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Moody's I Investor Service, the credit ratings agency, has downgraded the credit outlook for Laureate Education to negative from stable, citing the global for-profit chain's increasingly leveraged position. Laureate, which is based in Baltimore and enrolls 800,000 students at 200 campuses around the world, has used debt to finance many of its acquisitions. The pending purchase of a Brazilian university for $500 million would bring the company's total debt to roughly $6 billion, according to Moody's.

"The company's current pace of investment has resulted in leverage that is now quite high," the ratings agency said in a written statement. "Moody's believes that the company will be challenged to restore lower leverage over the near team."

The $6 billion in debt is more than Laureate's annual revenue. However, the company's liquidity is adequate, Moody's said. Laureate has $427 million in cash on hand. And the ratings agency said Laureate remains in a "prominent market position," thanks to solid enrollment growth and "favorable industry fundamentals."

Doug Becker, Laureate's CEO, recently told Inside Higher Ed that the company plans to continue its growth strategy.