The Ontario college faculty strike is now in its fourth week, and what started as an impromptu reading week now has many college students nervous about what will become of their semester.

The College Employer Council is calling on the striking faculty to vote on a final contract offer, and to suspend their strike in the meantime. 

For their part, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)  says the college's proposed deal will cause long-lasting damage, and they've told their members to vote no on suspending the strike.

Caught in the middle are students.

CBC London asked two Fanshawe College students how they're reacting to the breakdown in negotiations. 

Christian Van Cleeff

Christian Van Cleeff

Christian Van Cleeff is studying environmental technology. He says he's been trying to keep up with work, but that it's difficult with a lack of lab and classroom time. (Submitted)

Christian Van Cleeff is studying environmental technology, a diploma program that's scheduled to take three years and a semester.

"There's been talk that they're just going to push things into the summer, but for students like myself we don't have that option of pushing into the summer because we have a summer semester," said Van Cleeff.

Van Cleeff said the students in his program feel caught between two bad options: either the semester will resume and they'll have to cram their remaining work into what's left of the semester, or they'll lose the term and have their graduation delayed.

"When we do go back, which I'm hoping we do, we're going to be really stressed out with all the workload we're getting because we're going to be cramming so much into little time."

In the meantime, he's been working online, but said it's hard without guidance from an instructor.

Van Cleeff also works part time at the Real Canadian Superstore, and said he'd like to take on more work but can't commit to full-time hours as long as it's still possible that classes might resume.

Brett Longfield

Brett Longfield

Brett Longfield says he's worried about making up for lost time, but losing a semester would be challenging financially. (Submitted)

Brett Longfield, a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and urban planning diploma student, said he's trying to keep up with his study materials, but the knowledge he learned earlier in the semester is already "slipping away."

Like Van Cleeff, Longfield worries about whether he'll be able to make up the coursework should the semester resume.

"According to the college it's possible, but in my experience it can take a little while to get quick with the skills we're learning and to complete projects, so it'll be a crunch," he said.

But the financial burden of a missed semester wouldn't be a walk in the park either, he said.

"I'd have to apply for more funding just to keep up with regular living expenses, or apply potentially for a line of credit as OSAP loans are limited to (a) single application, I believe.

"It'll be kind of a scrounge to get by."

Response from Fanshawe College

Fanshawe College sign

President Peter Devlin said he can't speculate on when Fanshawe College might consider cancelling the semester. (Dave Chidley/CBC)

Students at Fanshawe College were informed last week that the fall semester would be extended by two days, from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22.

President Peter Devlin said the college has developed a "flexible semester completion plan" to help students make up for time they've lost during the strike, but couldn't provide further detail about what that plan involves. 

Devlin said he couldn't comment on the point at which Fanshawe would consider scrapping the semester altogether.