Details for the Ontario college students hardship fund that was announced two weeks ago by the provincial government were released on Monday morning.
On Nov 10, the provincial education minister Deb Matthews released a statement saying that she would require “that colleges to establish a dedicated fund with all the savings from the strike” to benefit students who suffered financial difficulties.
The Ontario government expects that students will be able to apply to their colleges to tap into the financial assistance starting this week.
“Full-time domestic and international students will be eligible to receive up to $500 for incremental unexpected costs they occurred,” the statement from Queen’s Park read.
Students who decided to withdraw from the semester due to the strike are eligible for a full refund of their tuition, with apprentices also eligible for refunds.
They will have two weeks to withdraw from their program should they wish and still receive the refund.
The support fund was set up in consultations with student leaders, provincial associations and colleges, with its final implementation coming during this week.
Ontario Student Assistance Program, or OSAP, will aid students who have their semesters continuing past the date they were expected to graduate, including into January 2018 or past the end of the winter semester if it is pushed back.
College Student Alliance President Joel Willet said in a press release that the Student Support Fund was an example that student advocacy works.
“The hardship fund was a direct ask from the College Student Alliance to the ministry based on student stories,” Willet told the Post.
“We wish we had an infinite amount of money to access for this,” Willet said in response to a question about the fund being adequate for student compensation.
However, the CSA president explained that “it will help students for sure”. The Ontario government could not spread the funds equally or else it would not be enough to assist students in dire financial circumstances due to the strike, Willett explained.
Many students have been greatly appreciative of the hardship fund on social media.
The Guelph-Humber Post reached out to the University of Guelph-Humber to identify whether it would have a similar tuition refund, but did not receive a response at this time.
“In the past, decisions regarding withdrawals and refunds in the event of a strike have been made by the province, not the university itself,” reads the updated strike information page on the Guelph-Humber website.
“No decision has been made at this time, but we will inform students as soon as we have updates from the ministry.”
University courses resumed online on Oct 30 for Guelph-Humber students, and resumed on campus starting Monday.
The Legislative Assembly of Ontario passed Bill 178, formally known as “The Colleges of Applied Arti and Technology Labour Dispute Resolution Act, 2017”, forcing striking faculty back to work.
Outstanding issues that couldn’t be solved are being referred to binding mediation-arbitration. Thus, it is currently unclear exactly what terms the faculty union will be receiving in regards to their demands.
The Ontario college strike ended on Sunday after the third reading of the back-to-work legislation was passed by the provincial Liberal Party and Progressive Conservatives.
It started over a month ago on Oct 16 after the College Employer Council and the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union could not reach an agreement before deadline.
An attempt was made on Nov 2 to return to the bargaining table, but when that fell apart the college negotiating team requested the Ontario Labour Relations Board to hold a forced vote that gave union members the option to accept the colleges’ latest offer.
On Nov 16, the faculty voted strongly to reject the offer with 95% of the 12,841 union members filling out a ballot online and 86% of them voting “no” in what the union described as a “historic” rejection.
This led to Premier Kathleen Wynne stepping in to request the two sides return to the bargaining table for a few hours on that Thursday afternoon before announcing she would table back-to-work legislation the following day.
On Friday, the Ontario New Democrats refused to give a unanimous agreement with the back-to-work legislation so it could not be passed quickly. The Legislature sat over the weekend and passed the third reading by Sunday.
More details to follow. Image 1 of The Learning resource Commons at Humber College from Humber College.