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LOPE > SEC Filings for LOPE > Form 10-K on 19-Feb-2013All Recent SEC Filings

Show all filings for GRAND CANYON EDUCATION, INC. | Request a Trial to NEW EDGAR Online Pro

Form 10-K for GRAND CANYON EDUCATION, INC.


19-Feb-2013

Annual Report


Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

The following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations for the year ended December 31, 2012 should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and related notes that appear in Item 8, Consolidated Financial Statements and Supplementary Data. In addition to historical information, the following discussion contains forward-looking statements that reflect our plans, estimates and beliefs. Our actual results could differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to these differences include those discussed below and elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, particularly in Item 1A, Risk Factors and Forward-Looking Statements.

Executive Overview

We are a regionally accredited provider of postsecondary education services focused on offering graduate and undergraduate degree programs in our core disciplines of education, healthcare, business and liberal arts. We offer programs online, on ground at our approximately 115-acre traditional campus in Phoenix, Arizona and onsite at facilities we lease and at facilities owned by third party employers. At December 31, 2012, we had approximately 52,300 students. At December 31, 2012, 85.5% of our students were enrolled in our online programs and, of our online and professional studies students, 41.9% were pursuing master's or doctoral degrees.

Key Trends, Developments and Challenges

The following circumstances and trends present opportunities, challenges and risks.

Evolving Postsecondary Education Market. We believe the number of non-traditional students who work, are raising a family, or are doing both while trying to earn a college degree continues to grow. The continued economic environment in the U.S., however, has caused an increased number of potential students and/or their parents to consider the cost of education as a primary factor in choosing the school that they will attend. Given these trends, we believe that many individuals will be attracted to our high quality academic programs at affordable tuition rates. We also believe that competition for students continues to increase. We compete primarily with traditional public and four-year degree-granting regionally accredited colleges and universities and other proprietary degree-granting regionally accredited schools. An increasing number of traditional colleges and universities and community colleges are offering distance learning and other online education programs, including programs that are geared towards the needs of working adult students. This trend has been accelerated by private companies that provide and/or manage online learning platforms for traditional colleges and universities. As the proportion of traditional colleges and universities providing alternative learning modalities increases, we will face increasing competition for students from such institutions, including those with well-established reputations for excellence. In addition, it is likely that we will begin to face competition from various emerging nontraditional, credit-bearing and noncredit-bearing education programs, provided by both proprietary and not-for-profit providers, including massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered worldwide without charge by traditional educational institutions and other direct-to-consumer education services.

Regulation and Oversight. We are subject to extensive regulation by federal and state governmental agencies and accrediting bodies. In particular, the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (the "Higher Education Act"), and the regulations promulgated thereunder by the Department of Education subject us to significant regulatory scrutiny on the basis of numerous standards that schools must satisfy in order to participate in the various federal student financial assistance programs under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. See Item 1. Business - Regulation. Recent regulations have imposed new reporting and disclosure requirements that have caused increased administrative burden and costs and may have a negative effect on our growth and enrollments. In addition, in recent years, there has been increased focus by Congress on the role that proprietary educational institutions play in higher education and various proposals to modify the laws to which proprietary educational institutions are subject, including, for example, proposals to change the 90/10 Rule to an 85/15 rule and to require that colleges count GI Bill benefits, military tuition assistance, and several other sources of federal funds as student financial aid revenue for purposes of the 90/10 Rule. We cannot predict what legislation, if any, may result from these Congressional proposals or what impact any such legislation might have on the proprietary education sector generally or our business in particular. To the extent that any laws or regulations are adopted, or other administrative actions are taken, that limit our participation in Title IV programs or the amount of student financial aid for which the students at our institutions are eligible, our enrollments, revenues and results of operation could be materially and adversely affected.

Department of Education Program Review. We remain subject to an ongoing program review that was initiated by the Department of Education in July 2010 and the subject of a preliminary program review report that we received on August 24, 2011. See Item 1. Business - Regulation - Compliance Reviews, and Item 1A. Risk Factors-The Department of Education is conducting a program review of Grand Canyon University, which may result in the repayment of a substantial amount of Title IV funds and may lead to fines, penalties, or other sanctions, and damage to our reputation in the industry.


Table of Contents

Fiscal Year 2012 Events

We experienced the following significant events in 2012:

Enrollment, Net Revenue, and Operating Income Growth. We achieved enrollment growth for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2012 as compared to the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011, as ground enrollment increased 52.1% and online enrollment increased 14.8% over the prior year. We attribute the significant growth in our ground enrollment between years to our increasing brand recognition and the value proposition that our ground traditional campus affords to traditional-aged students and their parents. After scholarships, our ground traditional students pay tuition, room, board, and fees in an amount that is often half to a third of what it costs to attend a private, traditional university in another state and an amount comparable to what it costs to attend the public universities in the state of Arizona as an in-state student. Another factor contributing to the 19.8% increase in net revenue over the same period was the increase in the revenue per student for our online and professional studies students as a result of improved retention, selective tuition price increases, and an increase in student fees between years. In this regard, we increased tuition prices for students in our online and professional studies programs by amounts up to 5.9%, depending on the program, with an estimated blended rate increase of 2.5% for our 2012-13 academic year, as compared to tuition price increases for students in our online and professional studies programs of amounts up to 6.5%, depending on the program, with an estimated blended rate increase of 3.2% for our 2011-12 academic year. Although we did not raise our tuition for our traditional ground programs during either our 2012-13 or 2011-12 academic years, we did recognize an increase in revenue per student for our traditional ground programs as we recognized a higher amount of revenue from room and board and student fees. Tuition increases have not historically been, and may not in the future be, consistent across our programs due to market conditions and differences in operating costs of individual programs. Operating income was $114.1 million for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2012, an increase of 38.8% over the $82.2 million in operating income for 2011.

Increased Brand Recognition. Our brand recognition through our traditional campus was highlighted throughout 2012 due to highly visible awards and invitations we received. Following the recognition we received for winning the 2011-12 Learfield Sports Directors Cup as the top overall NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic program, we accepted an invitation to be a member of the NCAA Division I Western Athletic Conference beginning with the 2013-14 academic year and we have started the four-year process to reclassify NCAA membership from Division II to Division I. We believe this increased brand recognition has been the primary factor behind our increased enrollment, especially in Arizona and bordering states.

Capital Expenditures. Our capital expenditures in 2012 of $97.7 million were primarily related to the expansion of our physical campus and significant investments in technology innovation to support our students and staff. In 2012, we completed two additional dormitories, an Arts and Sciences classroom building, a remodel of our student union, and a parking garage to support our increasing traditional student enrollment as well as purchases of computer equipment, internal use software projects and furniture and equipment. In addition during 2012 we purchased an on campus dormitory that was previously leased. The Arts and Sciences classroom building has 21 traditional classrooms, five science labs, two computer labs, a simulation laboratory, and a skills laboratory. These investments are to support our growing on-campus student population as well as enhance the brand of the University.

Enhanced Liquidity. In December 2012, we entered into a new credit agreement with Bank of America, N.A. as Administrative Agent and other lenders (the "Agreement"), which refinances our prior loan agreement with Bank of America, N.A. dated April 8, 2011. The Agreement
(a) increases the term loan to $100 million with a maturity date of December 2019 and decreases the interest rate on the outstanding balance from the BBA Libor Rate plus 200 basis points to the BBA Libor Rate plus 175 basis points, with monthly principal and interest payments, and (b) provides a revolving line of credit in the amount of $50 million through December 2017 to be utilized for working capital, capital expenditures, share repurchases and other general corporate purposes.

Investing in Innovative Educational Tools. During 2010, we entered into an agreement with an affiliated entity to develop a new learning management system (called LoudCloud) for our use. Through this agreement we prepaid perpetual license fees, acquired source code rights for the software developed, and prepaid maintenance and service fees for the first seven years of use, for an aggregate amount of $4.9 million. During October 2011, we began converting our students to the LoudCloud platform for our online delivered coursework. By August 2012 all online nontraditional students had migrated to the LoudCloud platform. We anticipate the remaining ground students and cohorts will fully transition by May of 2013.


Table of Contents

Key financial metrics

Net revenue

Net revenue consists principally of tuition, room and board charges attributable to students residing on our ground campus, application and graduation fees, and fees from educational resources such as access to online materials or commissions we earn from bookstore and publication sales, less scholarships. Factors affecting our net revenue include: (i) the number of students who are enrolled and who remain enrolled in our courses; (ii) the number of credit hours per student; (iii) our degree and program mix; (iv) changes in our tuition rates; (v) the amount of the scholarships that we offer; and (vi) the number of students housed in, and the rent charged for, our on-campus student apartments and dormitories.

We define enrollment as individual students who attended a course during the last two months of the calendar quarter. We offer three 16-week semesters in a calendar year with one start available per semester for our traditional ground students. Online and professional studies students have more frequent class starts in five-, seven- or eight-week courses through the calendar year. Enrollments are a function of the number of continuing students at the beginning of each period and new enrollments during the period, which are offset by graduations, withdrawals, and inactive students during the period. Inactive students for a particular period include students who are not registered in a class and, therefore, are not generating net revenue for that period, but who have not withdrawn from Grand Canyon University.

We believe that the principal factors that affect our enrollments and net revenue are the number and breadth of the programs we offer; the attractiveness of our program offerings and learning experience, particularly for career-oriented adults who are seeking pay increases or job opportunities that are directly tied to higher educational attainment; the effectiveness of our marketing, recruiting and retention efforts, which is affected by the number and seniority of our enrollment counselors and other recruiting personnel; the quality of our academic programs and student services; the pricing of comparable programs; our brand strength; the convenience and flexibility of our online delivery platform; the availability and cost of federal and other funding for student financial aid; the seasonality of our net revenue, which is enrollment driven and is typically lowest in our second fiscal quarter and highest in our fourth fiscal quarter; and general economic conditions, particularly as they might affect job prospects in our core disciplines.

The following is a summary of our student enrollment at December 31, 2012, 2011, and 2010 (which included fewer than 700 students pursuing non-degree certificates in each period) by degree type and by instructional delivery method:

                                                                                         December 31,
                                                    2012(1)                                 2011(1)                                 2010(1)
                                        # of Students        % of Total         # of Students        % of Total         # of Students        % of Total
Graduate degree(2)                              19,395              37.1 %              17,175              39.1 %              17,732              42.7 %
Undergraduate degree                            32,897              62.9 %              26,742              60.9 %              23,750              57.3 %

Total                                           52,292             100.0 %              43,917             100.0 %              41,482             100.0 %

                                                            December 31,
                        2012(1)                               2011(1)                                 2010
             # of Students       % of Total        # of Students       % of Total        # of Students       % of Total
Online(3)            44,690             85.5 %             38,918             88.6 %             37,734             91.0 %
Ground(4)             7,602             14.5 %              4,999             11.4 %              3,748              9.0 %

Total                52,292            100.0 %             43,917            100.0 %             41,482            100.0 %

(1) Enrollment at December 31, 2012, 2011 and 2010 represents individual students who attended a course during the last two months of the calendar quarter.

(2) Includes 3,065, 1,924 and 1,186 students pursuing doctoral degrees at December 31, 2012, 2011 and 2010, respectively.

(3) As of December 31, 2012, 2011 and 2010, 41.9%, 42.8% and 45.7%, respectively, of our online and professional studies students were pursuing graduate or doctoral degrees.

(4) Includes our traditional on-campus students, as well as our professional studies students.

For the 2012-13 academic year (the academic year that began in May 2012), our prices per credit hour range from $350 to $465 for undergraduate online and professional studies courses, $495 to $600 for graduate online courses, $630 for doctoral online programs, and $688 for undergraduate courses for ground students. For our active duty and active reserve online and professional studies students, our prices per credit hour are $250 for undergraduate, $400 for graduate courses and $599 for doctoral courses. The overall price of each course varies based upon the number of credit hours per course (with most courses representing four credit hours), the degree level of the program, and the discipline. In addition, we charge a fixed $8,250 "block tuition" for undergraduate ground students taking between 12 and 18 credit hours per semester, with an additional $688 per credit hour for credits in excess of 18. A traditional undergraduate degree typically requires a minimum of 120 credit hours. The minimum number of credit hours required for a master's degree and overall cost for such a degree varies by program, although such programs typically require approximately 36 credit hours. The doctoral program requires approximately 60 credit hours.


Table of Contents

Based on current tuition rates, tuition for a full program would generally equate to between $17,340 and $24,480 for an online master's program, between $42,000 and $55,800 for a full four-year online bachelor's program, $37,800 and $39,700 for a full doctoral program, and approximately $66,000 for a full four-year bachelor's program taken on our ground campus. The tuition amounts referred to above assume no reductions for transfer credits or scholarships, which many of our students utilize to reduce their total program costs. For the years ended December 31, 2012, 2011 and 2010, our revenue was reduced by approximately $94.3 million, $73.6 million and $55.8 million, respectively, as a result of scholarships that we offered to our students. The increase in scholarships reflects our increased revenues and our resulting increased use of scholarships (especially academic scholarships), to attract high performing students to our ground traditional campus.

Revenue per student increased between periods as a result of improved retention as well as selective tuition price increases for students in our online and professional studies programs of up to 5.9%, depending on the program, with an estimated blended rate increase of 2.5% for our 2012-13 academic year, as compared to selective tuition price increases for students in our online and professional studies programs of up to 6.5%, depending on the program, with a blended rate increase of 3.2% for the prior academic year. Tuition for our traditional ground programs had no increase for our 2012-13 or 2011-12 academic years. Tuition increases have not historically been, and may not in the future be, consistent across our programs due to market conditions and differences in operating costs of individual programs. The lower increases for our programs for the current academic year generally reflect a concerted effort to control tuition pricing for students so that debt levels assumed by our students are reasonable.

We derive a majority of our net revenues from tuition financed by the Title IV programs. For the years ended December 31, 2012, 2011 and 2010, we derived cash receipts equal to approximately 80.3%, 80.2%, and 84.9%, respectively, of our net revenues from Title IV programs. Our students also rely on scholarships, personal savings, private loans, and employer tuition reimbursements to pay a portion of their tuition and related expenses.

Costs and expenses

Instructional costs and services. Instructional costs and services consist primarily of costs related to the administration and delivery of our educational programs, including electronic media. This expense category includes salaries and benefits for full-time and adjunct faculty and administrative personnel, information technology costs, bad debt expense, curriculum and new program development costs, and costs associated with other support groups that provide service directly to the students. This category also includes an allocation of depreciation, amortization, rent, and occupancy costs attributable to the provision of educational services. Classroom facilities are leased or, in some cases, are provided by the students' employers at no charge to us. We continue to increase our spending on student and academic services, and we expect instructional costs and services as a percentage of tuition and other net revenue to remain relatively consistent as these additional costs are offset by leverage of our support services that are in place over a larger tuition and enrollment base.

Selling and promotional. Selling and promotional expenses include salaries and benefits of personnel engaged in the marketing, recruitment, and retention of students, as well as advertising costs associated with purchasing leads, hosting events and seminars, producing marketing materials, and our branding campaigns. Our selling and promotional expenses are generally affected by the cost of advertising media and leads, the efficiency of our marketing and recruiting efforts, salaries, and benefits for our enrollment personnel, and expenditures on advertising initiatives for new and existing academic programs. This category also includes an allocation of depreciation, amortization, rent, and occupancy costs attributable to selling and promotional activities. Selling and promotional costs are expensed as incurred.

General and administrative. General and administrative expenses include salaries, benefits, and share-based compensation of employees engaged in corporate management, finance, human resources, facilities, compliance, insurance, audit fees and other corporate functions. General and administrative expenses also include an allocation of depreciation, amortization, rent and occupancy costs attributable to general and administrative functions.

Interest expense. Interest expense consists primarily of interest charges on our notes payable and capital lease obligations.

Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

The discussion of our financial condition and results of operations is based upon our consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP. During the preparation of these consolidated financial statements, we are required to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenues, costs and expenses, and related disclosures. On an ongoing basis, we evaluate our estimates and assumptions, including those discussed below. We base our estimates on historical experience and on various other assumptions that we believe are reasonable under the circumstances. The results of our analysis form the basis for making assumptions about the carrying values of assets and liabilities that are not readily apparent from other sources. Actual results may differ from these estimates under different assumptions or conditions, and the impact of such differences may be material to our consolidated financial statements.


Table of Contents

We believe that the following critical accounting policies involve our more significant judgments and estimates used in the preparation of our consolidated financial statements:

Revenue recognition. Net revenues consist primarily of tuition and fees derived from courses taught by us online, at our approximately 115-acre traditional campus in Phoenix, Arizona, and onsite at facilities we lease or those of employers, as well as from related educational resources such as access to online materials. Tuition revenue and most fees and related educational resources are recognized pro-rata over the applicable period of instruction, net of scholarships awarded by us. Generally, we will refund all or a portion of tuition already paid pursuant to our refund policy, dependent upon length of course and modality and subject to certain state specific refund requirements. If a student withdraws at a time when only a portion, or none of the tuition is refundable, then we continue to recognize the tuition that was not refunded pro-rata over the term of the course and as the amount subject to refund is never greater than the amount of revenue that has been deferred, under our accounting policies revenue is not recognized with respect to amounts that could potentially be refunded. Sales tax collected from students is excluded from net revenues. We also charge online students an upfront learning management fee, which is deferred and recognized over the average expected term of a student. Costs that are direct and incremental to new online students are also deferred and recognized ratably over the average expected term of a student. Deferred revenue and student deposits in any period represent the excess of tuition, fees and other student payments received as compared to amounts recognized as revenue on the statement of operations and are reflected as current liabilities in the accompanying balance sheet. Our educational programs have starting and ending dates that differ from our quarters. Therefore, at the end of each fiscal quarter, a portion of revenue from these programs is not yet earned. Other revenues may be recognized as sales occur or services are performed.

Allowance for doubtful accounts. In accordance with our policy, all prospective students are required to select both a primary and secondary payment option with respect to amounts due to us for tuition, fees and other expenses. The most common payment option for our students is financial aid but students may also choose personal cash, tuition reimbursement, or direct bill to their employer. Financial aid loan funds are generally provided by the Federal Direct Loan Program in two disbursements for each academic year. The disbursements are usually received two to four weeks after the start of the first course in a payment period. These factors, together with the timing of students' beginning their programs, affect our operating cash flow including our accounts receivable balance. In instances where a student selects financial aid as the primary payment option, he or she often selects personal cash as the secondary option. If a student that has selected financial aid as his or her primary payment option withdraws prior to the end of a course but after the date that our institutional refund period has expired, the student will have incurred the obligation to pay the full cost of the course. If the withdrawal occurs before the date at which the student has earned 100% of his or her financial aid, we will have a return to Title IV requirement and the student will owe us all amounts incurred that are in excess of the amount of financial aid that the student earned and that we are entitled to retain. In this case, we must collect the receivable using the student's second payment option. In instances in which the student chose to receive living expense funds as part of his or her financial aid disbursement, we are required to return the unearned portion of these funds as well and then collect these amounts from the student.

We record an allowance for doubtful accounts for estimated losses resulting from the inability, failure or refusal of our students to make required payments, which includes the recovery of financial aid funds advanced to a student for amounts in excess of the student's cost of tuition and related fees. We determine the adequacy of our allowance for doubtful accounts based on an analysis of our historical bad debt experience, current economic trends, and the aging of the accounts receivable and student status. We apply a reserve to our . . .

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