Col­lege drop-out num­bers de­layed

Min­istry needs more time to com­pile to­tals fol­low­ing lengthy strike

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - SHAWN JEF­FORDS TORONTO —

The re­lease of the num­ber of stu­dents seek­ing a tu­ition re­fund af­ter a five-week-long strike can­celled classes at On­tario’s col­leges could be de­layed as much as a week, the provin­cial gov­ern­ment said.

A day af­ter the prov­ince said the num­bers would be made pub­lic Thurs­day, Ad­vanced Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Deb Matthews said the gov­ern­ment needed more time to com­pile the fig­ures for re­lease.

Last month, Matthews or­dered col­leges across the prov­ince to re­fund the tu­ition money for any stu­dent who felt un­able to com­plete the con­densed se­mes­ter. The de­ci­sion is likely to cost On­tario col­leges mil­lions of dol­lars which would have oth­er­wise been saved be­cause of the labour dis­pute.

The dead­line for stu­dents to ap­ply for a re­fund was Dec. 5.

“We have num­bers from ev­ery­one but they’re not quite ver­i­fied yet,” Matthews said. “I would have liked to have given them to you to­day but they just aren’t ready for that.”

Matthews said pre­lim­i­nary data sug­gests the “vast ma­jor­ity” of stu­dents have cho­sen to stick with their pro­grams and fin­ish the se­mes­ter.

“Over­whelm­ingly, stu­dents have cho­sen to stay,” she said, adding that the tran­si­tion back to class has been hard on stu­dents and fac­ulty alike.

“It’s al­ways go­ing to be a lit­tle bit bumpy but I re­ally do be­lieve that the strike was tough on every­body but peo­ple are com­mit­ted to get­ting back into the class­room.”

The gov­ern­ment ended the strike in Novem­ber with back-to-work leg­is­la­tion passed in a rare week­end sit­ting at Queen’s Park.

Matthews said stu­dents ex­pe­ri­enced hard­ship as a re­sult of the strike and the min­istry will mon­i­tor re-en­roll­ment in Jan­uary to en­sure they can con­tinue their ed­u­ca­tion.

“We know that the strike took a big toll on stu­dents,” she said. “We wanted to give stu­dents the op­tion to with­draw, get a full tu­ition re­fund, and no aca­demic penalty. But there’s no ques­tion the strike did dis­cour­age a lot of stu­dents from con­tin­u­ing and I just hope they will rereg­is­ter for Jan­uary or next Septem­ber.”

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