Ontario offers tuition refund to students as college strike ends

OPI_Algonquin Strike_cred_Eric Davidson

Colleges in Ontario have been on strike for over a month

About 500,000 students have been out of the classroom since October 15 after contract talks broke off between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents striking staff, and the College Employer Council, which represents Ontario's 24 colleges.

In addition to a full refund for those who withdraw, fulltime students who decide to stay can apply to receive up to $500 for unexpected costs they incurred due to the strike.

"Students were forced to put their lives on hold for five weeks because the premier and her Liberal government sat on their hands and watched the faculty strike escalate", said Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath.

College faculty in Ontario head back to their schools today, after a five-week strike was ended over the weekend with back-to-work legislation.

The government has also instructed colleges to establish a dedicated fund with net savings from the strike.

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The province has noted that strike-related support will not count against a student's OSAP assessment.

The legislation was debated between the New Democratic Party, Liberal and Conservative parties through special weekend sittings and eventually passed on Sunday.

A similar tuition rebate was offered to students after a strike in 2006 shuttered Ontario colleges for 18 days.

"I don't think any amount of money will be able to pay for the amount of anxiety that students have suffered through this whole process", she said. "Half of Ontario's college students are parents, they are mature students".

The Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Labour Dispute Resolution Act, 2017 governs the labour dispute between the College Employer Council and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) college academic unit.

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To give faculty and students more time, classes are scheduled for a week in December and a week in January that originally were to be part of the Christmas break. In addition to the financial hardship, students who decide to continue their semester are now faced with the daunting prospect of trying to complete five weeks of school work into a compressed schedule.

Algonquin College president Cheryl Jensen said she's happy the year won't extend into May and cost students from out of town another month's rent.

"I'm hearing from students who are in an absolute panic over how they are ever going to be able to manage this compressed and accelerated semester", she said.

The fall term has been extended at each of the colleges into the new year.

"All that time is typically turnaround time for faculty", Currie said.

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