As college classes resume across Ontario, students at Algonquin College say they're worried about how they'll get through the rest of the semester.
Students across the province were back in class Tuesday for the first time since 12,000 college faculty walked off the job on Oct. 16. The five-week strike ended Sunday when the Ontario legislature passed back-to-work legislation.
At Algonquin College, police foundations student Eleanor Hudson said whatever relief she felt when the strike ended has given way to fears about what comes next. With midterm exams looming next week, she doubts she'll have enough time to prepare.
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"It's kind of stressful, because we're just picking up where we left off and we've been off for five weeks," she said. "It's hard to take it all in."
College staff across the province met yesterday to figure out how they can salvage what's left of the semester. At Algonquin College, classes will be extended until Dec. 22 and will resume Jan. 2 after the holiday break. For most programs at the college, the fall term will end on Jan. 11.
The Ontario government is offering a full tuition refund to students who withdraw from the semester because of the labour dispute.
The province has also directed colleges to set aside net savings from the strike so they can be disbursed to affected students. Full-time domestic and international students are eligible to receive up to $500 to cover unforeseen costs they incurred because of the labour dispute.
'I'm still frustrated'
Harpreet Singh, 21, is an international student from India in his final year at Algonquin College studying to become a computer systems technician. While he's glad to be back in class, he says the college has done little to allay his concerns.
"I'm still frustrated," he said. "We missed our classes — everything. We don't know about anything."
Singh says the financial sting of the strike is especially painful. Confused by what he's heard from the college, he worries he'll have to apply to extend his study permit.
"We are paying almost $8,000 — per semester," he said. "We now we have to pay more [and] we have to apply for another study permit after that. It's going to be very costly."
'Everything is up in the air'
For Singh and other students, it's the uncertainty of the situation that is so crippling.
Saira Aziz, 23, is in her first semester of Algonquin College's event management program. She criticized the information she's received from the college as "inconsistent" and said students are still confused as to what to expect.
Even though the fall term has been extended into January, Aziz worries she and her classmates won't have enough time to cram in all they have to learn.
"Everyone is so stressed out, because we really don't know what's happening," she said. "Everything is up in the air. We just have to wait and see."