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It's a truism that the market for initial public offerings takes its cue from what's happening in the broader market. That's why the first-day performance of online education firm American Public Education Inc. (NASDAQ:APEI) is that much more impressive.

Shares of APEI, which comprises American Military University and American Public University and which offers 57 degrees in its online undergraduate and graduate programs, were up $15.88, or more than 79%, to $35.88 in afternoon trading despite further losses in the Dow and Nasdaq. Market turmoil aside, the signs pointed to a strong debut. On Nov. 6 APEI upwardly revised the price range of its offering to between $18 and $19 a share, from $15 and $17. Then on Thursday, it actually priced above the revised range at $20 a share, raising $94 million.

So why all the excitement for a company that offers post-secondary education to the military and public service sector? A quick glance at the company's prospectus shows why. For the six-month period ending June 30, APEI reported net income of $3.6 million on revenues of $30.3 million, versus earnings of $933,000 on revenues of $17 million for the year-ago period. It already has made more money than the $1.8 million it made all of last year and is on track to top its 2006 revenues of $40 million. No matter how dire the markets, investors look for something to trade.

[$$] See Nov. 7 story in
See American Public Education's prospectus