Province announces 'hardship fund' for students caught in college strike

A barrel burns as striking faculty walk the picket lines at Fanshawe College's front entrance on Nov. 1 2017

We're now into week five of an Ontario colleges strike, as faculty and management at Ontario's 26 colleges continue to battle over the reliance on part-time and contract workers and the lack of academic-freedom protections for instructors. It's an expensive time of year, and if students are going to get some additional financial aid, it would be nice if they could get it quickly.

College students were already starting to worrying after losing a few weeks of time in the classroom. "But we have a vote and the offer that's before us is a bad deal and I think we are going to say no to it".

"It's a huge kind of item that could possibly end the strike", he said. "There's some definite enthusiasm to be reunited, of course, but also some fear about how we're going to do this". It will be messy. "They want us to do what's best for the students and what's best for the future of education in Ontario". He says the fight is not about wages, but for academic freedom and job protection.

"... They [students] are anxious about how to pay for unexpected costs like additional rent or canceling long-standing travel plans to be home with family", said Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, in a statement.

Faculty will have from Tuesday morning until Thursday morning to vote. The semester would continue to December 22, but would not need to be extended beyond that date.

During the College Employer Council webcast, Del Missier assured teachers that the contract offer which OPSEU unanimously recommended against supporting "contains all of the items that we and the union team agreed upon". Students have been told the semester will now extend to December 22 and students are expected to resume classes on January 2. The holiday break would last for two weeks from December 23 to Jan.7 and the fall semester would conclude the week of Jan.8 to 12, 2018.

Voting over the next three days will be done online or by phone.

Some students have been demanding a refund of their tuition. I have just spoken with student leadership from the College Student Alliance and have asked them for their advice and for feedback from their membership.

"They're aware the deal we've been offered isn't much different than the deal we were offered many weeks ago so they're basic feeling seems to be 'you've gone this long, don't settle now, '" Weller said.

In the midst of the uncertainty and financial hardship for students, the government announced last week that colleges won't be able to hoard their savings from the strike - whatever money they save from not having to make payroll will have to be used to compensate students in serious financial need.

Still other students want to withdraw. I don't see them as numbers on a spreadsheets. "They shouldn't let this one be the one that turns them away".

Although Niagara College's student union is not officially sanctioning that action, Huckla said students are welcome to participate if they choose.

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