College students demand refund amid faculty strike
'Our kids are on the street, the teachers are on the street not being paid and the college has got our money'
College students in Windsor are demanding the schooling they paid for, not a "butchered education."
A group of students, who have been out of class since Oct. 16, have planned a rally of their own Tuesday alongside their striking teachers at the main campus of St. Clair College. Many of them are fed up with the dispute and unhappy with the contingency plan.
"We can't stand for that," said Betty Sylvain, a first year accounting student at St. Clair College. "All we ask for is we pay for 15 weeks and we'd like to get what we paid for."
Now it's putting everything up in the air.- Betty Sylvain, student at St. Clair College
As a single mother who uses student loans to pay tuition, she feels cheated in many ways.
"I'm [putting myself in debt] to sit at home while you guys can't figure it out and that is unacceptable," said Sylvain.
Students unhappy with contingency plan
Since her five-year-old son often gets the same holiday breaks as she does, Sylvain is angered by St. Clair College's contingency plan announced on Monday. It means a shortened holiday break spanning from Dec. 25 until Jan. 1, instead of time off from Dec. 15 to January 8.
"Now it's putting everything up in the air," said Sylvain. "When I go back to school on January 2, I will have to put him in daycare."
As the strike heads into its fourth week with no end in sight, the contingency plan also means a crammed timeline for student learning. Fall classes will bleed into the winter semester, with those exams expected to happen in the first month of 2018.
College asks students to be patient
St. Clair College is asking students to be patient as the bargaining process plays out.
"There's all sides to this," said St. Clair College VP of communications John Fairley. "Our students are our number one focus here at St. Clair College and we know our faculty care about our students, administration cares about our students."
Our kids are on the street, the teachers are on the street not being paid and the college has got our money.- Tony Procopio, parent of St. Clair College student
Even parents are getting involved in the dispute.
Tony Procopio has a son enrolled in St. Clair College's travel and tourism program. Tuition was paid using money set aside many years ago earmarked for his son's education.
Procopio describes it as a bit of a "crisis in the pocketbook" for himself, but more of a vacation for his young son. He believes students should be getting some sort of refund for missed class time.
"Which is money that's going into the college's pocket for doing nothing. Our kids are on the street, the teachers are on the street not being paid and the college has got our money."
But Fairley said it's not as simple as St. Clair College cutting thousands of cheques. Ontario's Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development handles the money and would have to make that decision.
"It would not be at our level that we would do anything," said Fairley.
To fix the problem in the future, Procopio is proposing an idea. He believes students should pay half of their tuition upfront and the remainder after courses are complete.
"That would give them lots of incentive to come back to the table," said Procopio.