Strike delays bursaries for cash-strapped college students
Algonquin College withholds payouts, blames uncertainty surrounding fall schedule
Julianne Albers doesn't want to extend her credit card limit to buy groceries, but the Algonquin College student might have to if a province-wide strike by faculty drags on much longer.
Albers's phone and hydro bills are past due, and she's not sure where her half of next month's rent will come from.
Faculty at Ontario's 24 colleges walked off the job Oct. 16, affecting 500,000 students. Albers is just one of them.
- Algonquin College students frustrated as strike drags on
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The 26-year old is studying graphic design and supports herself with Ontario Disability Support Program payments, a provincial student loan and other grants.
I still have to support myself whether I'm in school or not. I have rent and bills to pay.-Julianne Albers, Algonquin College student
She's also come to rely on a $500 bursary, money that's helped her make it to the end of the fall semester for the last two years. She applied again in September, and was expecting to hear about the money last week.
Instead she received an email from the school informing her the fall bursaries have been delayed.
College blames work stoppage
"Due to the work stoppage, it is as yet unknown if or how the study period will change. If it is extended, the assessment of student need and bursary amounts could change," the college said.
The college awards bursaries in the fall, winter and spring. According to the college, 3,500 students received an average bursary of $500 in November 2016.
Albers argues the payout schedule shouldn't be tied to how the college decides to reorganize classes stalled by the strike.
"Even if they condense the semester and we technically have less time in school, I don't see how that constitutes needing less income, because I still have to support myself whether I'm in school or not. I have rent and bills to pay."
Turned to food bank
Albers said despite trying to remain "fiercely independent," she's had to turn to community supports to survive.
It sucks when you think you're going to get this relief and then it doesn't come.- Victoria Ventura, Algonquin Students' Association
"I've had to access the student food bank, and [I'm] actually getting help to pay my bills from my church. And I don't like the way that makes me feel."
Victoria Ventura, president of the Algonquin Students' Association, said she's hearing similar stories from other worried students.
"There's so much stress and anxiety that comes from the uncertainty of the situation," Ventura said. "It sucks when you think you're going to get this relief and then it doesn't come."
Ventura said she's directing students to the student food bank and the college's financial aid office, which can allot emergency aid.
"Financial aid is always an option for students," the college said in its statement. "Emergency awards often include food, shelter and medical needs."