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Bridgepoint Education 1Q results top Street's view

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Bridgepoint Education's first-quarter net income dropped 29 percent as its student enrollment continued to fall. The company still topped Wall Street expectations in a rough environment for the for-profit education sector.

For the three months ended March 31, the company earned $23.5 million, or 43 cents per share. That's down from $33 million, or 59 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts predicted earnings of 41 cents per share, according to a FactSet poll.

Total student enrollment for the company's academic institutions — Ashford University and University of the Rockies — slumped by 17 percent to 78,782 students compared with the same period last year.

New student enrollments for the two academic institutions fell 45 percent to 13,300.

Revenue for the San Diego company fell 11 percent to $222 million from $250.4 million, but still beat Wall Street's estimate of $217.1 million.

Critics accuse for-profit universities of putting profit ahead of student achievement, with many of students not graduating, or finding that they can't get a job with their degree if they do, leaving them saddled with thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

The federal government stepped in recently, tying access to federal student loans more closely with the performance of graduating students.

Shares of Bridgepoint Education Inc. fell 17 cents to $10.82. Over the past year, the stock has traded in a range of $8.11 to $22.19.