Niagara College students, and those around the province, are back to school Tuesday morning, after a faculty strike that lasted five weeks was brought to an end by the Ontario government.
The College said it has developed academic plans which will allow students to complete their current semesters and that it plans for individual programs and courses to be available to students by Monday at 5 p.m.
To make up for lost class time, the college said classes will be extended until Dec. 22, and then start up again and run from Jan. 2 to Jan. 10, meaning many students who do wish to stay will have to change their holiday plans.
The strike caused such a disruption for college students that a group of students filed a class action lawsuit against the colleges on Nov. 14, seeking tuition refunds for students who don’t want to continue their classes due to the strike, as well as partial refunds for students who do want to continue.
The Ontario government, however, has seemingly solved that problem.
In a public release Monday, the province said students who choose not to continue with their courses because of the strike will receive a full tuition refund and that student apprentices will also be able to apply for a full refund of classroom fees if they are unable to complete their in-school training because of the strike.
Furthermore, the government said it will be ensuring that colleges establish dedicated student support funds with the “net savings” from the strike, in other words: the money saved by not paying faculty for five weeks.
The fund will “assist students who have experienced financial hardship as a result of the strike,” according to the Ontario government.
“Full-time domestic and international students will be eligible to receive up to $500 for incremental unexpected costs they incurred, such as additional child care fees, rebooked train or bus tickets or January rent.”
The government said it “expects that students will be able to apply to their college for financial assistance through the fund starting this week.”
“Any strike-related support will not count against a student's OSAP assessment.”
Deb Matthews, deputy Premier, minister of advanced education and skills development, and minister responsible for digital government, said “over the past month, I have heard from students about hardships they have experienced as a result of this strike. It is clear that they have borne the brunt of this situation. That’s why we are taking these measures to ensure students have the support they need to complete their studies, and continue working towards an education that will allow them to succeed in a highly-skilled workforce.”
The Ontario government also released these facts:
“The Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Labour Dispute Resolution Act, 2017 was passed by the Ontario legislature yesterday to end the college labour dispute and return students to the classroom. All outstanding issues are to be referred to binding mediation-arbitration.”
“Students currently receiving OSAP who were likely to graduate before December 31 of this year, and who have their current semester extended, will receive additional OSAP for the length of the extension. OSAP will start making payments for extensions in mid-December, after college extension plans are finalized.”
“Students currently receiving OSAP who have their winter semesters extended past the normal end date will also receive additional OSAP aid.”
“The Government of Canada has committed to partner with Ontario on the extended OSAP supports that help students impacted by the college strike.”
“Students who withdraw from their studies have two weeks from the re-start of classes to receive a full tuition refund.”
“This year, more than 210,000 full-time university and college students are receiving free tuition for the first time ever.”