International student enrollment springing back


The number of international students enrolled at Pitt for the fall 2021 semester is close to rebounding to pre-pandemic numbers.

There currently are 2,963 international students enrolled at the University, according to John Stoner, executive director of academic affairs at the University Center for International Studies (UCIS).

Of these students, 192 are starting their first year at Pitt, according to Vice Provost for Enrollment Marc Harding, who presented the numbers at the Oct. 14 Senate Council meeting. In the fall 2020 semester, there were 173 first-year international students.

In fall 2019, before the pandemic disrupted lives across the world, there were 3,186 international students enrolled at Pitt, according to the 2020 University factbook.

This school year’s increase in international student enrollment is “night and day,” when compared to 2,715 students enrolled in fall 2020, Stoner said.

The COVID-19 pandemic nearly upended every aspect of student life last year. But international students faced an array of issues preventing their return to campus. Disruptions in housing, travel and visa systems spurred the creation of the International Student Emergency fund.

The University also introduced asynchronous courses for international students to help accommodate those in other time zones and other issues international students faced. 

Incoming and returning international students, especially Chinese students, also struggled with travel bans and extensive visa processing delays.

Stoner attributed the increase in international student enrollment to President Joe Biden’s administration, which allowed for student visas to count for national interest exemptions. This allowed students to return to the U.S. from Brazil, China, Europe and other countries.

However, there’s still more work to be done, Stoner said.

“It still didn’t solve all the visa backlog issues,” Stoner said. “But clearly, that alone, likely meant that most of the students who wanted to be here could be here.”

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905.


Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.

Follow the University Times on Twitter and Facebook.