California's largest for-profit career-college chain said Thursday it might go out of business under financial sanctions imposed this month by the U.S. Department of Education.

The schools owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc. -- Heald College, Everest College, Everest Institute and WyoTech -- receive about $1.4 billion in federal student loans and grants, according to the Department of Education.

But the department released a statement Thursday saying it was putting new restrictions on that aid "after the company failed to address concerns about its practices, including falsifying job placement data used in marketing claims to prospective students and allegations of altered grades and attendance."

The colleges will have to wait 21 days to access the funds, which could create a devastating cash flow crisis; if the company is unable to get a short-term loan to bridge the gap, it could go under, it reported Thursday in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Company spokesman Kent Jenkins declined to comment Thursday.

The embattled Corinthian Colleges -- accused of deception and fraud in a pending lawsuit by California's attorney general -- enroll more than 72,000 students nationwide, including 14,000 in the Bay Area.

Like others in the for-profit college sector, Corinthian's trade schools typically cost students tens of thousands of dollars a year, have low graduation rates and rely heavily on taxpayer-funded federal student loans and grants.

The department placed Corinthian under heightened federal oversight because it failed to supply the government with information about inconsistencies in job-placement data, despite repeated requests, according to the department's statement.

"The Department's foremost interest is to protect students and make sure they are educated by institutions that operate in accordance with our standards," said U.S. Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell in the statement.

"We made the decision to increase oversight of Corinthian Colleges after careful consideration and as part of our obligations to protect hardworking taxpayers and students' futures."

Attend Heald, Everest or WyoTech in the Bay Area? Email Katy Murphy at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow Katy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.