Excluding degrees such as law and medicine, the number of students in master's and doctoral programs in the two countries fell 1.7 percent between the fall of 2010 and the fall of 2011, The New York Times reported Friday.
The decline was largely among American citizens and permanent residents, where enrollments slipped 2.3 percent.
Temporary residents (foreign students) in graduate programs jumped 7.8 percent. They made up nearly 17 percent of all students in graduate programs.
Foreign students represented 45.5 percent of all students enrolled in engineering graduate programs and 42.4 percent of students in math and computer science graduate programs.
Enrollment in education programs fell 8.8 percent, the most of any graduate degrees. The next sharpest drop, 5.4 percent, was in arts and humanities disciplines.
Health sciences had the biggest increase, rising 6.4 percent. The number of new students in business graduate programs was up 2.6 percent and mathematics and computer science was up 1.6 percent.
Even as overall enrollment in graduate schools fell, the number of applicants rose 4.3 percent. There also was an increase in the number of people taking the Graduate Record Examination, a test required to get into many graduate schools.
The council's data came from a survey of 655 institutions in the United States and Canada, which the organization said award 81 percent of master's degrees and 92 percent of doctorates each year.