Of the 20 institutions with the greatest numbers of students in fall 2010, six were predominantly two-year campuses (Miami Dade College; Houston Community College; Lone Star College System; Tarrant County College District; Northern Virginia Community College; and Austin Community College District). Five were predominantly online operations (University of Phoenix, Kaplan University, Ashford University, Liberty University and Walden University).

By comparison, in fall 1999, none of the 20 largest institutions was an online campus, and only three were predominantly two-year schools.

Of the 50 higher-education institutions that reported the largest enrollments in fall 2010, 10 are predominantly online operations, and 10 offer predominantly two-year programs.

As a whole, the 50 institutions saw fall enrollment rise slightly from 2009 to 2010 — a 1.9 percent increase. Enrollment at the 10 two-year schools among the top 50 increased 7.6 percent, and student numbers among the 30 traditional four-year schools on the list rose 1.1 percent. Enrollment at the 10 online operations actually dropped from 2009 to 2010 — by a minuscule five-hundredths of 1 percent.

The drop is attributable to the University of Phoenix, which reported 73,000 fewer students in fall 2010. That sharp decline was not enough to oust the University of Phoenix from its perch at the top of the enrollment list. Despite an enrollment decrease of more than 19 percent, it claimed more than 307,000 students — almost four times that of the next largest institution. The nine other online campuses in the top 50, taken together, saw their numbers climb by 19 percent.

Among traditional four-year universities, nine of the12 schools in the Big Ten Conference, led by Ohio State University, are among the 50 institutions with the largest enrollment. The Pac 12 Conference had six schools among the top 50, led by Arizona State University. That school continued to have the largest enrollment for a traditional four-year university. In fall 2010, Arizona State's student enrollment on its four campuses in the Phoenix area topped 70,000, compared with about 68,000 students in 2009.

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