their field of study is also an important element of our educational mission. To this end, each of our institutions provides career services assistance to help students learn to conduct a successful job search and identify job opportunities with employers.

Program Development

Our universities develop and deliver a variety of programs resulting in the award of credentials ranging from certificates to doctoral degrees in career-oriented programs of study in core curricula areas of business studies, information technology and health education.

Our curricula, instructional delivery tools, and experienced faculty comprise the learning experience that appeals to our student population and provides them with a unique opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and competencies required for specific careers. The curriculum development process focuses on desired career needs, while considering relative competencies necessary to achieve these career needs, as well as any applicable recommendations set forth by advisory boards, programmatic accrediting agencies and industry standards. Subsequently, learning objectives are identified and courses are developed which foster student engagement in activities and optimally result in the attainment of program learning outcomes.

Instructional Delivery

Our instructional delivery is based upon the belief that learning is dependent upon instructional methodologies that facilitate student engagement with the instructor, with other students and with the course content. This engagement is fundamental to student learning outcomes, regardless of whether instruction occurs within a physical or virtual classroom. We continue to focus on innovation in our delivery of online education to enhance the learning experience for students.

Learning Management System

Construction of, and ongoing enhancement to, a virtual campus that engages online students with their instructor, their peers and the content is critical to the achievement of student learning outcomes. PEC’s online instructional delivery is accomplished utilizing an innovative, student-focused learning management system. While online content delivery is very common today, PEC’s course content delivery system, M.U.S.E. (My Unique Student Experience), has several features that make it distinctive in the education marketplace. Designed around the students, M.U.S.E. is a rich, engaging student experience that represents an innovative online method of delivering content that includes the following capabilities:

5


 

supports multiple learning styles, allowing students to choose their preferred method of engaging with the content;

 

enables students to choose the order of topics to study within a predetermined framework of learning objectives; and

 

provides search capability that allows students to interact with the content more efficiently and effectively.

Personalized Learning Technology

Perdoceo has implemented the use of sophisticated personalized learning technologies within our university institutions. Through our equity investment in and license of technology from CCKF, a Dublin-based educational technology company that provides intelligent, adaptive systems to power the delivery of personalized learning, we have strengthened our leadership position as a technology innovator in higher education and as a company dedicated to student success. Our personalized learning content was developed by teams of our own instructors and has been integrated across many of our curricula. We have a perpetual license to this technology, which, when integrated with our proprietary learning management system, we refer to as intellipath.®

Intellipath serves as a powerful platform to help our students learn. It identifies and gives more time in areas where students need more help, while moving past areas they already know thereby giving students more control of their academic progress. Students report feeling a stronger sense of confidence as they proactively address learning gaps and engage in the learning process at a deeper level. In many respects, personalized learning serves as an excellent way to facilitate and demonstrate mastery in a competency-based learning environment. Personalized learning is changing the nature of higher education by measuring real-time knowledge growth minute-by-minute and understanding of the material on a student-by-student basis.

Our implementation of intellipath is coupled with extensive faculty training. The success of this personalized learning platform lies in the abundance of data it collects, which in turn helps our instructors determine how to structure courses, deliver material to students, predict and mitigate individual student challenges and identify teaching practices that yield the strongest results. Continuous assessment facilitates the development of individualized, dynamic learning maps that both illustrate where student mastery has been achieved and where additional work is needed. Both the student and the instructor can see in real time where learning has taken place and where effort still needs to be applied. A major difference between our platform and others is that it focuses on student learning achievements rather than solely on student satisfaction or how fast it facilitates a student to complete assignments.

This academic and technological breakthrough continues to advance our understanding of the learning process and support improved student academic outcomes. We believe our intellipath personalized learning platform provides our institutions a strategic advantage by providing a more customized student experience and we will continue to expand its use as a key differentiator.

Mobile Applications

Students at both universities have access to a mobile application and two-way messaging platform which were created to complement students’ mobile-centric lives. Our students and staff are increasingly using the messenger due to its ease and simplicity. The student benefits of these technology innovations include the ability to connect with their university in a different way, communicate efficiently with faculty, upload required documentation, track grades and degree progress in real-time and participate in courses from the palm of their hand, all of which contribute to increased student engagement. CTU and AIU also have a faculty mobile application which provides informative dashboards, ability to complete tasks on the go and enhanced outreach and communication capabilities that we believe will make teacher-student interactions easier and more effective.

Faculty

Our institutions employ approximately 1,700 credentialed, geographically dispersed, full-time and adjunct (i.e., part-time) faculty who facilitate learning in our classrooms and virtual classrooms. Our faculty are hired, assigned, developed and evaluated in accordance with current accepted higher education practices and in accordance with state, institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation standards. Generally, our institutions require the instructor to have a degree at least one level higher than the level of the course being taught (with the exception of faculty in our doctoral programs) plus teaching and/or industry experience. General education faculty members must possess at least a master’s degree. The average tenure of a Perdoceo faculty member is greater than six years. We believe the longevity of our instructors is a testament to the focus we place on student learning and the consistent quality we strive for in our classrooms.

Faculty Competencies

With the input of faculty and academic leadership at our institutions, we have developed a set of instructor competencies that we believe are critical to student success and institutional effectiveness. These competencies provide the basis for faculty recruitment, hiring, orientation, evaluation and development. The competencies apply to all instructors, regardless of content area, instructional platform (campus-based or online) and employment status (full-time or part-time). Faculty hired by any Perdoceo institution must demonstrate proficiency in each of the following competencies:

 

communication;

 

assessment of student learning;

 

instructional methodology (pedagogy);

6


 

subject matter expertise;

 

utilization of technology to enhance teaching and learning;

 

acknowledgement and accommodation of diversity in learners;

 

student engagement;

 

promotion of active student learning;

 

compliance with academic institution policy; and

 

demonstration of scholarship.

Seasonality

Our quarterly net revenues and income may fluctuate primarily as a result of the pattern of student enrollments. For CTU, the seasonality of our business has decreased over the last several years due to an increased percentage of students enrolling in online programs, which generally experience less seasonal fluctuations than campus-based programs. Within AIU, an academic calendar redesign was implemented during 2017 which impacts quarterly comparability in the foreseeable future as each quarter may have non-comparable revenue-earning days because the academic calendar may align differently with each calendar year and the quarters therein. While operating costs for our institutions generally do not fluctuate significantly on a quarterly basis, we do traditionally increase our marketing investments during the first and third fiscal quarters in relation to the back to school seasons. Revenues, operating income (loss) and net income (loss) by quarter for each of the past two fiscal years are included in Note 18 “Quarterly Financial Summary” of the notes to our consolidated financial statements.

Employees

As of December 31, 2019, we had approximately 4,000 employees, of which approximately 1,800 work for CTU and approximately 1,400 work for AIU, with the remainder being corporate employees. Our employees include approximately 1,600 part-time adjunct faculty members and approximately 120 full-time faculty members. Other than our part-time adjunct faculty members, we have less than 150 part-time employees, some of which are student employees under the federal work study program.

INDUSTRY BACKGROUND AND COMPETITION

The domestic postsecondary education industry is highly fragmented and competitive, with no one provider having a significant market share. The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended and reauthorized (“Higher Education Act”), and the related regulations govern all higher education institutions participating in federal student aid and loan programs under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (“Title IV Programs”). According to the National Center for Education Statistics (“NCES”), there were approximately 6,200 postsecondary education institutions eligible for federal student aid in the United States for the academic year 2018-19, including approximately 2,400 for-profit schools; approximately 2,000 public schools which include state universities and community colleges; and approximately 1,800 private non-profit schools. According to the U.S. Department of Education (“ED” or the “Department”), over the 12-month period for academic year 2017-18, approximately 26.4 million students were enrolled in postsecondary institutions.

The domestic postsecondary degree-granting education industry was an approximately $649 billion industry for academic year 2016-17, according to a report published in 2019 by the Department. We compete in this industry primarily with other degree-granting regionally accredited colleges and universities, both for-profit institutions like ours and public and private non-profit institutions. In particular, there is growing competition from online programs at these institutions as they increase their online offerings in response to growing demand.

Most postsecondary institutions, regardless of how they are organized, face significant challenges, including:

 

a continued focus on the cost and availability of a college education;

 

concerns over the high level of college student indebtedness;

 

questions about the quality of academic programs and the ability to translate the value of a postsecondary education into economic mobility;

 

competition from lower cost alternatives and from non-traditional competitors or new alternative educational paths; and

 

the importance of preparing students with relevant skills to manage new and rapidly changing technologies and supporting employers in their efforts to optimize and advance their workforce.

Postsecondary institutions are also subject to significant regulations which provide for a regulatory triad by mandating specific regulatory responsibilities for each of the following:

 

the accrediting agencies recognized by ED;

 

the federal government through ED; and

 

state higher education regulatory bodies.

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Extensive and increasingly complex ED regulations governing postsecondary institutions have been enacted, including regulations applicable only to for-profit institutions. These regulations, coupled with the increased focus by the U.S. Congress on the role that for-profit educational institutions play in higher education, as well as the evolving needs and objectives of students and employers, economic constraints affecting educational institutions and increased focus on affordability and value may cause increased competition across the industry as well as contribute to continued changes in business operating strategies.

We believe that the competitive factors in the online postsecondary degree-granting education industry include:

 

quality of the academic programs offered;

 

affordability;

 

breadth of degree offerings;

 

convenient and flexible delivery of instruction;

 

technological advancements and capability;

 

experienced faculty members engaged in the practice of their fields;

 

effectiveness of student support and outreach strategies; and

 

reputation among prospective students and employers.

The majority of our degree-seeking students today have one or more non-traditional characteristics (e.g., did not enroll immediately after high school graduation, work full-time, are financially independent for purposes of financial aid eligibility, have dependents other than a spouse or are single parents). These non-traditional students typically are looking to improve their skills and enhance their earning potential within the context of their careers or in pursuit of new careers. As the industry has shifted to more students with non-traditional characteristics, an increasing proportion of colleges and universities are addressing the needs of working students. This includes colleges and universities with well-established brand names that were historically focused on traditional students.

Although competition exists, for-profit educators serve a segment of the market for postsecondary education that we believe has not been fully addressed by traditional public and private universities. Public and private non-profit institutions can face limited financial resources to expand their offerings in response to growth or changes in the demand for education, due to a combination of state funding challenges, significant expenditures required for research and the professor tenure system. Institutions may also control student enrollments to preserve the perceived prestige and exclusivity of their degree offerings. For-profit providers of postsecondary education offer prospective students the greater flexibility and convenience of their institutions' programmatic offerings and learning structure and an emphasis on applied content and the use of technology in the delivery of the education. At the same time, the share of the postsecondary education market that has been captured by for-profit providers remains relatively small. As a result, we believe that in spite of regulatory and other challenges facing the industry, for-profit postsecondary education providers continue to have significant opportunities to address the demand for postsecondary education.

We believe that the online postsecondary education market continues to grow and gain acceptance across employers seeking qualified candidates for employment. Growth in the postsecondary education industry is being driven by online enrollment for a variety of reasons, including:

 

a growing demographic of adult learners;

 

a need for more non-traditional classroom formats;

 

continued demand for skilled professionals;

 

a current gap in attainment of higher education for adult learners; and

 

continued increased economic benefit for employees who hold a bachelor’s degree as compared to those with lower-level degrees.

Our Competitive Strengths

We believe that the following strengths differentiate our business and position us well for sustainable and responsible growth:

 

student-first model with focus on student experiences, retention and academic outcomes;

 

flexibility in instructional delivery, through our virtual campus and mobile applications;

 

innovative personalized learning technology (intellipath®);

 

strong student outreach strategies to effectively recruit, retain and educate qualified students; and

 

efficient and effective scalable shared services.

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ACCREDITATION, JURISDICTIONAL AUTHORIZATIONS AND OTHER COMPLIANCE MATTERS

Institutional Accreditation

In the United States, accreditation is a process through which an institution subjects itself to qualitative review by an organization of peer institutions. Accrediting agencies primarily examine the academic quality of the instructional programs of an institution, and a grant of accreditation is generally viewed as confirmation that an institution’s programs meet generally accepted academic standards. Accrediting agencies also review the administrative and financial operations of the institutions they accredit to ensure that each institution has the resources to meet its educational mission.

Pursuant to provisions of the Higher Education Act, ED relies on accrediting agencies to determine whether institutions’ educational programs qualify the institutions to participate in Title IV Programs. The Higher Education Act and its implementing regulations specify certain standards that all recognized accrediting agencies must adopt in connection with their review of postsecondary institutions.

Both CTU and AIU are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (“HLC”) (www.hlcommission.org), one of six regional accreditation agencies recognized by ED. CTU’s next re-affirmation of accreditation is scheduled for 2022-23. CTU had a comprehensive evaluation in 2017, during which HLC found that CTU continued to meet HLC’s criteria for accreditation, while requesting that CTU complete some interim reporting prior to its next re-affirmation of accreditation review. CTU has submitted the requested interim reports, except for one remaining report due in 2021. AIU’s next re-affirmation of accreditation is scheduled for 2023-24. AIU had a comprehensive evaluation in 2018, during which HLC found that AIU continued to meet HLC’s criteria for accreditation.

Programmatic Accreditation

In addition to the institutional accreditation described above, CTU and AIU have specialized programmatic accreditation for particular educational programs. Many states and professional associations require professional programs to be accredited at a program level, and require individuals who must sit for professional license exams to have graduated from accredited programs. Programmatic accreditation does not satisfy ED requirements to confer Title IV Program eligibility; however, it does provide additional academic quality review by peers in a given field and may enable or assist graduates to practice, sit for licensing or certification exams (in some cases) or otherwise secure appropriate employment in their chosen field. In addition to programmatic accreditation, some states have licensing boards which regulate who in a state is licensed to practice in a given profession.

Our schools pursue programmatic accreditation if that accreditation is required by employers or licensing bodies in order for a graduate to practice the profession or if it is required in order for a graduate to sit for a licensing or certification exam in order to practice or advance in the profession. In some cases, programmatic accreditation is sought because it is desired by employers and may enhance the ability of our graduates to compete for employment in their field.

Programmatic accreditation has been granted by the following accrediting agencies for the following program areas offered by our University Group institutions.

Programmatic Accreditation Table (1)

 

Accreditor

 

Campus

 

Program Area Accredited (2)

 

 

 

 

 

ABET

 

Colorado Technical University, Colorado Springs

 

Electrical engineering and computer engineering

 

 

 

 

 

Association for Advancing Quality in Education Preparation

 

American InterContinental University, Chandler

 

Education

 

 

 

 

 

Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs

 

American InterContinental University: Atlanta, Houston and Chandler; Colorado Technical University: Colorado Springs and Denver

 

Business

 

 

 

 

 

Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

 

Colorado Technical University, Colorado Springs

 

Nursing

 

 

 

 

 

Project Management Institute Global Accreditation Center

 

Colorado Technical University: Colorado Springs and Denver

 

Project management

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_____________________

(1)

Status as of February 19, 2020.

(2)

See the institutional website for a list of programs included in the approval.

State Authorization

State licensing agencies are responsible for the oversight of educational institutions, and continued approval by such agencies is necessary for an institution to operate and grant degrees or certificates to its students. State laws establish standards for, among other things, student instruction, qualifications of faculty, location and nature of facilities, and financial policies. State laws and regulations may limit our campuses’ ability to operate or to award degrees or certificates or offer new programs. Moreover, under the Higher Education Act, approval by such agencies is necessary to maintain eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs. Currently, each of our ground-based campuses is authorized by the state in which it is located. Additionally, our online institutions have separate state approval or recognition from the relevant state agency via participation in a consortia program called the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (“SARA”) in the states in which they enroll and/or recruit students. California is the only state which is not a part of SARA; however, CTU and AIU hold the appropriate approval in that state.

SARA is an agreement among member states, districts and U.S. territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. States, districts and territories apply to become members of SARA (which, in many cases, requires action by state legislators) and if accepted, institutions approved in their “home” state may apply to become participants in the SARA compact and the “home” state authorization is deemed acceptable to operate an online program in other states that also participate in SARA as long as they do not establish a “physical presence” in those other states (as defined by SARA). As of January 1, 2020, 49 states plus the District of Columbia are SARA participants (www.nc-sara.org). CTU and AIU are approved to participate in SARA by their home states (Colorado and Arizona, respectively).

In 2016 ED had published new regulations, to be effective July 1, 2018, that conditioned Title IV Program eligibility on confirmation that an institution has the appropriate state approvals from any state which requires institutions to obtain its approval. The 2016 regulations recognize SARA participation as a means to qualify in a state through reciprocity. While the implementation of the 2016 regulations was initially delayed until July 1, 2020 to enable ED to consider potential revisions, following a legal challenge of ED’s delay, ED implemented the regulations in July 2019. Separately, ED completed a further negotiated rulemaking process focused on accreditation and innovation which included a review of the 2016 state authorization regulations. The rulemaking group convened early in 2019 and reached consensus on proposed rules in April 2019. After publishing proposed rules for public comment, on November 1, 2019, ED published final revised state authorization for distance education regulations. The 2019 regulations are similar to the 2016 regulations, including recognition of SARA participation as a means to qualify in a state through reciprocity, but contain important changes and clarifications, notably around the scope of professional licensure disclosures and requirements for states around reviewing student complaints. The 2019 regulations which supersede the 2016 regulations are effective for all institutions on July 1, 2020, but ED allowed individual institutions to opt for early implementation at any time on or after November 1, 2019. Both CTU and AIU elected to early adopt the 2019 regulations.

Other Compliance Matters

In recent years, states and federal agencies have increased their focus on the for-profit, postsecondary education sector. This includes increased activity by state attorneys general and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) in their review of the sector.

In this regard, on January 3, 2019, the Company entered into agreements with attorneys general from 48 states and the District of Columbia to bring closure to multi-state inquiries ongoing since January 2014. As part of the agreements, the Company expressly denied any allegations of wrongdoing but agreed to, among other things, work with a third-party administrator that will report annually for three years on the Company’s compliance with various obligations the Company committed to in the agreements. Operationally, the Company committed to:

 

provide students with additional communication of important policies, academic program information and financial aid information during the enrollment process, including a single page program disclosure as well as disclosure of applicable refund policies;

 

provide newly enrolling students an online financial aid interactive tool that can assist them in understanding their financial commitments;

 

continue its existing practice of offering a no cost orientation and/or an introductory course with materials designed to support new college students (if they have less than 24 college credits); and

 

permit undergraduate students to withdraw with no monetary obligation up to seven days after their first class at on-campus schools and up to 21 days after the start of the term at online programs (if they have less than 24 online college credits).

From a compliance standpoint, the Company committed to:

 

continue many of its existing compliance programs that it uses to monitor for accurate communication with prospective students;

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continue its monitoring of third-party marketing vendors and agreed on a process to continue to hold them accountable for complying with the Company’s advertising guidelines;

 

continue to monitor and review conversations that its admissions and financial aid staff have with prospective students during the student recruitment process; and

 

enhance current training to staff working with students regarding the additional information and tools that are part of the commitments in the agreements.

Generally, the operational aspects we agreed to as part of the agreements with the attorneys general are for a six-year period.

Further, on July 26, 2019, the Company executed a settlement agreement with the FTC to resolve an inquiry commenced by the FTC in 2015. While not admitting any wrongdoing, the Company chose to settle the FTC inquiry after almost four years of legal expenses and cooperating with the FTC’s investigation. Under the terms of the agreement with the FTC, the Company agreed to continue its compliance with the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, including compliance with the national do not call registry. The Company agreed to enhance its current operational and compliance processes with respect to prospective student expressions of interest, or “leads,” purchased from third party lead aggregators and generators and implement other agreed-upon compliance measures. Specifically, the agreement with the FTC requires the operation of a system to monitor third party lead aggregators and generators involving a compliance review by, or on behalf of, the Company of the various sources a prospective student interacts with prior to the Company’s purchase and use of the prospective student lead. In addition, the FTC Agreement contains requirements regarding employee and lead aggregator acknowledgements of the agreement, compliance certifications and record creation and maintenance. The principal provisions of the agreement with the FTC will remain in effect for twenty years. 

See Item 1A, “Risk Factors – Risks Related to the Highly Regulated Field in Which We Operate – If we fail to comply with state laws and regulatory requirements, including new state legislative or regulatory initiatives affecting our institutions, we could incur financial penalties, restrictions on our operations and reduced student enrollments,” for more information about these agreements.

STUDENT FINANCIAL AID AND RELATED FEDERAL REGULATION

A majority of our students require assistance in financing their education. Our institutions are approved to participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Title IV federal aid programs. Our institutions also participate in a number of state financial aid programs, tuition assistance programs of the United States Armed Forces and education benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Our institutions that participate in federal and state financial aid programs are subject to extensive regulatory requirements imposed by federal and state government agencies, and other standards imposed by educational accrediting bodies.

Nature of Federal Support for Postsecondary Education in the United States

The U.S. government provides a substantial portion of its support for postsecondary education in the form of Title IV Program grants, loans and work-study programs to students who can use those funds to finance certain education related expenses at any institution that has been approved to participate by ED. These federal programs are authorized by the Higher Education Act. While most students are eligible for a Title IV loan, typically, financial aid administered under Title IV is awarded on the basis of financial need, which is generally defined under the Higher Education Act as the difference between the costs associated with attending an institution and the amount a student’s family can reasonably be expected to contribute based on a federally determined formula. Among other things, recipients of Title IV Program funds must maintain a satisfactory grade point average and progress in a timely manner toward completion of their program of study.

Students at our institutions may receive grants, loans and work-study opportunities to fund their education under the Title IV Programs described in the sections below. In addition, some students at our institutions receive education related benefits pursuant to certain programs for veterans and military personnel, the most significant of which are described further below.

Federal Student and Parent Loans

ED’s major form of aid includes loans to students and parents through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (“Direct Loan”) Program. Direct Loans are loans made directly by the U.S. Government to students or their parents. The Direct Loan program offers Federal Direct Stafford, Federal Direct PLUS (which provides loans to parents of dependent students and to graduate or professional students, known as Parent PLUS and Grad PLUS) and Federal Direct Consolidation Loans.

Undergraduate students who have demonstrated financial need may be eligible to receive a Direct Subsidized Loan, with ED paying the interest on this loan while the student is enrolled at least half-time in school. Graduate and undergraduate students who do not demonstrate financial need may be eligible to receive a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. Graduate/professional students may only receive Direct Unsubsidized Loans. With Direct Unsubsidized Loans the student is responsible for the interest while in school and after leaving school, although actual interest payments generally may be deferred by the student until after he or she has left school. Students who are eligible for a Direct Subsidized Loan may also be eligible to receive a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.

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A student is not required to meet any specific credit scoring criteria to receive a Direct Loan, but any student with a default on a prior loan made under any Title IV Program or who has been convicted under federal or state law of selling or possessing drugs while receiving federal aid may not be eligible. ED has established maximum annual and aggregate borrowing limits for Direct Loans.

The Direct PLUS Loan Program provides loans to either the parents of dependent students (Direct Parent PLUS) or to graduate students (Direct Grad PLUS). Parents and graduate students who have an acceptable credit history may borrow a Direct PLUS Loan to pay the education related expenses of a child who is a dependent (Direct Parent PLUS) or a graduate student (Direct Grad PLUS) enrolled at least half-time at our eligible institutions. The amount of a Direct PLUS Loan cannot exceed the student’s cost of attendance less all other financial aid received.

Federal Pell Grant and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

Title IV Program grants are generally made to our students under the Federal Pell Grant (“Pell Grant”) program and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (“FSEOG”) program. The 2019-20 maximum annual Pell Grant is $6,195, excluding any additional amount awarded pursuant to a year-round Pell Grant. Beginning with the 2017-18 award year, eligible students may receive year-round Pell Grant funds. A year-round Pell Grant program allows students to receive up to 150% of the student’s regular grant award over the course of the academic year, allowing students to maintain their enrollment status and receive Pell Grant funds for the entire calendar year so that they can continue taking classes and work toward graduating more quickly. To be eligible for the additional Pell Grant funds, the student must be enrolled at least half-time in the payment period(s) for which the student receives the additional Pell Grant funds in excess of 100% of the student’s regular Pell Grant award.

The FSEOG program awards are designed to supplement Pell Grants up to a maximum amount of $4,000 per academic year for the neediest students. Our institutions are required to provide matching funding for FSEOG awards that represent not less than 25% of the total FSEOG award to be received by eligible students. The matching may be accomplished through institutional, private and/or state funds.

Federal Work-Study Program

Generally, under the federal work-study program, federal funds are used to pay 75% of the cost of part-time employment of eligible students to perform work for the institution or certain off-campus organizations. The remaining 25% is paid by the institution or the student’s employer. In select cases, these federal funds under the federal work-study program are used to pay up to 100% of the cost of part-time employment of eligible students.

Veterans Benefits Programs

Some of our students who are veterans use their benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, as amended (“Post-9/11 GI Bill”), to cover their tuition. A certain number of our students are also eligible to receive funds from other education assistance programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Yellow Ribbon program under the Post-9/11 GI Bill expanded education benefits for veterans who have served on active duty on or after September 11, 2001, including reservists and members of the National Guard. As originally passed, the Post-9/11 GI Bill provided that eligible veterans could receive benefits for tuition purposes up to the cost of in-state tuition at the most expensive public institution of higher education in the state where the veteran was enrolled. In addition, veterans who were enrolled in classroom-based programs or “blended programs” (programs that combine classroom learning and distance learning) could receive monthly housing stipends, while veterans enrolled in wholly distance-based programs were not entitled to a monthly housing stipend. The provisions regarding education benefits for post-9/11 veterans took effect August 1, 2009. The Post-9/11 GI Bill also increased the amount of education benefits available to eligible veterans under the pre-existing Montgomery GI Bill. The legislation also authorized expansion of service members’ ability to transfer veterans’ education benefits to family members.

On January 4, 2011, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 (“Improvements Act”) was adopted, which amends the Post-9/11 GI Bill in several respects. The Improvements Act alters the way benefits related to tuition and fees are calculated. For nonpublic U.S. institutions, the Improvements Act bases the benefits related to tuition and fees on the net cost to the student (after accounting for state and federal aid, scholarships, institutional aid, fee waivers, and similar assistance paid directly to the institution for the sole purpose of defraying tuition cost) rather than the charges established by the institution. The Improvements Act also replaced the state-dependent benefit cap with a single national cap which is adjusted annually and as of August 1, 2019 is $24,477. In addition, veterans pursuing a program of education solely through distance learning on a more than half-time basis are eligible to receive up to 50% of the national average of the basic housing allowance available to service members who are at military pay grade E-5 and have dependents. Most “Improvements Act” changes took effect on August 1 or October 1, 2011, though changes to rules regarding eligibility for benefits were effective immediately or retroactively to the effective date of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Improvements Act did not change the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s provision that allows veterans to receive up to $1,000 per academic year for books, supplies, equipment and other education costs.

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U.S. Military Tuition Assistance

Service members of the United States Armed Forces are eligible to receive tuition assistance from their branch of service through the Uniform Tuition Assistance Program of the Department of Defense (“DoD”). Service members may use this tuition assistance to pursue postsecondary degrees at postsecondary institutions that are accredited by accrediting agencies that are recognized by ED. Each branch of the armed forces has established its own rules for the tuition assistance programs of DoD.

In 2010, both the U.S. Congress and DoD increased their focus on DoD tuition assistance that is used for distance education and programs at for-profit institutions. The DoD Voluntary Education Partnership Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) was established as part of the revised DoD Instruction 1322.25, Voluntary Education Programs dated March 15, 2011. The MOU increases oversight of educational programs offered to active duty service members and conveys the commitments and agreements between the educational institution and DoD prior to accepting funds under the tuition assistance program. For example, the MOU requires an institution to agree to support DoD regulatory guidance, adhere to a bill of rights that is specified in the regulations, and participate in the proposed Military Voluntary Education Review program. Under the MOU, institutions must also agree to adhere to the principles and criteria established by the Service Members Opportunity Colleges Degree Network System regarding the transferability of credit and the awarding of credit for military training and experience. Both CTU and AIU signed this earlier version of the DoD’s standard MOU.

In August 2013, DoD began incorporating the Principles of Excellence outlined in the President’s 2012 Executive Order into their current MOU. Refer to the section below for more information on the Principles of Excellence.

In May 2014, DoD released a final revised version of its MOU and its changes include efforts to enhance departmental oversight of voluntary education programs as well as incorporate the remaining requirements as stated in the President's 2012 Executive Order. The new provisions apply to all educational institutions providing education programs through the DoD tuition assistance program. Among other things, the MOU requests that participating institutions provide meaningful information to students about the financial cost and attendance at an institution so military students can make informed decisions on where to attend school, will not use unfair, deceptive, and abusive recruiting practices and will provide academic and student support services to service members and their families. The revised MOU also implemented rules to strengthen existing procedures for access to DoD installations by educational institutions, a DoD postsecondary education complaint system for service members, spouses, and adult family members to register student complaints and established authorization for the military departments to establish service-specific tuition assistance eligibility criteria and management controls. CTU and AIU each signed the 2014 MOU as well as a more recently released version in August 2019. The current MOUs are effective through August 2024.

2012 Executive Order Regarding Military and Veterans Education Benefits

On April 27, 2012, the President issued an executive order regarding the establishment of Principles of Excellence for educational institutions receiving funding from federal military and veterans educational benefits programs, including those provided by the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Uniform Tuition Assistance Program of the DoD. The executive order requires DoD, the Department of Veterans Affairs and ED to establish and implement “Principles of Excellence” to apply to educational institutions receiving such funding. The goals of the Principles are broadly stated in the order and relate to disclosures of costs and amounts of costs covered by federal educational benefits, marketing standards, state authorization, accreditation approvals, standard institutional refund policies, educational plans and academic and financial advising. Various implementation mechanisms are included, along with the development and implementation of the “VA Shopping Sheet,” a standardized cost form with federal aid information.

Institutional Payment Plans

Some of our students will enter into institutional payment plans with our institutions to pay a portion, or occasionally all, of their institutional charges directly to the school. This is more common for students who have a gap between their Title IV financial aid funding and other third party aid available to them and the institutional charges. We offer these payment plans over the in-school period, and up to 12 months beyond graduation. The payment plans do not include any interest or fees.

Eligibility and Certification by ED

Under the provisions of the Higher Education Act, an institution must apply to ED for continued certification to participate in Title IV Programs at least every six years or when it undergoes a change of control. In addition, an institution must obtain ED approval for certain substantial changes in its operations, including changes in an institution’s accrediting agency or state authorizing agency or changes to an institution’s structure or certain basic educational features.

Institutions approved to participate in Title IV sign a program participation agreement provided by ED that describes the terms of participation and includes a number of certifications and assurances made by the chief executive officer of the institutions. As long as an institution has submitted an application for re-certification prior to the expiration of its current program participation agreement, the institution’s eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs continues on a month-to-month basis until ED completes its review. ED may issue full certification to an institution, it may deny certification or it may elect to issue provisional certification, in which case the program participation agreement outlines additional requirements that the institution must meet.

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ED may place an institution on provisional certification status if it finds that the institution does not fully satisfy all required eligibility and certification standards. During the period of provisional certification, an institution must obtain prior ED approval to add an educational program, open a new location or make any other significant change. Provisional certification does not generally limit an institution’s access to Title IV Program funds. ED may withdraw an institution’s provisional certification without advance notice if ED determines that the institution is not fulfilling all material requirements.

In May 2019, CTU and AIU each received renewals of their program participation agreements through March 31, 2021. CTU was removed from provisional certification, while AIU remains on provisional certification due to open regulatory review processes with ED at the time of the renewal.

See Item 1A, “Risk Factors – Risks Related to the Highly Regulated Field in Which We Operate – If ED denies, or significantly conditions, recertification of either of our institutions to participate in Title IV Programs, that institution could not conduct its business as it is currently conducted,” and other risk factors in Item 1A for additional information about the risks surrounding continued participation in Title IV Programs.

Scrutiny of the For-Profit Postsecondary Education Sector

In recent years, Congress, ED, states, accrediting agencies, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), the FTC, state attorneys general and the media have scrutinized the for-profit postsecondary education sector. Congressional hearings and roundtable discussions were held regarding various aspects of the education industry, including issues surrounding student debt as well as publicly reported student outcomes that may be used as part of an institution’s recruiting and admissions practices, and reports were issued that are highly critical of for-profit colleges and universities. A group of influential U.S. senators, consumer advocacy groups and some media outlets have strongly and repeatedly encouraged ED, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs and its state approving agencies to take action to limit or terminate the participation of institutions such as ours in existing tuition assistance programs. Both major political parties have conveyed significantly different views on how they would propose to reauthorize the Title IV Programs and the various conditions on program or institutional eligibility they would require. As a result, the outcome of the 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections is likely to significantly impact the outcome of future legislative and regulatory actions affecting our business.

Any actions that limit our participation in Title IV Programs or the amount of student financial aid for which our students are eligible would negatively impact our business. See Item 1A, “Risk Factors – Risks Related to the Highly Regulated Field in Which We Operate.”

Legislative Action and Recent ED Regulatory Initiatives

The U.S. Congress must periodically reauthorize the Higher Education Act and other laws governing Title IV Programs and annually determines the funding level for each Title IV Program.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (“HEOA”) was the most recent reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and was signed into law on August 14, 2008. It was immediately effective for many items with others effective in subsequent years. The HEOA authorized increases in the Federal Pell Grants, changed certain grant eligibility requirements, expanded Stafford Loan deferment options, provided changes to needs analysis, changed treatment of Veterans Administration benefits effective with the 2010-11 award year and revised many of the regulations governing an institution’s eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs.

Historically, Congress reauthorized the Higher Education Act every five to six years. However, the last full reauthorization took place in 2008 and Congress has subsequently taken several actions which effectively extend the Higher Education Act and various Title IV Programs on a temporary basis. Congress could work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in its entirety, pass a series of smaller bills that focus on individual parts of the Higher Education Act, primarily Title IV Programs, or continue to extend existing Title IV Programs for more limited terms while continuing debate on broader policy objectives. Certain legislation has been passed that is focused on simplifying both access to and repayment of Title IV funds, which should be of benefit to students. However, scrutiny of the for-profit postsecondary education sector and the ongoing policy differences in Congress regarding spending levels could lead to significant regulatory changes in connection with the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and many of these changes may be adverse to postsecondary institutions generally or for-profit institutions specifically. See Item 1A, “Risk Factors – Risks Related to the Highly Regulated Field in Which We Operate – Congress may revise laws governing Title IV Programs or reduce funding for those and other student financial aid programs and ED may revise its regulations administering Title IV Programs, any of which could reduce our student enrollments and revenue and increase costs of operations. The results of the 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections are likely to significantly impact the nature of future changes.”

In recent years, ED has engaged in significant rulemaking efforts intended to develop new regulations focused on various topics. These efforts led to adoption of the new “borrower defense to repayment” regulations. See the “Compliance with Federal Regulatory Standards and Effect of Federal Regulatory Violations” section below for a description of these regulations.

In addition, ED’s rulemaking efforts in 2019 resulted in the rescission of previously adopted “gainful employment” regulations. Perdoceo’s institutions, and most other for-profit institutions, qualify for Title IV Program participation on the basis that they offer programs that, in addition to meeting other requirements, “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.”

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During 2013, ED established negotiated rulemaking committees, one specifically designed to limit Title IV availability for programs at for-profit institutions by defining gainful employment in a recognized occupation. On October 30, 2014, ED published a new complex final regulation, effective July 1, 2015, to define “gainful employment” as meeting certain standards measuring the general amount students borrow for enrollment in a program against an amount of their reported earnings. Prior to this rulemaking, the term gainful employment had been used in the Higher Education Act for forty years, and had not been further defined by Congress or ED. Through negotiated rulemaking sessions, ED considered different options for adopting a uniform set of requirements that could be applicable to all schools and not specifically targeted at for-profit institutions. After a public comment period on its proposal, ED published a final regulation on July 1, 2019 to rescind the 2015 gainful employment regulation effective on July 1, 2020; however, the Secretary of Education exercised her authority to allow institutions to make an election to adopt the rescission effective as early as July 1, 2019. In lieu of the complex gainful employment regulation designed to eliminate program eligibility, ED has continued to update the college scorecards ED developed, which apply to all Title IV eligible institutions, with relevant information for prospective students. Both CTU and AIU have elected to early adopt the regulation rescinding gainful employment. While the eligibility tests and disclosures associated with the 2015 gainful employment regulation are no longer required, the term “gainful employment” continues to exist in the Higher Education Act and CTU’s and AIU’s Title IV eligible programs will continue to need to be career focused educational programs.

Compliance with Federal Regulatory Standards and Effect of Federal Regulatory Violations

To be eligible to participate in Title IV Programs, an institution must comply with the Higher Education Act and regulations thereunder that are administered by ED. We and our institutions are regularly subject to audits and compliance reviews and periodically subject to inquiries, lawsuits, investigations, and/or claims of non-compliance from federal and state regulatory agencies, accrediting agencies, ED, present and former students and employees, and others that may allege violations of statutes, regulations, accreditation standards or other regulatory requirements applicable to us or our institutions. If the results of any such audits, reviews, investigations, claims or actions are unfavorable to us, we may be required to pay monetary damages or be subject to fines, operational limitations, loss of federal funding, injunctions, additional oversight and reporting, provisional certification or other civil or criminal penalties. In addition, if ED or another regulatory agency determined that one of our institutions improperly disbursed Title IV Program funds or violated a provision of the Higher Education Act or ED’s regulations, that institution could be required to repay such funds, and could be assessed an administrative fine.

In July 2015, ED conducted an ordinary course on-site program review of AIU’s administration of Title IV Programs in which the institution participates. The review covered the 2014-2015 award year with a specific focus on the programs the institution offers via distance education. We have not yet received the initial program review report.  

The Higher Education Act also requires that an institution’s administration of Title IV Program funds be audited annually by an independent accounting firm and that the resulting audit report be submitted to ED for review. In September 2016, ED’s Office of Inspector General released a revised audit guide applicable specifically to proprietary schools and third-party servicers administering Title IV programs. The updated guide is effective for fiscal years beginning after June 30, 2016. The revised audit guide was effective for us for the year ending December 31, 2017 and applies to annual compliance audits due June 30, 2018 and thereafter. The new guide significantly increases the requirements and testing procedures necessary when filing our annual Title IV compliance audits.

“90-10 Rule”

Under a provision of the Higher Education Act commonly referred to as the “90-10 Rule,” any of our institutions that, on modified cash basis accounting, derives more than 90% of its cash receipts from Title IV sources for a fiscal year will be placed on provisional participation status for its next two fiscal years. If an institution does not satisfy the 90-10 Rule for two consecutive fiscal years, it will lose its eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs for at least two fiscal years. We have substantially no control over the amount of Title IV student loans and grants sought by or awarded to our students. If an institution violates the 90-10 Rule and becomes ineligible to participate in Title IV Programs but continues to disburse Title IV Program funds, ED could require repayment of all Title IV Program funds received by it after the effective date of the loss of eligibility.

We have implemented various measures intended to reduce the percentage of our institution’s cash basis revenue attributable to Title IV Program funds, including emphasizing employer-paid and other direct-pay education programs such as our corporate partnerships, recruitment of international students, the use of externally funded scholarships and grants, counseling students to carefully evaluate the amount of necessary Title IV Program borrowing and deferring the receipt of Title IV Program funds within the parameters permitted by ED cash management regulations.

The ability of our institutions to maintain 90-10 rates below 90% will depend on the impact of future changes in our enrollment mix, and regulatory and other factors outside of our control, including any reduction in government assistance for military personnel, including veterans, or changes in the treatment of such funding for purposes of the 90-10 rate calculation. Changes in, or new interpretations of, the technical aspects of the calculation methodology or other industry practices under the 90-10 Rule could further significantly impact our compliance with the 90-10 Rule.

For our 2019 fiscal year, our preliminary review of our institutions’ 90-10 Rule percentages results in none of our institutions exceeding the 90% limit.

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See Item 1A, “Risk Factors – Risks Related to the Highly Regulated Field in Which We Operate – Our institutions could lose their eligibility to participate in federal student financial aid programs or have other limitations placed upon them if the percentage of their revenues derived from those programs is too high,” for additional information regarding risks relating to the 90-10 Rule.

Student Loan Default Rates

An institution may lose eligibility to participate in some or all Title IV Programs if the rates at which its former students default on the repayment of their federally-guaranteed or federally-funded student loans exceed specified percentages. This is determined by an institution’s cohort default rate which is calculated on an annual basis as a measure of administrative capability. Each cohort is the group of students who first enter into student loan repayment during a federal fiscal year (ending September 30). The measurement period for the cohort default rate is a three-year period.  

If an institution’s three-year cohort default rate exceeds 10% for any one of the three preceding years, it must delay for 30 days the release of the first disbursement of U.S. federal student loan proceeds to first time borrowers enrolled in the first year of an undergraduate program. As a matter of regular practice, all of our institutions have implemented a 30-day delay for such disbursements.

If an institution’s three-year cohort default rate exceeds 30% for any given year, it must establish a default prevention task force and develop a default prevention plan with measurable objectives for improving the cohort default rate.

Excessive three-year cohort default rates will result in the loss of an institution’s Title IV eligibility, as follows:

 

Annual test. If the three-year cohort default rate for any given year exceeds 40%, the institution will cease to be eligible to participate in Title IV Programs; and

 

Three consecutive years test. If the institution’s three-year cohort default rate exceeds 30% for three consecutive years, the institution will cease to be eligible to participate in Title IV Programs.

We have initiatives aimed at reducing the likelihood of our students’ failure to repay their loans in a timely manner. These initiatives emphasize the importance of students’ compliance with loan repayment requirements and provide for loan counseling and communication with students after they cease enrollment. Our efforts supplement the counseling, processing and other student loan servicing work performed by ED through contracts it has with select third parties. The quality and nature of the student loan servicing work performed by ED has a direct impact on our cohort default rates and we have experienced past performance failures by ED in outreach to students which adversely impact the cohort default rates at our institutions. On January 18, 2017, the largest of ED’s student loan servicers, Navient, was sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Illinois and Washington Attorneys General for allegedly failing to properly counsel and support student loan borrowers. We know many of our students have Navient as their designated student loan servicer, however we are not able to determine what impact the alleged conduct, if accurate, may have had or will have on cohort default rates.

See Item 1A, “Risk Factors – Risks Related to the Highly Regulated Field in Which We Operate – Our institutions could lose their eligibility to participate in federal student financial aid programs or have other limitations placed upon them if their student loan cohort default rates are greater than the standards set by ED,” for additional information regarding risks relating to cohort default rates.

In September 2019, ED released the official three-year cohort default rates for the 2016 cohort. Each of our institutions had cohort default rates under the 30% threshold for the 2016 cohort. We increased our student communication, counseling and other efforts in this area beginning in late 2016 and have begun to see improvements in the cohort default rate beginning with the 2016 cohort. A listing of the official 2016, 2015 and 2014 three-year cohort default rates, for our universities is provided in the table below.

 

 

 

Cohort Default Rates

3-year rate

 

Institution, Main Campus Location

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Additional locations as defined by accreditors are in parentheses)

 

2016

 

 

2015

 

 

2014

 

American InterContinental University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chandler, AZ (Online) (Atlanta, GA and Houston, TX)

 

19.2%

 

 

19.7%

 

 

16.2%

 

Colorado Technical University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colorado Springs, CO (Denver, CO and Online)

 

18.8%

 

 

19.5%

 

 

15.7%

 

 

Borrower Defense to Repayment

On October 28, 2016, ED adopted new regulations that cover multiple issues including the processes and standards for the discharge of federal student loans, which are commonly referred to as “borrower defense to repayment” regulations. ED initially delayed the effective date of these regulations; however, after a successful legal challenge against the delay, ED published guidance to institutions on March 15, 2019 regarding how to implement the 2016 regulations while noting that a new set of regulations was forthcoming. On September 23, 2019, ED published new final “borrower defense to repayment” regulations that become effective on

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July 1, 2020. The new 2019 final borrower defense to repayment regulations are summarized below and will result in a distinct loan discharge process and standards applicable to federal student loans first disbursed after July 1, 2020.

2019 Final Regulations – Summary

Loan Discharge. The 2019 borrower defense to repayment regulations significantly alter how loan discharge applications will be treated by ED in the future. In addition to adopting the more balanced burden of proof standard of “preponderance of the evidence,” the 2019 regulations provide for a single new federal standard for a misrepresentation claim a student may assert against its school. Under the new standard, an individual borrower may assert a defense to repayment based on the institution’s statement, act, or omission that is false, misleading, or deceptive. To be eligible for relief, the borrower would be required to demonstrate that the misrepresentation (1) was made with knowledge of its false, misleading, or deceptive nature or with a reckless disregard for the truth, (2) was relied upon by the borrower in making an enrollment decision, and (3) caused the student financial harm.

In addition, the 2019 final regulations eliminate the concept of automatic group loan discharges contained in the 2016 regulations and require individual claims to be made by students and include a process for the institution to provide a defense to any claims asserted.

Financial Responsibility. The 2019 final borrower defense to repayment regulations contain a number of triggering events that, if they occur after July 1, 2020, would result in an institution not qualifying as financially responsible or administratively capable. These triggering events include:

 

an order from the SEC that suspends trading in our stock or revokes the registration of our securities or suspends trading of our stock on its national securities exchange;

 

failure to timely file required public reports with the SEC without an extension being issued;

 

notification by Nasdaq that our stock is not in compliance with its exchange requirements and/or may be delisted; and

 

two or more concurrent and unresolved discretionary triggering events become mandatory triggering events.

Additionally, the 2019 final regulations include more definitive financial events that, if they occur on or after July 1, 2020, would cause ED to re-calculate an institution’s most recent financial responsibility composite score to determine whether the losses or reduction in owner’s equity from the event cause the composite score to fall below 1.0. The composite score is one measure ED uses to evaluate an institution’s financial responsibility using annual financial statements. These triggering events that can lead to the recalculation of a composite score include, but are not limited to:

 

incurring a liability from a settlement, final judgment or final determination arising from an administrative or judicial action or proceeding initiated by a federal or state entity; and

 

if our composite score is below 1.5 and we withdraw owner’s equity, such as through a distribution of dividends.

         The 2019 final regulations also keep select discretionary triggering events contained in the 2016 regulations that, if they occur on or after July 1, 2020, allow ED to designate an institution as not financially responsible. These discretionary triggering events include:

 

failure to satisfy the 90-10 Rule in any year;

 

cohort default rates in excess of 30% for two consecutive years;

 

citation from a state licensing or authorizing agency of failing to meet state or agency requirements;

 

an institution is placed on show-cause, probation or similar adverse action threatening an institution’s accreditation for failure to meet an accreditation standard;

 

high annual dropout rates, as determined by ED; and

 

violation of a provision or requirement in a loan agreement.

The triggering events in the 2019 final regulations are significantly less subjective than a number of the eliminated triggering events that were included in the 2016 regulations. If any of the triggering events materialize, our institutions may be required to post a letter of credit equal to 10% or more of the institution’s previous year’s annual Title IV disbursements.

Repayment Rate Disclosure Eliminated. The 2019 final defense to repayment regulations eliminated a separate repayment rate disclosure obligation from the 2016 regulations that applied only to for-profit institutions. ED has indicated it favors a more universally applicable set of disclosures it is working to incorporate into its college scorecards.  

Student Loans Disbursed Prior to July 1, 2020

Prior to the July 1, 2020 effective date of the 2019 final regulations, institutions are required to follow the 2016 regulations, subject to ED’s ongoing guidance and direction. As a result, student loans disbursed between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2020 will follow the loan discharge processes outlined in the 2016 regulations. The 2016 regulations allow ED to process discharge claims on a group basis, has a much broader definition of what constitutes an eligible misrepresentation, including inadvertent errors, has a lower burden of proof for students and fewer due process protections for institutions. Student loans disbursed before July 1, 2017 will follow ED’s

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original discharge standards and processes that specify that a borrower may assert a defense to repayment based on an act or omission by the school that would give rise to a cause of action under state law.  

See Item 1A, “Risk Factors – Risks Related to the Highly Regulated Field in Which We Operate - ‘Borrower defense to repayment’ regulations, including closed schools discharges, may subject us to significant repayment liability to ED for discharged federal student loans and posting of substantial letters of credit that may limit our ability to make investments in our business which could negatively impact our future growths.” for more information about risks associated with the borrower defense to repayment regulations.

Financial Responsibility Standards

To participate in Title IV Programs, our institutions must either satisfy standards of financial responsibility prescribed by ED, or post a letter of credit in favor of ED and possibly accept other conditions on its participation in Title IV Programs. Pursuant to the Title IV Program regulations, each eligible higher education institution must, among other things, satisfy a quantitative standard of financial responsibility that is based on a weighted average of three annual tests which assess the financial condition of the institution. The three tests measure primary reserve, equity and net income ratios. The Primary Reserve Ratio is a measure of an institution’s financial viability and liquidity. The Equity Ratio is a measure of an institution’s capital resources and its ability to borrow. The Net Income Ratio is a measure of an institution’s profitability. These tests provide three individual scores that are converted into a single composite score. The maximum composite score is 3.0. If the institution achieves a composite score of at least 1.5, it is considered financially responsible without conditions or additional oversight. A composite score from 1.0 to 1.4 is considered to be in “the zone” of financial responsibility, and a composite score of less than 1.0 is not considered to be financially responsible. If an institution is in “the zone” of financial responsibility, the institution may establish eligibility to continue to participate in Title IV Programs on the following alternative bases:

Zone Alternative. Under what is referred to as the “zone alternative,” an institution may continue to participate in Title IV Programs for up to three years under additional monitoring and reporting procedures but without having to post a letter of credit in favor of ED. These additional monitoring and reporting procedures include being transferred from the “advance” method of payment of Title IV Program funds to cash monitoring status (referred to as Heightened Cash Monitoring 1, or “HCM1,” status) or to the “reimbursement” or Heightened Cash Monitoring 2 (“HCM2”) methods of payment. If an institution does not achieve a composite score of at least 1.0 in one of the three subsequent years or does not improve its financial condition to attain a composite score of at least 1.5 by the end of the three-year period, the institution must satisfy another alternative standard to continue participating in Title IV Programs.

Letter of Credit Alternative. An institution that fails to meet one of the standards of financial responsibility, including by having a composite score less than 1.5, may demonstrate financial responsibility by submitting an irrevocable letter of credit to ED in an amount equal to at least 50% of the Title IV Program funds that the institution received during its most recently completed fiscal year.

Provisional Certification. If an institution fails to meet one of the standards of financial responsibility, including by having a composite score less than 1.5, ED may permit the institution to participate under provisional certification for up to three years. If ED permits an institution to participate under provisional certification, an institution must comply with the requirements of the “zone alternative,” including being transferred to the HCM1, HCM2 or “reimbursement” method of payment of Title IV Program funds, and must submit a letter of credit to ED in an amount determined by ED which can range from 10%-100% of the Title IV Program funds that the institution received during its most recently completed fiscal year. If an institution is still not financially responsible at the end of the period of provisional certification, including because it has a composite score of less than 1.0, ED may again permit provisional certification subject to the terms ED determines appropriate.

ED applies its quantitative financial responsibility tests annually based on an institution’s audited financial statements and may apply the tests if an institution undergoes a change in control or under other circumstances. ED also may apply the tests to the parent company of our institutions, and to other related entities. Our composite score for the consolidated entity for the year ended December 31, 2018 was 3.0, and our preliminary calculation for the year ended December 31, 2019 is also 3.0, which is the highest possible score and considered financially responsible without conditions or additional oversight. If in the future we are required to satisfy ED’s standards of financial responsibility on an alternative basis, including potentially by posting irrevocable letters of credit, we may not have the capacity to post these letters of credit.

Accreditor and state regulatory requirements also address financial responsibility, and these requirements vary among agencies and also are different from the ED requirements. Any developments relating to our satisfaction of ED’s financial responsibility requirements may lead to additional focus or review by our accreditors or applicable state agencies regarding their respective financial responsibility requirements.

See Item 1A, “Risk Factors – Risks Related to the Highly Regulated Field in Which We Operate – A failure to demonstrate ‘financial responsibility’ or ‘administrative capability’ would have negative impacts on our operations,” for additional information regarding risks relating to the financial responsibility standards.

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Return and Refunds of Title IV Program Funds

An institution participating in Title IV Programs must correctly calculate the amount of unearned Title IV Program funds that were disbursed to students who withdrew from educational programs before completing the programs, and must return those funds in a timely manner.

The portion of tuition and fee payments billed to students but not yet earned is recorded as deferred tuition revenue and reflected as a current liability on our consolidated balance sheets, as such amounts represent revenue that we expect to earn within the next year. If a student withdraws from one of our institutions prior to the completion of the academic term, we refund the portion of tuition and fees already paid that we are not entitled to retain, pursuant to applicable federal and state law and accrediting agency standards and our refund policy. The amount of funds to be refunded on behalf of a student is calculated based upon the period of time in which the student has attended classes and the amount of tuition and fees paid by the student as of the student’s withdrawal date. Such refunds typically result in a reduction to deferred tuition revenue and cash on our consolidated balance sheets, because generally, we do not recognize tuition revenue in our consolidated statements of income (loss) and comprehensive income (loss) until related refund provisions have lapsed.

Institutions are required to return any unearned Title IV funds within 45 days of the date the institution determines that the student has withdrawn. An institution that is found to be in non-compliance with ED refund requirements for either of the last two completed fiscal years must post a letter of credit in favor of ED in an amount equal to 25% of the total Title IV Program returns that were paid or should have been paid by the institution during its most recently completed fiscal year. As of December 31, 2019, we have posted no letters of credit in favor of ED due to non-compliance with ED refund requirements.

Change of Ownership or Control

When an institution undergoes a change of ownership resulting in a change of control, as that term is defined by the state in which it is located, its accrediting agency and ED, it must secure the approval of those agencies to continue to operate and to continue to participate in Title IV Programs. If the institution is unable to re-establish state authorization and accreditation requirements and satisfy other requirements for certification by ED, the institution may lose its authority to operate and its ability to participate in Title IV Programs. An institution whose change of ownership or control is approved by the appropriate authorities is nonetheless provisionally re-certified by ED for a period of up to three years. Transactions or events that constitute a change of control by one or more of the applicable regulatory agencies, including ED, applicable state agencies, and accrediting bodies, include the acquisition of an institution from another entity or significant acquisition or disposition of an institution’s equity. It is possible that some of these events may occur without our control. Our failure to obtain, or a delay in obtaining, a required approval of any change in control from ED, applicable state agencies, or accrediting agencies could impair our ability or the ability of the affected institutions to participate in Title IV Programs. If we were to undergo a change of control and our institutions failed to obtain the required approvals from applicable regulatory agencies in a timely manner, our student population, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows could be materially adversely affected.

When we acquire an institution that is eligible to participate in Title IV Programs, that institution typically undergoes a change of ownership resulting in a change of control as defined by ED. Our acquired institutions in the past have undergone a certification review under our ownership and have been certified to participate in Title IV Programs on a provisional basis, per ED requirements, until such time that ED signs a new program participation agreement with the institution. Currently, neither of our institutions is subject to provisional certification status due to ED’s change of ownership criteria. The potential adverse effects of a change of control under ED regulations may influence future decisions by us and our stockholders regarding the sale, purchase, transfer, issuance or redemption of our common stock.

Opening New Institutions, Start-up Campuses and Adding Educational Programs

The Higher Education Act generally requires that for-profit institutions be fully operational for two years before applying to participate in Title IV Programs. However, an institution that is certified to participate in Title IV Programs may establish a start-up branch campus or location and participate in Title IV Programs at the start-up campus without reference to the two-year requirement if the start-up campus has received all of the necessary state and accrediting agency approvals, has been reported to ED, and meets certain other criteria as defined by ED. Nevertheless, under certain circumstances, a start-up branch campus may also be required to obtain approval from ED to be able to participate in Title IV Programs.

In addition to ED regulations, certain of the state and accrediting agencies with jurisdiction over our institutions have requirements that may affect our ability to open a new institution, open a start-up branch campus or location of one of our existing institutions, or begin offering a new educational program at one of our institutions. If we establish a new institution, add a new branch start-up campus, or expand program offerings at any of our institutions without obtaining the required approvals, we would likely be liable for repayment of Title IV Program funds provided to students at that institution or branch campus or enrolled in that educational program, and we could also be subject to sanctions. Also, if we are unable to obtain the approvals from ED, applicable state regulatory agencies, and accrediting agencies for any new institutions, branch campuses, or program offerings where such approvals are required, or to obtain such approvals in a timely manner, our ability to grow our business would be impaired and our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows could be materially adversely affected.  

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Pursuant to the pending acquisition of Trident University International, Trident’s operations will be brought within the scope of AIU’s current state licensure, accreditation and ED approval. In November 2019, the Higher Learning Commission approved the proposed transaction. We expect the transaction to close in early March, with the timing dependent upon ED’s processing of AIU’s application to add Trident’s programs to AIU’s authorization. In anticipation of the closing, we continue to work with all of our regulatory partners on the expected regulatory authority transitions.

Administrative Capability

ED regulations specify extensive criteria that an institution must satisfy to establish that it has the requisite administrative capability to participate in Title IV Programs. These criteria relate to, among other things, institutional staffing, operational standards such as procedures for disbursing and safeguarding Title IV Program funds, timely submission of accurate reports to ED and various other procedural matters. If an institution fails to satisfy any of ED’s criteria for administrative capability, ED may require the repayment of Title IV Program funds disbursed by the institution, place the institution on provisional certification status, require the institution to receive Title IV Program funds under another funding arrangement, impose fines or limit or terminate the participation of the institution in Title IV Programs.

Restrictions on Payment of Commissions, Bonuses and Other Incentive Payments

An institution participating in Title IV Programs cannot provide any commission, bonus, or other incentive payment based directly or indirectly on success in securing enrollments or Title IV financial aid to any persons or entities engaged in any student recruiting or admission activities or in making decisions regarding the award of student financial assistance. Regulations issued in October 2010 which became effective July 1, 2011 rescinded previously issued ED guidance and “safe harbors” relied upon by higher education institutions in making decisions how they managed, compensated and promoted individuals engaged in student recruiting and the awarding of financial aid and their supervisors. The elimination of these “safe harbor” protections and guidance required us to terminate certain compensation payments to our affected employees and to implement changes in contractual and other arrangements with third parties to change structures formerly allowed under ED rules, and has had an impact on our ability to compensate, recruit, retain and motivate affected admissions and other affected employees as well as on our business arrangements with third-party lead generators and other marketing vendors. In September 2016, ED’s Office of Inspector General released a revised audit guide applicable specifically to for-profit schools that requires an annual audit to review compliance with the incentive compensation restrictions.

Further, ED provided very limited published guidance regarding this rule and does not establish clear criteria for compliance for many circumstances. If ED determined that an institution’s compensation practices violated these standards, ED could subject the institution to monetary fines, penalties or other sanctions.

Substantial Misrepresentation

The Higher Education Act prohibits an institution participating in Title IV Programs from engaging in substantial misrepresentation of the nature of its educational programs, financial charges, graduate employability or its relationship with ED. Under ED’s rules, a "misrepresentation" is any statement (made in writing, visually, orally or otherwise) made by the institution, any of its representatives or a third party that provides educational programs, marketing, advertising, recruiting, or admissions services to the institution, that is false, erroneous or has the likelihood or tendency to deceive, and a "substantial misrepresentation" is any misrepresentation on which the person to whom it was made could reasonably be expected to rely, or has reasonably relied, to that person’s detriment. Considering the broad definition of “substantial misrepresentation,” it is possible that, despite our training efforts and compliance programs, our institutions' employees or service providers may make statements that could be construed as substantial misrepresentations. If ED determines that one of our institutions has engaged in substantial misrepresentation, ED may revoke the institution’s program participation agreement, deny applications from the institution for approval of new programs or locations or other matters, or initiate proceedings under its borrower defense to repayment regulations to fine the institution or limit, suspend, or terminate its eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs; the institution could also be exposed to increased risk of action under the Federal False Claims Act.

OTHER INFORMATION

Our website address is www.perdoceoed.com. We make available within the “Investor Relations” portion of our website under the caption “Annual Reports and SEC Filings,” free of charge, our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, and current reports on Form 8-K, including any amendments to those reports, as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file or furnish such materials to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Also, the SEC maintains an Internet site at www.sec.gov that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information that we file electronically with the SEC. Information contained on our website is expressly not incorporated by reference into this Form 10-K.

 

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Item 1A.

RISK FACTORS

 

Risks Related to the Highly Regulated Field in Which We Operate

If our institutions fail to comply with the extensive regulatory requirements applicable to our business, we could incur financial penalties, restrictions on our operations, loss of federal and state financial aid funding for our students, or loss of our authorization to operate our institutions.

We are subject to extensive federal and state regulation as a provider of postsecondary education. The applicable regulatory requirements cover virtually all phases of the operations of our institutions, including educational program offerings, facilities, instructional and administrative staff, administrative procedures, marketing and recruiting, financial operations, payment of refunds to students who withdraw, financial aid to students, acquisitions or openings of new institutions, additions of new educational programs, closure or relocation of existing locations and changes in corporate structure and ownership. ED is our primary federal regulator pursuant to the Higher Education Act.

A significant portion of our students rely on Title IV Programs, and we derive a substantial majority of our revenue and cash flows from Title IV Programs. For example, for the year ended December 31, 2019, approximately 81% of all our students who were in a program of study at any date during that year participated in Title IV Programs, which resulted in Title IV Program cash receipts recorded by the Company of approximately $436 million.

Our institutions participate in Title IV Programs and are subject to extensive regulation by ED, various state agencies and accrediting commissions. To participate in Title IV Programs, an institution must receive and maintain authorization by the appropriate state education agencies, be accredited by an accrediting commission recognized by ED, and be certified by ED as an eligible institution. Most ED requirements are applied on an institutional basis, with each institution assigned an identification number known as an OPEID, or Office of Postsecondary Education Identification number. Each institution’s branches and other locations, regardless of whether they are campus-based or online, are assigned to the institution’s OPEID.

The regulations, standards and policies of our regulators change frequently and are subject to interpretation, particularly where they are crafted for traditional, academic term-based institutions rather than our module-based academic delivery model. Changes in, or new interpretations of, applicable laws, regulations or standards could have a material adverse effect on our accreditation, authorization to operate in various states, permissible activities, receipt of funds under Title IV Programs, or costs of doing business.

If we violate any applicable regulations, standards or policies, we may be subject to the following sanctions, among others, imposed by any one or more of the relevant regulatory agencies or other government bodies:

 

imposition of monetary fines or penalties, including imposition of a letter of credit requirement;

 

repayment of funds received under Title IV or other federal programs or state financial aid programs;

 

restrictions on, or termination of, our institutions' eligibility to participate in Title IV or other federal programs or state financial aid programs;

 

limits on, or termination of, our institutions' operations or ability to grant degrees and certificates;

 

restrictions on, or revocation of, our institutions' accreditations;

 

limitations on our ability to open new institutions or offer new programs;

 

costly investigations, litigation or other adversarial proceedings; and

 

civil or criminal penalties levied against us or our institutions.

In addition, findings or allegations of noncompliance may subject us to qui tam lawsuits under the Federal False Claims Act, under which private plaintiffs seek to enforce remedies on behalf of the U.S. and, if successful, are entitled to recover their costs and to receive a portion of any amounts recovered by the U.S. in the lawsuit. We may also be subject to other types of lawsuits or claims by third parties. The costs of these proceedings may be significant and we may not have sufficient resources to fund any material adverse outcomes.

Any of the penalties, injunctions, restrictions, lawsuits or other forms of censure discussed above could have a material adverse effect on the number of students who choose to enroll at our institutions, our profitability, our cash and short term investment balances, our ability to conduct our business as presently conducted or as we desire to in the future and our reputation. If we lose Title IV Program eligibility, we would experience a dramatic decline in revenue and we would be unable to continue our business as it currently is conducted.

 

 

 

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Congress may revise the laws governing Title IV Programs or reduce funding for those and other student financial aid programs, and ED may revise its regulations administering Title IV programs, any of which could reduce our student enrollments and revenue and increase costs of operations. The results of the 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections are likely to significantly impact the nature of future changes.

The U.S. Congress must periodically reauthorize the Higher Education Act and other laws governing Title IV Programs and annually determines the funding level for each Title IV Program. See Item 1, “Business—Student Financial Aid and Related Federal Regulation—Legislative Action and Recent ED Regulatory Initiatives,” for more information about the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Both major political parties have conveyed significantly different views on how they would propose to reauthorize the Title IV Programs and the various conditions on program or institutional eligibility they would require. As a result, the outcome of the 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections is likely to significantly impact the outcome of the Higher Education Act reauthorization process and therefore the extent to which any legislation, if adopted, could materially affect our business is uncertain. However, scrutiny of the for-profit postsecondary education sector and the ongoing policy differences in Congress regarding spending levels could lead to significant regulatory changes in connection with the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and many of these changes may be adverse to postsecondary institutions generally or for-profit institutions specifically.

ED has promulgated a substantial number of new regulations in recent years that impact our business, including but not limited to multiple versions of the “borrower defense to repayment” regulations discussed in a separate risk factor below and the recently rescinded gainful employment regulation, as well as compensation rules for persons engaged in certain aspects of admissions and financial aid, state authorization, determination of attendance and definitions of a “credit hour” and a “substantial misrepresentation” which became effective on July 1, 2011. These and other regulations have had significant impacts on our business, requiring a large number of reporting and operational changes and resulting in changes to and elimination of certain educational programs. Future regulatory actions by ED or other agencies that regulate our institutions are likely to occur and to have significant impacts on our business, by requiring us to change our business practices and incur costs of compliance and of developing and implementing changes in operations. For example, if there is a change in ED administration and policy objectives following the 2020 Presidential election, a new version of gainful employment regulations may be adopted. See Item 1, “Business—Student Financial Aid and Related Federal Regulation—Legislative Action and Recent ED Regulatory Initiatives,” for a brief overview of the former gainful employment regulations and the recent rescission, and our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2018 contains more detail regarding the recently rescinded regulations.

Because a significant percentage of our revenue is derived from Title IV Programs, any legislative or regulatory action that significantly reduces Title IV Program funding or the ability of our students to participate, or that places significant additional burdens on our ability to participate, may significantly reduce the number of students who enroll at our institutions, our revenue and our profitability.

 

If we fail to comply with state laws and regulatory requirements, including new state legislative or regulatory initiatives affecting our institutions, we could incur financial penalties, restrictions on our operations and reduced student enrollments.

Our institutions are subject to the laws and regulations of the states where our physical campuses are located, and are also subject to laws and regulations in other states in which they enroll and/or recruit students. State laws establish standards for, among other things, student instruction, qualifications of faculty, location and nature of facilities and financial policies. State education laws and regulations may limit our institutions’ ability to operate or to award degrees or certificates or offer new programs. Moreover, under the Higher Education Act, approval by such agencies is necessary to maintain eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs. In addition, we are subject to state consumer protection laws.  

Attorneys general in many states have become more active in enforcing consumer protection laws, in particular related to recruiting practices and the financing of education at for-profit educational institutions. Further, some state attorneys general have partnered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission to review industry practices. These actions increase the scrutiny of the marketing and advertising practices of educational institutions, making our operating environment more challenging and increasing the risk of claims of noncompliance. In addition, adverse media coverage regarding the allegations of state consumer protection law violations by us or other for-profit education companies could damage our reputation, result in deceased enrollments, revenues and profitability, and have a negative impact on our stock price. Such coverage could also result in continued scrutiny and regulation by ED, Congress, accrediting commissions, state legislatures, state attorneys general or other governmental authorities of for-profit educational institutions generally or the Company specifically. See the risk factor below regarding our agreements with multiple state attorneys general and the FTC to resolve their inquiries which impact our future operations.

State legislatures often consider legislation affecting regulation of postsecondary educational institutions. For example, some states have proposed legislation that would prohibit enrollment of their residents based on a state and federal funding threshold that is more restrictive than the current federal 90/10 Rule and that would implement a state level version of ED’s recently rescinded gainful employment regulations.

If we are unable to comply with current or future state consumer protection, licensing, authorization or other requirements, or determine that we are unable to cost effectively comply with new or changed requirements, we could be subject to monetary fines or

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penalties or limitations on the manner in which we conduct our business, we could incur substantial compliance costs or be required to modify our operations in order to comply or we could lose enrollments, revenue and eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs in any affected states. Loss of authorization in one or more states could increase the likelihood of additional scrutiny and potential loss of authority in other states, which would further impact our business.

 

Our agreements with multiple state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission may lead to unexpected impacts on our student enrollments or higher than anticipated expenses, and a failure to comply may lead to additional enforcement actions.

In recent years, states and other regulatory bodies have increased their focus on the for-profit postsecondary education sector. This includes increased activity by state attorneys general and the FTC in their review of the sector. In this regard, in 2019 the Company entered into agreements with the FTC and attorneys general from 48 states and the District of Columbia to bring closure to inquiries by them. See Item 1, “Business – Accreditation, Jurisdictional Authorizations and Other Compliance Matters – Other Compliance Matters” for information about these agreements. These agreements could ultimately have negative impacts on our business, any one of which could be material. For example, pursuant to the agreements with the attorneys general we agreed to work with a third-party administrator that will report annually for three years on the Company’s compliance with various obligations the Company committed to in the agreements. Any negative findings by the third-party administrator may result in negative consequences to the Company, such as an extension of the time period during which the Company must work with the third party administrator or an action by one or more attorneys general seeking enforcement of the agreements. Further, our provision of materials and information in accordance with the terms of the agreements that do not align with those provided by other institutions could negatively impact student decisions to enroll or remain enrolled at our institutions. Pursuant to the agreement with the FTC, we agreed to the operation of a system to monitor lead aggregators and generators involving a compliance review by, or on behalf of, the Company of the various sources a prospective student interacts with prior to the Company’s purchase and use of the prospective student lead. The compliance costs related to these agreements may be greater than anticipated and may have a negative impact on our ability to compete effectively and maintain and grow student enrollments at our institutions, and a failure to comply may lead to additional enforcement actions by the state attorneys general and the FTC.

 

If one or more of our institutions fails to maintain institutional accreditation, or if certain of our programs cannot obtain or maintain programmatic accreditation, our student enrollments would diminish and our business would suffer.

Institutional Accreditation. In the U.S., accrediting agencies periodically review the academic quality of an institution's instructional programs and its administrative and financial operations to ensure that the institution has the resources to perform its educational mission. ED relies on accrediting agencies to assess whether an institution's educational programs qualify the institution to participate in Title IV Programs. See Item 1, “Business – Accreditation, Jurisdictional Authorizations and Other Compliance Matters – Institutional Accreditation.”

The failure to comply with accreditation standards will subject an institution to additional oversight and reporting requirements, accreditation proceedings such as a show-cause directive, an action to defer or deny action related to an institution's application for a new grant of accreditation or an action to suspend an institution's accreditation or a program's approval. For example, in August 2016 HLC adopted policy changes giving the Commission discretion to designate an institution as a school “in financial distress” or “under government investigation.” These designations may result in additional monitoring and/or financial reporting by the institution and a strict scrutiny review by HLC of any requests for substantive change at the institution, requiring the institution to demonstrate a compelling reason for the change and that it has sufficient resources to support the change. In 2019 we resolved inquiries by the FTC and multiple state attorneys general. If similar inquiries occur in the future, the breadth of the conditions that could result in these designations may cause our HLC-accredited institutions, CTU and AIU, to be labeled with one or possibly both.

If our institutions or programs are subject to accreditation actions or are placed on probationary accreditation status, we may experience additional adverse publicity, impaired ability to attract and retain students and substantial expense to obtain unqualified accreditation status. The inability to obtain reaccreditation following periodic reviews or any final loss of institutional accreditation after exhaustion of the administrative agency processes would result in a loss of Title IV Program funds for the affected institution and its students. Such events and any related claims brought against us could have a material adverse impact on our business, reputation, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

Programmatic Accreditation. Many states and professional associations require professional programs to be accredited. While programmatic accreditation is not a sufficient basis to qualify for institutional Title IV Program certification, programmatic accreditation may improve employment opportunities for program graduates in their chosen field. Those of our programs that do not have such programmatic accreditation, where available, or fail to maintain such accreditation, may experience adverse publicity, declining enrollments, litigation or other claims from students or suffer other adverse impacts, which could result in it being impractical for us to continue offering such programs.

ED Recognition of Accrediting Agencies. Our participation in Title IV Programs is dependent on ED continuing to recognize the accrediting agencies that accredit our institutions. The standards and practices of these agencies have become a focus of attention by state attorneys general, members of Congress, ED’s Office of Inspector General and ED over recent years. This focus may make the accreditation review process longer and potentially more challenging for our institutions when they undergo their normal accreditation

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review processes. HLC, which accredits CTU and AIU, along with other ED recognized accreditors are facing increased political pressure as part of this recognition process to apply heightened levels of scrutiny or review and/or apply new requirements or standards to for-profit institutions. These pressures may result in future modifications to HLC’s accreditation criteria, practices or other policies and procedures, which our universities may not be able to comply with.

 

Our institutions could lose their eligibility to participate in federal student financial aid programs or have other limitations placed upon them if the percentage of their revenues derived from those programs is too high.

Any of our institutions or OPEIDs may lose eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs if, on modified cash basis accounting, the percentage of the cash receipts derived from Title IV Programs for two consecutive fiscal years is greater than 90%. Under the 90-10 Rule, an OPEID that derives more than 90% of its cash receipts from Title IV sources for a fiscal year will be placed on provisional participation status for its next two fiscal years. We have substantially no control over the amount of Title IV student loans and grants sought by or awarded to our students. In addition, if the OPEID violates the 90-10 Rule and becomes ineligible to participate in Title IV Programs but continues to disburse Title IV Program funds, ED would require repayment of all Title IV Program funds received by it after the effective date of the loss of eligibility.

Several factors such as the increase in Title IV Program aid availability, including year-round Pell Grant funds, and budget-related reductions in state grant programs, workforce training programs and other alternative funding sources have adversely affected our institutions' 90-10 Rule percentages in recent years, and we expect this negative impact to continue. We have implemented various measures intended to reduce the percentage of our institution's cash basis revenue attributable to Title IV Program funds, including AIU’s deferred receipt of Title IV Program funds in 2019 within the parameters permitted by ED cash management regulations. Another potential measure is adjusting tuition, but tuition adjustments adversely impact students and could adversely affect our enrollments. However, these measures may not be adequate to prevent our institutions' 90-10 Rule percentages from exceeding 90% in the future.

The ability of our institutions to maintain 90-10 rates below 90% will depend on the composition of our future student population and their personal circumstances and regulatory and other factors outside of our control, including any reduction in government education assistance for military personnel, including veterans, or changes in the treatment of such funding for purposes of the 90-10 rate calculation.

Currently, government education assistance for military personnel, including veterans, is not treated as revenue from Title IV sources and therefore is included in the “10%” portion of the calculation. However, multiple legislative proposals have been introduced in Congress that would revise the 90-10 Rule to consider government education assistance for military personnel, including veterans, in the same manner as Title IV funds for purposes of the rule and to revise the 90-10 Rule to an 85-15 rule. If adopted, these proposals would make it more difficult for our institutions to comply with the 90-10 Rule.

In addition, there is a lack of clarity regarding some of the technical aspects of the calculation methodology under the 90-10 Rule, which may lead to regulatory action or investigations by ED. Changes in, or new interpretations of, the calculation methodology or other industry practices under the 90-10 Rule could further significantly impact our compliance with the 90-10 Rule, and any review or investigation by ED involving us could require a significant amount of resources.

ED has broad discretion to impose additional sanctions on institutions that fail the 90-10 Rule limit, but there is only limited precedent available to predict what those additional sanctions might be in the future. ED could specify a wide range of additional conditions as part of the provisional certification and the institutions' continued participation in Title IV Programs. These conditions may include, among other things, restrictions on the total amount of Title IV Program funds that may be distributed to students attending the institutions; restrictions on programmatic and geographic expansion; requirements to obtain and post letters of credit; and additional reporting requirements to include additional interim financial or enrollment reporting.

See Item 1, “Business – Student Financial Aid and Related Federal Regulation – Compliance with Federal Regulatory Standards and Effect of Federal Regulatory Violations - ‘90-10 Rule,’” for more information about the 90-10 Rule and the measures we have implemented to improve our compliance.

If any of our institutions lose eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs due to violation of the 90-10 Rule, the institution would experience a dramatic decline in revenue and would be unable to continue its business as it currently is conducted. Efforts to reduce the 90-10 Rule percentage for our institutions have and may in the future involve taking measures that involve interpretations of the 90-10 Rule that are without clear precedent, reduce our revenue or increase our operating expenses (or all of the foregoing, in each case perhaps significantly). If the 90-10 Rule is not changed to provide relief for for-profit institutions, we may be required to make structural changes to our business to remain in compliance, which changes may materially alter the manner in which we conduct our business and materially and adversely impact our revenue and operating costs. Furthermore, these required changes could make more difficult our ability to comply with other important regulatory requirements, such as the cohort default rate regulations.

 

 

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“Borrower defense to repayment” regulations, including closed school discharges, may subject us to significant repayment liability to ED for discharged federal student loans and posting of substantial letters of credit that may limit our ability to make investments in our business which could negatively impact our future growths.

On October 28, 2016, ED adopted regulations that cover multiple issues including the processes and standards for the discharge of student loans, which are commonly referred to as “borrower defense to repayment” regulations. Included in the 2016 regulations were expansions of ED’s authority to process group discharge claims and authority to seek recoupment from institutions. On September 23, 2019, ED published new final “borrower defense to repayment” regulations that become effective on July 1, 2020. Which processes and standards apply is determined by the date a student loan is disbursed, and student loans disbursed before July 1, 2017 will follow ED’s original discharge standards and processes that specify that a borrower may assert a defense to repayment based on an act or omission by the school that would give rise to a cause of action under state law. See Item 1, “Business—Student Financial Aid and Related Federal Regulation—Compliance with Federal Regulatory Standards and Effect of Federal Regulatory Violations - Borrower Defense to Repayment,” for more information about the borrower defense to repayment regulations.

In addition to discharge of student loans based on an act or omission by a school, ED regulations provide that upon the closure of an institution participating in the Title IV Programs, including any location thereof, certain students who had attended such an institution or location may be eligible to obtain a “closed school discharge” of their federal student loans related to attendance at that institution or location, if they do not complete their educational programs at another location or online, or through transfer or teach-out with other postsecondary institutions. In order to obtain a closed school discharge, a student generally must have been enrolled or on an approved leave of absence when the institution or location closed. ED regulations historically also provide that students who withdraw from an institution or location within 120 days prior to the closure may receive a closed school discharge; this time period was expanded to 180 days under the 2019 borrower defense to repayment regulations. Additionally, under the 2016 regulations, ED may grant automatic closed school discharges to students who do not re-enroll in another Title IV-participating institution within three years after becoming unable to complete their educational program due to a closure of their institution or institutional location.  Recently, ED has asserted loan discharge claims against us relating to closed campuses in our former All Other Campuses reporting segment for select students that withdrew or were dismissed from school just prior to a campus closure, despite the availability of a teach-out and opportunity to complete. In addition, pursuant to our pending acquisition of substantially all of the assets of Trident University International, Trident’s operations will be brought within the scope of AIU’s current state licensure, accreditation and ED approval, with Trident relinquishing its accreditor and ED approvals. As a result, we may incur closed school discharge liabilities if students do not complete their educational program after the closing of the transaction.

ED’s interpretation and enforcement of the different versions of the borrower defense to repayment regulations, including closed school discharges, and the related processes and standards is uncertain. If ED determines that a significant number of borrowers who attended our current, former or acquired institutions have a defense to repayment of their student loans, we could be subject to significant repayment liability to ED, which may limit our ability to make investments in our business and negatively impact our future growth.

In addition to potential liability associated with loan discharges, both the 2016 and 2019 borrower defense to repayment regulations include discussion of triggering events that would provide ED discretion regarding periodic determinations of our financial responsibility and associated enhanced financial protection in the form of a letter of credit or other security it determines it needs. If in the future we are required to post a letter of credit pursuant to the borrower defense to repayment regulations, we may not have the capacity to do so. Even if we are able to post any required letter of credit, doing so may limit our ability to make investments in our business which could negatively impact our future growth.

We cannot predict the impact the various defense to repayment regulations will have on student enrollments, the volume of future claims for loan discharge, or our future financial responsibility as determined by ED, all of which could be materially adverse.

 

A failure to demonstrate "financial responsibility" or "administrative capability" would have negative impacts on our operations.

All higher education institutions participating in Title IV Programs must, among other things, satisfy financial and administrative standards. Failure to meet these standards will subject an institution to additional monitoring and reporting procedures, the costs of which may be significant; alterations in the timing and process for receipt of cash pursuant to Title IV Programs; a requirement to submit an irrevocable letter of credit to ED in an amount equal to 10-100% of the Title IV Program funds that the institution received during its most recently completed fiscal year; or provisional certification for up to three years; depending on the level of compliance with the standards and ED’s discretion. See Item 1, “Business – Student Financial Aid and Related Federal Regulation – Compliance with Federal Regulatory Standards and Effect of Federal Regulatory Violations,” for more information about the standards of financial responsibility and administrative capability and the alternative ways an institution may establish eligibility to continue to participate in Title IV Programs.

If in the future we are required to satisfy ED's standards of financial responsibility on an alternative basis, including potentially by posting irrevocable letters of credit, we may not have the capacity to post these letters of credit.

Accreditor and state regulatory requirements also address financial responsibility, and these requirements vary among agencies and also are different from the ED requirements. Any developments relating to our satisfaction of ED's financial responsibility

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requirements may lead to additional focus or review by our accreditors or applicable state agencies regarding their respective financial responsibility requirements.

If our institutions fail to maintain financial responsibility or administrative capability, they could lose their eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs, have that eligibility adversely conditioned or be subject to similar negative consequences under accreditor and state regulatory requirements, which would have a material adverse effect on our operations. In particular, limitations on participation in Title IV Programs as a result of the failure to demonstrate financial responsibility or administrative capability could materially reduce the enrollments and revenue at the impacted institution, and a termination of participation would cause a dramatic decline in revenue and we would be unable to continue our business as it currently is conducted.

 

Our institutions could lose their eligibility to participate in federal student financial aid programs or have other limitations placed upon them if their student loan cohort default rates are greater than the standards set by ED.

To remain eligible to participate in Title IV Programs, our institutions must maintain student loan cohort default rates below specified levels. Each cohort is the group of students who first enter into student loan repayment during a federal fiscal year (ending September 30). The applicable cohort default rate for each cohort is the percentage of the students in the cohort who default on their student loans prior to the end of the two following federal fiscal years, which represents a three-year measuring period. If an educational institution’s cohort default rate exceeds the applicable standards, it may be required to delay for 30 days the release of the first disbursement of U.S. federal student loan proceeds to first time borrowers, establish a default prevention task force and develop a default prevention plan with measurable objectives for improving the cohort default rate, be subject to provisional certification imposing various additional requirements for participating in Title IV Programs or, depending on the duration or magnitude of the compliance failure, cease participation in Title IV Programs.

See Item 1, “Business – Student Financial Aid and Related Federal Regulation – Compliance with Federal Regulatory Standards and Effect of Federal Regulatory Violations – Student Loan Default Rates,” for more information about cohort default rates, ED’s standards and penalties applicable thereto as well as the rates for our institutions.

If either of our institutions loses eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs due to student loan default rates being higher than ED’s thresholds, we would experience a dramatic decline in revenue and we would be unable to continue our business as it currently is conducted.

 

If ED denies, or significantly conditions, recertification of either of our institutions to participate in Title IV Programs, that institution could not conduct its business as it is currently conducted.

Under the provisions of the Higher Education Act, an institution must apply to ED for continued certification to participate in Title IV Programs at least every six years or when it undergoes a change of control. Each institution is assigned an identification number by ED known as an OPEID, or Office of Postsecondary Education Identification number, with each institution’s branches and additional locations assigned to the main campus’ OPEID. Generally, the recertification process includes a review by ED of an institution’s educational programs and locations, administrative capability, financial responsibility and other oversight categories. AIU is currently operating on a provisional program participation agreement due to open reviews. During the period of provisional certification, an institution must obtain prior ED approval to add an educational program, open a new location or make any other significant change, which could negatively impact our ability to take these actions.

If ED finds that any of our institutions do not fully satisfy all required eligibility and certification standards, ED could limit, suspend or terminate the institution’s participation in Title IV Programs. Continued Title IV program eligibility is critical to the operation of our business. If either of our institutions becomes ineligible to participate in Title IV Programs, or have that participation significantly conditioned, it could not conduct its business as it is currently conducted and we would experience a dramatic decline in revenue.

 

Government and regulatory agencies and third parties may conduct compliance reviews and audits or bring actions against us that could result in monetary liabilities, injunctions, loss of eligibility for Title IV Programs or other adverse outcomes.

Because we operate in a highly regulated industry, we are subject to compliance reviews and audits as well as claims of noncompliance and lawsuits by government agencies, regulatory agencies and third parties. We have had significant matters pending against us in the past which have resulted in the payment of significant amounts to settle the matters and our agreement to ongoing compliance and operational matters. In this regard, see Item I, “Business – Accreditation, Jurisdictional Authorizations and Other Compliance Matters – Other Compliance Matters,” for discussion of agreements undertaken in connection with several recently resolved pending matters. From time to time, we identify compliance deficiencies that we must address and, where appropriate, report such deficiencies to ED. Such reporting, even in regard to a minor or inadvertent compliance issue, could result in a more significant compliance review by ED or even a full recertification review, which may require the expenditure of substantial administrative time and resources to address. If the result of any proceeding is unfavorable to us, we may be required to pay monetary damages or be subject to fines, limitations, loss of Title IV funding, injunctions or other penalties. Even if we adequately address issues raised by an agency review or successfully defend a lawsuit or claim, we may have to divert significant financial and management resources from

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our ongoing business operations to address issues raised by those actions. Claims and lawsuits brought against us may damage our reputation or adversely affect our stock price, even if such actions are eventually determined to be without merit.

 

We need timely approval by applicable regulatory agencies to offer new programs or make substantive changes to existing programs.

Our institutions frequently need to obtain approvals from regulatory agencies in the conduct of their business. For example, to establish a new educational program or substantive changes to existing programs, we are required to obtain the appropriate approvals from ED and applicable state and accrediting regulatory agencies. Staffing levels at ED and other regulatory agencies and the volume of applications and other requests may delay our receipt of necessary approvals. Further, approvals may be conditioned or denied in a manner that could significantly affect our strategic plans and future growth. Approval by these regulatory agencies may also be negatively impacted due to regulatory inquiries or reviews and any adverse publicity relating to such matters or the industry generally.

 

Risks Related to Our Business

Our financial performance depends on the level of student enrollments in our institutions.

Enrollment of students at our institutions is impacted by many of the regulatory risks discussed above and business risks discussed below, many of which are beyond our control. We also believe that the level of our student enrollments is affected by changes in economic conditions, although the nature and magnitude of this effect are uncertain and may change over time. For example, during periods when the unemployment rate declines or remains stable, prospective students may have more employment options, leading them to choose to work rather than to pursue postsecondary education. On the other hand, high unemployment rates may affect the willingness of students to incur loans to pay for postsecondary education or to pursue postsecondary education in general.

Affordability concerns and negative perception of the value of a college degree increase reluctance to take on debt and make it more challenging for us to attract and retain students. We may experience decreasing enrollments in our institutions due to changing demographic trends in family size, overall declines in enrollment in postsecondary institutions, job growth in fields unrelated to our core disciplines or other societal factors. Further, we continue to make investments in our business which are designed to improve student experiences, retention and academic outcomes and support the sustainable and responsible growth of our institutions. The success of these initiatives may reduce over time.  

Our student enrollments could suffer from any of these circumstances. It is likely that legislative, regulatory, and economic uncertainties will continue, and thus it is difficult to assess our long-term growth prospects. Reduced enrollments at our institutions, for any of the reasons mentioned or otherwise, generally reduce our profitability, which, depending on the level of the decline, could be material.

 

We compete with a variety of educational institutions, especially in the online education market, and if we are unable to compete effectively, our student enrollments and revenue could be adversely impacted.

The postsecondary education industry is highly fragmented and increasingly competitive. Our institutions compete with traditional public and private two-year and four-year colleges and universities, other for-profit institutions, other online education providers, and alternatives to higher education, such as immediate employment and military service. Some public and private institutions charge lower tuition for courses of study similar to those offered by our institutions due, in part, to government subsidies, government and foundation grants, tax-deductible contributions and other financial resources not available to for-profit institutions, and this competition may increase if additional subsidies or resources become available to those institutions. For example, a typical community college is subsidized by local or state government and, as a result, tuition rates for associate’s degree programs are much lower at community colleges than at our institutions. Several states have adopted or proposed programs to enable residents to attend community colleges for free.

Some of our competitors are more widely known and have more established reputations than our institutions. Some may have greater financial and other resources than we have. In addition, some of our competitors are subject to fewer regulatory burdens on enrollment and financial aid processes, which may enable them to compete more effectively for potential students. In particular, some of our publicly traded for-profit competitors have converted to a structure where a for-profit service company provides services to a non-profit educational institution, which reduces the impact of certain regulations on their operations, such as the 90-10 Rule.

We also expect to experience increased competition as more postsecondary education providers increase their online program offerings (in particular programs that are geared towards the needs of working adults), including traditional and community colleges that had not previously offered online education programs, and increase their use of personalized learning technologies. This trend has been accelerated by companies that provide and/or manage online learning platforms for traditional colleges and community colleges. Increased competition may create greater pricing or operating pressure on us, which could have a material adverse effect on our institutions' enrollments, revenues and profit margins. We may also face increased competition in maintaining and developing new corporate partnerships and other relationships with employers, particularly as employers become more selective as to which online

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universities they will encourage or offer scholarships to their employees to attend and from which online universities they will hire prospective employees.

Congress, ED and other agencies have required increasing disclosure of information to prospective students, and our agreements with multiple state attorneys general require additional disclosures that are not required by our competitors. Some of these disclosures may negatively impact a prospective student’s decision to enroll in one of our institutions.

An increase in competition, particularly from traditional colleges with well-established reputations for excellence, may affect the success of our recruiting efforts to enroll and retain students who are likely to succeed in our educational programs, or cause us to reduce our tuition rates and increase our marketing and other recruiting expenses, which could adversely impact our profitability and cash flows.

 

Our financial performance depends on our ability to develop awareness among, and enroll and retain, students in our institutions and programs in a cost effective manner.

If our institutions are unable to successfully market and advertise their educational programs, our institutions' ability to attract and enroll prospective students in those programs could be adversely affected. We have been investing in our student admissions and advising functions and other initiatives to improve student experiences, retention and academic outcomes. If these initiatives do not continue to succeed, our ability to attract, enroll and retain students in our programs could be adversely affected. Further, Internet and other technology, including data gathering and marketing and advertising, is changing fast and we may be unable to adapt our initiatives to attract, enroll and retain students in a timely manner. Consequently, our ability to increase revenue or maintain profitability could be impaired. Some of the factors that could prevent us from successfully marketing our institutions and the programs that they offer include, but are not limited to: student or employer dissatisfaction with our educational programs and services; diminished access to prospective students; our failure to maintain or expand our brand names or other factors related to our marketing or advertising practices; FTC or Federal Communications Commission restrictions on contacting prospective students, Internet, mobile phone and other advertising and marketing media; costs and effectiveness of Internet, mobile phone and other advertising programs; and changing media preferences of our target audiences.

We use third-party lead aggregators and generators to help us identify prospective students. The practices of some lead aggregators and generators have been questioned by various regulatory bodies, which could lead to changes in the quality and number of prospective student leads provided by these lead aggregators and generators as well as the cost thereof, which could in turn result in a reduction in the number of students we enroll. Further, the highly regulated nature of the postsecondary education industry and the resulting compliance measures undertaken by the industry are burdensome and some lead aggregators may choose not to work with us in favor of providing their services to different industries. In addition, the number of lead aggregators and generators has reduced over time due to consolidation in that industry, and this could exaggerate the indirect impact on us of any negative developments within that industry or with respect to any lead aggregator or generator with which we do business.

 

Our financial performance depends, in part, on our ability to keep pace with changing market needs and technology.

Increasingly, prospective employers of students who graduate from our institutions demand that their new employees possess appropriate technological skills and also appropriate “soft” skills, such as communication, critical thinking and teamwork skills. These desired skills can evolve rapidly in a changing economic and technological environment, so it is important for our institutions’ educational programs to evolve in response to those economic and technological changes. Current or prospective students or the employers of our graduates may not accept expansion of our existing programs, improved program content and the development of new programs. Students and faculty increasingly rely on personal communication devices and expect that we will be able to adapt our information technology platforms and our educational delivery methods to support these devices and any new technologies that may develop. Even if our institutions are able to develop acceptable new and improved programs in a cost-effective manner, our institutions may not be able to begin offering them as quickly as prospective students and employers would like or as quickly as our competitors offer similar programs. If we are unable to adequately respond to changes in market requirements due to regulatory or financial constraints, rapid technological changes or other factors, our ability to attract and retain students could be impaired, the rates at which our graduates obtain jobs involving their fields of study could decline, and our revenue and profitability could be adversely affected.

 

We may not be able to retain our key personnel or hire, train and retain the personnel we need to sustain and grow our business.

Our future success depends largely on the skills, efforts and motivation of our executive officers and other key personnel, as well as on our ability to attract and retain qualified managers and our institutions' ability to attract and retain qualified faculty members and administrators. If any of our executive officers leave the Company, it may be difficult to hire a replacement with similar experience and skills due to the highly regulated nature of our business. Loss of key personnel in the future could impact our growth, lead to changes in or create uncertainty about our business strategies or otherwise impact management's attention to operations. The political and regulatory uncertainty facing the for-profit postsecondary education industry may make it difficult to retain key personnel.  

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Our success and ability to grow depend on the ability to hire, train and retain significant numbers of talented people. We face competition from companies in postsecondary education and other industries in attracting, hiring and retaining personnel who possess the combination of skills and experiences that we seek to implement our business strategy. In particular, our performance is dependent upon the availability and retention of qualified personnel for our student support operations. The negative publicity surrounding our industry sometimes makes it difficult and more expensive to attract, hire and retain qualified and experienced personnel, and ED’s regulations related to incentive compensation affect our ability to compensate admissions and financial aid personnel. Our ability to effectively train our student support personnel and the length of time it takes them to become productive also impacts our results of operations.

Key personnel may leave us and subsequently compete against us after any period they are contractually obligated not to pursue such activities. The loss of the services of our key personnel, or our failure to attract, train and retain other qualified and experienced personnel on acceptable terms and in a timely manner could adversely affect our results of operations and growth prospects.

 

We may not be able to successfully identify, complete or integrate acquisitions, which could negatively impact our growth.

We continue to evaluate diverse strategies to enhance shareholder value, including acquisitions of high-quality educational institutions and programs. We may have difficulty identifying suitable acquisition opportunities that complement our strategic direction or successfully completing transactions at prices we deem acceptable. The regulatory uncertainty surrounding for-profit postsecondary education institutions such as ours before and potentially following the 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections is likely to enhance this difficulty. Further, the successful integration and profitable operation of an acquired institution or program, including our pending acquisition of Trident University International, involves significant risks and uncertainties, including:

 

the inability to successfully integrate the acquired operations and personnel into our institutions and maintain uniform standards, controls, policies and procedures;

 

the failure to realize anticipated cost savings and additional revenue opportunities;

 

the assumption of known and unknown liabilities, including borrower defense to repayment and closed school loan discharge liabilities;

 

the diversion of significant attention of our senior management from day-to-day operations; and

 

issues not discovered in our due diligence process, including compliance issues, commitments and/or contingencies.

An acquisition related to an institution or other educational business often requires one or multiple regulatory approvals. If we are unable to obtain such approvals, or we obtain them on unfavorable terms, our ability to consummate a transaction may be impaired or we may be unable to operate the acquired business in a manner that is favorable to us. If we fail to properly evaluate an acquisition, we may be required to incur costs in excess of what we anticipated, and we may not achieve the anticipated benefits of the acquisition.

 

Our future financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected if we are required to write down the carrying value of non-financial assets and non-financial liabilities, such as goodwill.

In accordance with U.S. GAAP, we review our non-financial assets and non-financial liabilities, including goodwill, for impairment on at least an annual basis through the application of fair value-based measurements. On an interim basis, we review our assets and liabilities to determine if a triggering event had occurred that would result in it being more likely than not that the fair value would be less than the carrying amount for any of our reporting units or indefinite-lived intangible assets. Some factors that management considers when determining if a triggering event has occurred include reviewing the significant inputs to the fair value calculation and any events or circumstances that could affect the significant inputs, including, but not limited to, financial performance, legal, regulatory, contractual, competitive, economic, political, business or other factors, industry and market conditions as well as the most recent quantitative fair value analysis for each reporting unit and the amount of the difference between the estimated fair value and the carrying value. For example, the fair value for our AIU reporting unit exceeded its carrying value by $15.1 million as of the last quantitative assessment which equated its fair value to be approximately 129% of its carrying value. We determine the fair value of our reporting units using a combination of an income approach, based on discounted cash flow, and a market-based approach. To the extent the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, we will be required to record an impairment charge in the consolidated statements of income (loss) and comprehensive income (loss). Our estimates of fair value are based primarily on projected future results and expected cash flows consistent with our plans to manage the underlying businesses. However, should we encounter unexpected economic conditions or operational results or need to take additional actions not currently foreseen to comply with current and future regulations, the assumptions used to calculate the fair value of our assets, estimate of future cash flows, revenue growth, and discount rates, could be negatively impacted and could result in an impairment of goodwill which could materially adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

 

Our credit facility and letters of credit are required to be 100% secured by cash and marketable securities and therefore may impact our liquidity.

The loans and letter of credit obligations under our credit facility are required to be 100% secured by cash and marketable securities deposited with the bank. Further, any settlements or negative decisions in regulatory proceedings or other legal actions

29


against us may reduce existing available cash balances. We therefore may have liquidity needs in the future which the credit facility will not meet. For example, we may not have the capacity to post required letters of credit we may need in the future for state licensing requirements, if we are required to satisfy ED's standards of financial responsibility on an alternative basis or for other purposes due to insufficient cash available to provide security. If cash generated by operations and existing cash balances are insufficient in the future to support our cash requirements, we would need to pursue other sources of liquidity, if available, such as additional sources of credit which may be more expensive, issuance of stock to new investors or a sale of assets.

 

We rely on proprietary rights and intellectual property in conducting our business, which may not be adequately protected under current laws, and we may encounter disputes from time to time relating to our use of intellectual property of third parties.

Our success depends in part on our ability to protect our proprietary rights. We rely on a combination of copyrights, trademarks, service marks, trade secrets, domain names and agreements to protect our proprietary rights. We rely on service mark and trademark protection in the United States and select foreign jurisdictions to protect our rights to our marks as well as distinctive logos and other marks associated with our services. These measures may not be adequate, and we can’t be certain that we have secured, or will be able to secure, appropriate protections for all of our proprietary rights. Unauthorized third parties may attempt to duplicate the proprietary aspects of our curricula, online resource material and other content despite our efforts to protect these rights. Our management’s attention may be diverted by these attempts, and we may need to use funds for lawsuits to protect our proprietary rights against any infringement or violation.

These and other risks exist with respect to our intellipath® personalized learning technology, which incorporates technology that we have a perpetual but non-exclusive license to use. We receive software support for the intellipath technology from CCKF, a Dublin-based educational technology company in which we have an equity investment. If CCKF ceases to operate or otherwise becomes unable to work with our institutions, it would be necessary to either develop the ability to support the software using our own resources or engage another third party vendor to provide these services, which transition could be economically disadvantageous, cause an interruption in the use of the technology and present a distraction to management, any of which could negatively impact our business.

We may encounter disputes from time to time over rights and obligations concerning intellectual property, and we may not prevail in these disputes. Third parties may raise a claim against us alleging an infringement or violation of the intellectual property of that third party. Some third party intellectual property rights may be extremely broad, and it may not be possible for us to conduct our operations in such a way as to avoid those intellectual property rights. Any such intellectual property claim could subject us to costly litigation and impose a significant strain on our financial resources and management personnel regardless of whether such claim has merit.

 

Risks Related to Our Business Technology Infrastructure

Government regulations relating to the Internet could increase our cost of doing business or otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business.

The increasing use of the Internet and other online services has led and may lead to the adoption of new laws and regulatory practices in the United States or in foreign countries and to new interpretations of existing laws and regulations. These new laws and interpretations may relate to issues such as online privacy, copyrights, trademarks and service marks, sales taxes, fair business practices and the requirement that online education institutions qualify to do business as foreign corporations or be licensed in one or more jurisdictions where they have no physical location or other presence. New laws, regulations or interpretations related to doing business over the Internet could increase our costs and adversely affect enrollments.

 

We are subject to privacy and information security laws and regulations due to our collection and use of personal information, and any violations of those laws or regulations, or any breach, theft or loss of that information, could adversely affect our reputation and operations.

Our efforts to attract and enroll students result in us collecting, using and keeping substantial amounts of personal information regarding applicants, our students, their families and alumni, including social security numbers and financial data. We also maintain personal information about our employees in the ordinary course of our activities. Our services, the services of many of our health plan and benefit plan vendors, and other information can be accessed globally through the Internet. We rely extensively on our network of interconnected applications and databases for day to day operations as well as financial reporting and the processing of financial transactions. Our computer networks and those of our vendors that manage confidential information for us or provide services to our students may be vulnerable to unauthorized access, inadvertent access or display, theft or misuse, hackers, computer viruses, or third parties in connection with hardware and software upgrades and changes. Such unauthorized access, misuse, theft or hacks could evade our intrusion detection and prevention precautions without alerting us to the breach or loss for some period of time or may never be detected. We have experienced malware and virus attacks on our systems which went undetected by our virus detection and prevention software. Regular patching of our computer systems and frequent updates to our virus detection and prevention software with the latest virus and malware signatures may not catch newly introduced malware and viruses or “zero-day” viruses, prior to their infecting our systems and potentially disrupting our data integrity, taking sensitive information or affecting

30


financial transactions. Because our services can be accessed globally via the Internet, we may be subject to privacy laws in countries outside the U.S. from which students access our services, which laws may constrain the way we market and provide our services. Any breach of student or employee privacy or errors in storing, using or transmitting personal information could violate privacy laws and regulations resulting in fines or other penalties. The adoption of new or modified state or federal data or cybersecurity legislation could increase our costs and require changes in our operating procedures or systems. An example of this is the California Consumer Privacy Act which became effective January 1, 2020. A breach, theft or loss of personal information held by us or our vendors, or a violation of the laws and regulations governing privacy could have a material adverse effect on our reputation or result in lawsuits, additional regulation, remediation and compliance costs or investments in additional security systems to protect our computer networks, the costs of which may be substantial.

 

System disruptions and vulnerability from security risks to our online technology infrastructure could have a material adverse effect on our ability to attract and retain students.

For our online and ground-based campuses, the performance and reliability of program infrastructure is critical to their operations, reputation and ability to attract and retain students. Any computer system error or failure, significant increase in traffic on our computer networks, or any significant failure or unavailability of our computer networks, including but not limited to those as a result of natural disasters and network and telecommunications failures, could materially disrupt our delivery of these programs. Any interruption to our institutions’ computer systems or operations could have a material adverse effect on our student enrollments.

Our computer networks may also be vulnerable to unauthorized access, computer hackers, computer viruses, denial of service attacks and other security threats. A user who circumvents security measures could misappropriate proprietary information or cause interruptions or malfunctions in our operations. Due to the sensitive nature of the information contained on our networks hackers may target our networks. We may be required to expend significant resources to protect against the threat of these security breaches or to alleviate problems caused by these breaches. We cannot ensure that these efforts will protect our computer networks against security breaches despite our regular monitoring of our technology infrastructure security.

The success of our institutions’ online programs depends, in part, on our institutions’ ability to expand the content of their programs, develop new programs in a cost-effective manner, maintain good standing with regulators and accreditors, and meet students’ needs in a timely manner. New programs can be delayed due to current and future unforeseen regulatory restrictions. Furthermore, our regulators may impose additional restrictions or conditions on the manner in which we offer online courses to our students, any one of which could negatively impact our business or results of operations.

Any general decline in Internet use for any reason, including security or privacy concerns, cost of Internet service or changes in government regulation, could result in less demand for online educational services and inhibit growth in our online programs.

 

We may incur liability for the unauthorized duplication or distribution of class materials posted online for class discussions.

In some instances our faculty members or our students may post various articles or other third-party content on class discussion boards or download third-party content to personal computers. We may incur claims or liability for the unauthorized duplication or distribution of this material. Any such claims could subject us to costly litigation and could impose a strain on our financial resources and management personnel regardless of whether the claims have merit.

 

Risk Related to Our Common Stock

The trading price of our common stock may continue to fluctuate substantially in the future, and as a result returns on an investment in our common stock may be volatile.

The trading price of our common stock has and may fluctuate significantly as a result of a number of factors, some of which are not in our control. These factors include:

 

the actual, anticipated or perceived impact of changes in the political environment or government policies;

 

the outcomes and impacts on our business of ED’s rulemakings, and other changes in the legal or regulatory environment in which we operate;

 

negative media coverage of the for-profit education industry;

 

general conditions in the postsecondary education field, including declining enrollments;

 

the initiation, pendency or outcome of litigation, accreditation reviews, regulatory reviews, inquiries and investigations, and any related adverse publicity;

 

failure of certain of our institutions or programs to maintain compliance under the 90-10 Rule or other regulatory standards;

 

our ability to meet or exceed, or changes in, expectations of analysts or investors, or the extent of analyst coverage of our company;

 

decisions by any significant investors to reduce their investment in us;

 

quarterly variations in our operating results, which sometimes occur due to AIU’s academic calendar and significant

31


 

expense items that do not regularly occur;

 

loss of key personnel;

 

price and volume fluctuations in the overall stock market, which may cause the market price for our common stock to fluctuate significantly more than the market as a whole; and

 

general economic conditions.

Changes in the trading price of our common stock may occur without regard to our operating performance, and the price of our common stock could fluctuate based upon factors that have little or nothing to do with our company. Further, the trading volume of our common stock is relatively low, which may cause our stock price to react more to the above and other factors. The fluctuations in the trading price of our common stock may impact an investor’s ability to sell their shares at the desired time at a price considered satisfactory, including at or above the price at which the investor acquired them.

 

 

ITEM 1B.

UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

None.

ITEM 2.

PROPERTIES

Our University Group ground-based campuses are located in Colorado, Georgia and Texas. These campuses generally consist of teaching facilities, including classrooms and laboratories, and administrative offices. Additionally, we have administrative facilities located in the areas of Chicago, Illinois and Phoenix, Arizona, which are used for our universities and corporate functions.

All of our campus and administrative facilities are leased except one in Houston, Texas. As of December 31, 2019 we leased approximately 0.9 million square feet under lease agreements related to our continuing operations that have remaining terms ranging from one year through 2028. Of the 0.9 million square feet, less than 0.2 million square feet relate to our closed campuses that have leases remaining which terminate at varying dates through 2021. The facility in Houston, Texas, is used by AIU and is less than 0.1 million square feet of real property.  

See Item 1, “Business,” for a listing of our campus locations.

ITEM 3.

Note 11 “Contingencies” to our consolidated financial statements in Item 15 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K is incorporated herein by reference.

ITEM 4.

MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

Not applicable.

 

 

32


PART II

ITEM 5.

MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES

Our common stock is listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market (“Nasdaq”) and began trading under the symbol “PRDO” on January 2, 2020. Our common stock was previously traded under the symbol “CECO”.

The closing price of our common stock as reported on the Nasdaq on February 14, 2020 was $17.83 per share. As of February 14, 2020, there were approximately 108 holders of record of our common stock, including The Depository Trust Company, which holds shares of our common stock on behalf of an indeterminate number of beneficial owners.

Our common stock transfer agent and registrar is Computershare Trust Company, N.A. They can be contacted at P.O. Box# 505000, Louisville, KY 40233-5000 or at their website www.computershare.com/investor.

We have never paid cash dividends on our common stock and have no current plan to do so. The declaration and payment of dividends on our common stock are subject to the discretion of our Board of Directors. The decision of our Board of Directors to pay future dividends will depend on general business conditions, the effect of a dividend payment on our financial condition, and other factors the Board of Directors may consider relevant. The current policy of our Board of Directors is to reinvest earnings in our operations to promote future growth and, from time to time, to execute repurchases of shares of our common stock under the stock repurchase program discussed below. The repurchase of shares of our common stock reduces the amount of cash available to pay cash dividends to our common stockholders. In addition, our ability to pay cash dividends on our common stock is also limited under the terms of our existing credit agreement. As of December 31, 2019, we are in compliance with the covenants of our credit agreement.

On November 4, 2019, the Board of Directors of the Company approved a new stock repurchase program which authorizes the Company to repurchase up to $50.0 million of the Company’s outstanding common stock. The timing of purchases and the number of shares repurchased under the new program will be determined by the Company’s management and will depend on a variety of factors including stock price, trading volume and other general market and economic conditions, its assessment of alternative uses of capital, regulatory requirements and other factors. Repurchases will be made in open market transactions, including block purchases, conducted in accordance with Rule 10b-18 under the Exchange Act as well as may be made pursuant to trading plans established under Rule 10b5-1 under the Exchange Act, which would permit shares to be repurchased when the Company might otherwise be precluded from doing so under insider trading laws. The stock repurchase program does not obligate the Company to purchase shares and the Company may, in its discretion, begin, suspend or terminate repurchases at any time, without any prior notice. The program expires on December 31, 2021 and replaces all prior stock repurchase programs authorized by the Board of Directors. During 2019, we repurchased approximately 0.2 million shares of our common stock for $3.9 million at an average price of $16.49 per share. As of December 31, 2019, approximately $46.1 million was available under the stock repurchase program.  

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

Period

 

Total Number of

Shares

Purchased (1)

 

 

Average Price

Paid per Share

 

 

Total Number of

Shares Purchased

as Part of Publicly

Announced Plans

or Programs

 

 

Maximum

Approximate

Dollar Value of

Shares that May

Yet Be Purchased

Under the Plans

or Programs (3)

 

December 31, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

$

183,296,772

 

January 1, 2019 - January 31, 2019

 

 

-

 

 

$

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

183,296,772

 

February 1, 2019 - February 28, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

183,296,772

 

March 1, 2019 - March 31, 2019

 

 

155,137

 

 

 

16.32

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

183,296,772

 

April 1, 2019 - April 30, 2019

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

183,296,772

 

May 1, 2019 - May 31, 2019

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

183,296,772

 

June 1, 2019 - June 30, 2019

 

 

1,580

 

 

 

19.58

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

183,296,772

 

July 1, 2019 - July 31, 2019

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

183,296,772

 

August 1, 2019 - August 31, 2019

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

183,296,772

 

September 1, 2019 - September 30, 2019

 

 

6,593

 

 

 

19.57

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

183,296,772

 

October 1, 2019 - October 31, 2019

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

183,296,772

 

November 1, 2019 - November 30, 2019 (2)

 

 

219,099

 

 

 

16.49

 

 

 

219,099

 

 

 

46,383,091

 

December 1, 2019 - December 31, 2019 (2)

 

 

18,711

 

 

 

16.59

 

 

 

15,937

 

 

 

46,120,484

 

Total

 

 

401,120

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

235,036

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

33


 

(1)

Includes 127,555 and 38,529 shares delivered back to the Company for payment of withholding taxes from employees for vesting restricted stock units pursuant to the terms of the Company’s 2008 Incentive Compensation Plan and 2016 Incentive Compensation Plan, respectively.

 

(2)

Includes 219,099 and 15,937 shares repurchased during the months of November and December 2019, respectively, pursuant to the terms of the stock repurchase program approved by the Board of Directors.

 

(3)

On November 4, 2019, the Board of Directors of the Company terminated $183.3 million remaining available under the previously authorized stock repurchase program and approved a new stock repurchase program for up to $50.0 million which expires December 31, 2021.

See Item 12, “Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters,” for information as of December 31, 2019, with respect to shares of our common stock that may be issued under our existing share-based compensation plans.

The graph below shows a comparison of cumulative total returns for Perdoceo, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and an index of peer companies selected by Perdoceo. The companies in the peer index are weighted according to their market capitalization as of the end of each period for which a return is indicated. Included in the peer index are the following companies whose primary business is postsecondary education: Adtalem Global Education Inc., American Public Education, Inc., Zovio, Inc., Grand Canyon Education, Inc., and Strategic Education, Inc. The performance graph begins with Perdoceo’s $6.96 per share closing price on December 31, 2014.

COMPARISON OF CUMULATIVE FIVE-YEAR TOTAL RETURN

(Based on $100 invested on December 31, 2014 and assumes the reinvestment of all dividends.)

 

 

  

The information contained in the performance graph shall not be deemed “soliciting material” or to be “filed” with the Securities and Exchange Commission nor shall such information be deemed incorporated by reference into any future filing under the Securities Act of 1933 or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as both are amended from time to time, except to the extent specifically incorporated by reference into such filing.

 

 

34


ITEM 6.

SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA

The following selected historical consolidated financial and other data are qualified in their entirety by reference to, and should be read in conjunction with, our consolidated financial statements and the related notes thereto appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.” Our selected statement of income (loss) and statement of cash flows data set forth below for each of the five years ended December 31, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015, and the balance sheet data as of December 31, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015, are derived from our audited consolidated financial statements.

 

 

 

For the Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

 

2017

 

 

2016

 

 

2015

 

 

 

(Dollars in thousands, except per share amounts)

 

Selected Statements of Income (Loss) Data

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total revenue

 

$

627,704

 

 

$

581,296

 

 

$

596,435

 

 

$

704,392

 

 

$

847,273

 

Operating expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Educational services and facilities

 

 

101,944

 

 

 

109,897

 

 

 

143,344

 

 

 

235,100

 

 

 

289,777

 

General and administrative

 

 

430,153

 

 

 

390,707

 

 

 

404,965

 

 

 

477,725

 

 

 

564,211

 

Depreciation and amortization

 

 

9,145

 

 

 

9,394

 

 

 

13,990

 

 

 

22,747

 

 

 

24,938

 

Asset impairment

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

1,164

 

 

 

60,515

 

Total operating expenses

 

 

541,242

 

 

 

509,998

 

 

 

562,299

 

 

 

736,736

 

 

 

939,441

 

Operating income (loss)

 

 

86,462

 

 

 

71,298

 

 

 

34,136

 

 

 

(32,344

)

 

 

(92,168

)

Operating margin percentage

 

 

13.8

%

 

 

12.3

%

 

 

5.7

%

 

 

-4.6

%

 

 

-10.9

%

Total other income (expense)

 

 

6,560

 

 

 

3,054

 

 

 

2,114

 

 

 

978

 

 

 

(2,270

)

Pretax income (loss)

 

 

93,022

 

 

 

74,352

 

 

 

36,250

 

 

 

(31,366

)

 

 

(94,438

)

Provision for (benefit from) income taxes

 

 

22,428

 

 

 

18,561

 

 

 

67,125

 

 

 

(16,550

)

 

 

(147,454

)

Income (loss) from continuing operations

 

 

70,594

 

 

 

55,791

 

 

 

(30,875

)

 

 

(14,816

)

 

 

53,016

 

Loss from discontinued operations, net of tax (1)

 

 

(612

)

 

 

(610

)

 

 

(1,022

)

 

 

(3,896

)

 

 

(1,131

)

Net income (loss)

 

$

69,982

 

 

$

55,181