Three schools — University of Phoenix, Strayer University and Kaplan University — were among the 20 postsecondary institutions with the greatest number of students.

Community Colleges have seen enrollment spurts because the ailing economy has prompted people who can't find a job to go back to school. The Houston and the Northern Virginia community college system are among the 20 largest postsecondary schools, and each reported an enrollment boost in fall 2008.

Another university that made a large jump in enrollment in 2008 was Arizona State University. Much of its increase, however, is attributed to a change in the way it reports its numbers. The 2008 figures include students from all four campuses instead of just the main campus in Tempe.

Colleges and universities, even those that are publicly run, are able to control the size of their student body through their admissions policies, so the fluctuations from year to year do not necessarily reveal much about the fiscal health of a school or the community that surrounds it.

As in past years, the list of the largest schools is dominated by institutions affiliated with the Big Ten conference. Nine of the conference's 11 schools are among the 23 institutions with the largest enrollment.

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