During its December 17 Board of Directors (BOD) meeting, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) executive members provided updates on the federal government’s decision to extend a policy freezing its 20-hour weekly work cap for international students. The board also approved dates for next year’s UTSU elections, with voting scheduled to take place March 4–7. 

Executives further discussed plans to expand the Student Aid program, which provides bursaries to U of T students.

Updates on international students’ weekly work cap and study permits

Aidan Thompson — the union’s vice president, public and university affairs — provided updates on the weekly work cap and study permits for international students in Canada. 

The federal government’s work cap limited international students to at most 20 hours of off-campus work per week. After years of activism from international students who criticized the policy for pushing international students struggling to pay high tuition costs into unregulated work, the federal government announced in 2022 that it would suspend the work cap from November 15, 2022 until December 31, 2023

On December 7, the federal government announced that it would extend the freeze until April 30 for international students already in Canada and for those who had submitted an application for a study permit before the announcement. This freeze allows these students to work more than 20 hours per week.

Thompson also said that while Marc Miller — the current federal minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship — discussed capping the number of study permits Canada issues for international students in September, this decision is “unlikely to affect U of T.” 

In a press conference on December 7, Miller said that the government’s reason for capping study permits is to prevent international students from getting scammed by “sketchy employers” and “unscrupulous schools” — which Miller referred to as “the diploma equivalent of puppy mills” — that would leave those students struggling to pay their housing, find jobs, and pay for basic necessities, such as food, in Canada. 

Recently, Conestoga College — a Canadian college with 11 campuses in Ontario — has been a hot topic of discussion on social media apps like TikTok and Reddit because of its massive increase in international students, whose enrollment increased by over 20,000 in 2022. In 2022–2023, students’ tuition and fees made up 72.9 per cent of the institution’s operating revenue, which increased by 137.9 million dollars since 2021–2022. Since 2014, Conestoga College has seen a 1,579 per cent increase in international students. In comparison, during that time period, universities such as the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University only had a 62 per cent and a 66 per cent increase, respectively.

“[U of T] should be a trusted institution [such] that we can continue bringing in the same number of international students as we have been, but that could change,” said Thompson during the BOD meeting. “It’s going to be an issue that we’re very active on.”

UTSU 2024 Election Dates 

At the meeting, the BOD approved dates for its elections for the 2024–2025 academic year. 

The nomination period will open on February 15 at 9:00 am and close on February 22 at 5:00 pm. After the nomination period ends, from 5:01 pm of the same day, the union’s Silent Period — which is the time when “any form of election activities” such as but not limited to nominations, campaigning, endorsing, and voting are prohibited — will occur until February 26 at 8:59 am. 

UTSU candidates can campaign from February 26 at 9:00 am up until March 7 at 5:00 pm. U of T students can vote for the candidates from March 4 at 9:00 am until March 7 at 5:00 pm.

Student Aid expansion plans

Vice President of Operations and Finance Samir Mechel talked about the Student Aid Report, which detailed the number of applications received, processed, and accepted for the Student Aid program.

The UTSU’s Student Aid program aims to provide funds to U of T students who are in need of financial support in one of nine categories: Book and Academic Supplies; Exam Deferral Fees; Academic Conferences and Pursuits; Health and Wellness; Accessibility Needs; Transit; Emergencies; Other University Fees and Transaction; and the Professional Faculty Mandatory Placements. The bursary grants students up to $500 in the category they applied for. 

However, because of the program’s lack of funding, the UTSU rejected more than 50 per cent of Student Aid applicants for this year. As a solution, Mechel proposed raising the levy for the program by two dollars for each student; increasing the union’s outreach campaigns to raise awareness for the program; reaching out to sponsors and potential external funding sources; and using extra money from the budget for the program.

Editor’s Note (January 14): A previous version of this article contained a header image showing the current members of the SCSU and not those of the UTSU. The article has also been amended to reflect the fact that the campaign period ends on March 7, and not March 6, as the article originally stated.