'Anxiety-inducing': Students worry about EI and semester hours following Matthews meeting

Semester dates, employment insurance and quality of education were top of mind as representatives from eight Ontario colleges met with Deb Matthews Thursday.

Representatives from eight Ontario colleges met with Deb Matthews to discuss college faculty strike

Morganna Sampson (bottom row, centre) and fellow student leaders met with Deb Matthews (top row, centre) on Thursday. (Submitted)

Trade and apprenticeship programs were top of mind yesterday as eight Ontario college student leaders met with Minister of Advanced Education Deb Matthews in her Toronto office, said Morganna Sampson, president of the Fanshawe Student Union.

Students in these programs often rely on collecting employment insurance while they're in classes, but this funding has been put on hold during the faculty strike, Sampson told Afternoon Drive

"They're left without a job, without schooling, and without funding to live off of," she said.

Regardless of their area of study, students are becoming increasingly anxious about the quality of their education as the Ontario college faculty strike nears its third week, said Sampson.

She said the time has come for the ministry to get the two sides back to the bargaining table, but that so far Matthews's office has declined to take that step.

"They want to allow the CEC and OPSEU to come to a settlement because they believe it's their right to bargain, which is understandable, but still very frustrating and very anxiety-inducing on this end," said Sampson.

Adding to the anxiety are question marks around how each college's semester will be affected by the strike. Because semester breaks aren't mandated by the Ministry of Advanced Education, each school has to determine on its own how to make up days lost, said Sampson.

This process stands to become even more complicated for programs that require set placement hours, such as nursing. These hours will still have to be made up by the ministry, she said.

"So those people will have to find placement times within a compressed time frame."

She said her colleagues are working on developing a process for future strikes, so that students have a greater voice in the proceedings, and won't have to worry about losing a semester.

In the meantime, Sampson and Matthews agree on a piece of advice for students: do your homework. 

"It's so imperative that you do this, or else when you get back to classes you might find that it's just overwhelming the workload that might come around because of the compressed schedules," said Sampson. 

Paula Duhatschek