With tuition refunds for some, Ontario college students anxiously head back to class
Student representative called ministry offer of up to $500 reimbursement a 'joke'
As Ontario students prepare to go back to class on Tuesday after five weeks away, Ontario is shedding light on how they will be compensated for lost time in the classroom.
Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews said Monday that students who decide to withdraw from the semester because of the strike will receive a full tuition refund.
"I'm hoping that the vast majority of students will see what they've already invested, stay on the path, but there will be some who are just done and we want to offer them a full tuition refund because this wasn't their fault," Matthews told CBC Toronto's Dwight Drummond.
All full-time students will also be eligible to receive up to $500 for unexpected costs such as child-care fees, rent and re-booked transit tickets, which Matthews said will come out of the money the colleges saved by not paying faculty during the strike.
Ontario Student Assistance Program aid, or OSAP, will also be extended into December to accommodate extended semesters, she said.
'We're getting short-changed'
The promises come a day after the Ontario legislature pushed through an act that ended the college strike, leaving students anxious about navigating dramatically condensed semesters.
"We feel as though nothing got accomplished. And I'm feeling very anxious about going back tomorrow," said Fanshawe College student representative Cate Foulan on CBC Radio's Here and Now.
Foulan is part of a group of students launching a class action lawsuit against Ontario's colleges, which she says will go forward despite the back-to-work legislation.
George Brown College student Don Flynn says he is "nervous" about how his grades will fare and how he will make up time at his workplace placement.
"They're going to cram it all in. We're getting short-changed," he told CBC Toronto. "I was actually going to quit," Flynn said, but added that he's going back to class because he ultimately decided he had worked too hard to get where he was.
Looking for more
It's people like Flynn that Humber College student Greg Kung had hoped would be receiving reimbursements.
Kung co-authored a petition, now signed by nearly 140,000 people, which demanded tuition refunds for every school day missed, regardless of whether or not students choose to withdraw.
Kung told CBC Toronto he was pleased that students who wish to withdraw won't face the "big burden" of lost tuition, but he says his classmates who planned on continuing their studies deserve more.
"There are a majority of students who did face a significant cost during the five weeks and are not going to be seeing any of that money."
He says while the $500 being offered would help, he'd like more information on the application process and "who will actually be getting the money in the end."
Fouran has similar doubts, calling the offer of up to $500 a "joke."
"Essentially, if we all register for this $500, we will all be getting $10 back," she said, adding that she knows a student who had spent $1,600 on daycare bills since the strike began.
"Five hundred dollars barely makes a dent in her daycare bill, let alone anything else," she said.
The full press release from the Ministry of Advanced Education is available here.