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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New student enrollment at U.S. graduate schools fell in 2010 for the first time since the fall of 2003, according to a report released on Thursday.
The decrease came despite a more than eight percent increase in applications, said the report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) Board.
The survey -- conducted annually since 1986 -- showed the number of first-time grad students fell 1.1 percent from fall 2009 to fall 2010, though applications increased 8.4 percent.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2018, 2.5 million more jobs will require advanced degrees, according to CGS President Debra Stewart.
"The decline in first-time enrollment ... is a concern given changing demographics and the need for more students from all groups to pursue graduate degrees so that America will have the talent needed to remain competitive," Stewart said in a statement.
The authors of the CGS/GRE report said last year's decline was driven entirely by a drop in part-time graduate enrollment, which declined 8.5 percent.
Approximately 1,950 U.S. colleges and universities offer graduate programs, according to the CGS/GRE survey.
The 655 of these institutions which responded to the survey received nearly 1.77 million applications for graduate programs beginning in fall 2010.
Of those applications, about 741,000, or 42 percent, were accepted, but only about 445,000 students enrolled for the first time in graduate programs for the fall term in 2010.
The number of new doctoral students grew 1.5 percent from fall 2009, while the number of master's and graduate certificate students dropped 1.6 percent.
Overall, roughly 42 percent of all first-time graduate students in fall 2010 were men and 58 percent were women, continuing a decade-long trend of more women entering grad school than men.
Business, engineering, and social and behavioral sciences accounted for the largest numbers of applications in 2010.
Among first-time graduate enrollees in fall 2010 whose citizenship was known, some 84 percent were U.S. citizens or permanent residents and 16 percent were temporary residents.
Enrollment for U.S. graduate students and permanent residents fell 1.2 percent, but international or temporary resident enrollment in U.S. graduate schools rose 4.7 percent, reversing a decade-long trend of lower international rates.
White students accounted for more than six out of ten, or 63 percent, of U.S. citizen and permanent resident first-time enrollees in fall 2010.
Editing by Jerry Norton