News / Toronto

'Absolute rubbish': College students dismayed by post-strike workload, $500 refund

After the five-week colleges strike was broken by the Ontario government, anger has grown among students forced to cram a semester worth of work into a much shorter timeframe.

With the prospect of semesters rolling into each other, some students say they’d prefer to just start over. A “Cancel the semester” petition on Change.org attracted 7,500 signatures.

Doug Ives / The Canadian Press

With the prospect of semesters rolling into each other, some students say they’d prefer to just start over. A “Cancel the semester” petition on Change.org attracted 7,500 signatures.

As some 300,000 students return to class following the end of the Ontario colleges strike, many are despondent and angry about unrealistic, condensed workloads.

Samantha Woods, a Paralegal Studies student at Fleming College in Peterborough, said things have been "brutal" since the province used back-to-work legislation to end five weeks of job action.

“Today feels a little more normal, but yesterday I had classmates crying, and general anxiety and uncertainty,” she said Wednesday. “A lot of us are thinking of dropping out. Everyone I have spoken to feels like there is no good option here. I don't think anyone knows how to handle it. Teachers are trying.”

Faye Ghane, a first-year public relations student at Humber College’s Lakeshore Campus, is skeptical of the government’s plan to reimburse students up to $500 for out-of-pocket expenses, such as childcare and travel.

“I think the plan is absolute rubbish,” Ghane said. “That's barely two weeks’ reimbursement of program fees for domestic students.”

Full-time domestic and international students are eligible, and those who choose to withdraw entirely can be refunded in full if they claim within two weeks. Funds paid will not affect OSAP assessments.

“It's also insane that they're requiring students to apply for the reimbursement," said Ghane. "They get to decide who's worthy or not of the $500. Every student was affected by this strike. They can afford to reimburse every student $500.”

With the prospect of semesters rolling into each other, some say they’d prefer to just start over. A “Cancel the semester” petition on Change.org attracted 7,500 signatures.

Woods said her semester will now run four weeks longer, meaning scheduled breaks will be cut.

“Mostly we just feel like we're getting screwed,” she said. “Lots of us put our lives on hold to come here.”

She agreed the $500 refund is “ridiculous,” comparing it to "a meal of raw spaghetti and canned sauce ... It felt like going to a food bank.

“It feels insulting," Woods said. "I feel like a child stomping my feet and saying it's not fair, but I don't know what to do anymore. I'm just infuriated.”

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