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College students have until Tuesday to get their money back after strike

Students who remain in school are entitled to relief funding if they apply for it by end of winter term
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20171121-Sault College students back in class-DT-07
College students returned to classes Nov. 21 after a five-week faculty strike, but have until Dec. 5 to withdraw with full tuition refund and no academic penalty if they have been academically overwhelmed by the strike. Darren Taylor/SooToday

Tuesday Dec. 5 marks the deadline for Ontario community college students to withdraw from school with a full tuition refund and no academic penalty.

The choice is offered to students who may feel academically overwhelmed or generally disgruntled after a five-week strike by approximately 12,000 OPSEU-represented faculty, counsellors, and librarians at Ontario’s 24 community colleges, including Sault College.

“154 students have withdrawn as of today,” stated Rick Webb, Sault College Human Resources and Corporate Communications director, in an email to SooToday Monday morning.

However, those students who have decided to withdraw will not receive special consideration when or if they re-apply to study at the college.

“We have a number of oversubscribed programs and as such we are not able to give priority to any student over another due to the strike. Students would re-apply to the College and we will work with each student to try to make it as easy as possible to come back to the program of their choosing,” Webb replied.

“We have already had a few students re-apply for January start programs, such as our brand new Project Management Certificate program. We are encouraging students to come back in January, or we hope to see them again next year,” Webb wrote.

By comparison, approximately 1,500 students across southwestern Ontario have withdrawn, including 800 at London’s Fanshawe College.

Full-time students, both domestic and international, who stay in school can receive up to $500 from a special Strike Relief Fund for additional expenses incurred during the strike, such as child care fees, rebooked train or bus tickets or January rent.

The deadline for students to apply for Strike Relief funding for a maximum reimbursement of incremental costs is the end of the winter term.

Any strike-related support will not count against a student's OSAP funding.

Sault College Student Union (SCSU) reps were not immediately available for comment.

The strike was put to an end by provincial government back-to-work legislation passed in the Ontario Legislature Nov. 19. 

Students were back in class Nov. 21.

OPSEU-represented faculty walked off the job Oct. 16, wanting more full-time faculty positions, greater job security for part-time faculty and greater academic freedom.

The College Employer Council (CEC), representing all 24 Ontario community colleges, said OPSEU’s demands for more full-time faculty were financially unrealistic, and offered a 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years and a promise to enhance full-time employment opportunities for part-time teaching staff.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) ordered a faculty vote to be held Nov. 14 to 16 on the CEC’s offer.

Province-wide, OPSEU reported, there was a 95 per cent voter turnout and a 86 per cent rejection of the Council’s offer.

Locally, there was a 92 per cent voter turnout and an 88 per cent rejection of the Council’s offer.

The impasse ultimately led to the government’s tabling of back-to-work legislation.