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Multiple student associations say the Student Support Fund is insufficient

Jen Doede | Interrobang | News | December 11th, 2017




Several student associations from across the province are urging the provincial government to reconsider the structure and regulations pertaining to the Student Support Fund. The Student Support Fund is a fund issued by the provincial government to assist full-time domestic and international students who have/will receive incremental unexpected costs due to the province-wide college faculty strike.

According to an Ontario Government news release on Nov. 20, the finances for the Student Support Fund will come from the net savings accumulated from the 24 colleges during the five weeks of the faculty strike. According to an open letter from eight student associations from across the province released on Nov. 30, the current structure in place allows students who qualify for the fund to receive up to $500 in financial assistance. The open letter further explains that in order to qualify for the fund, students must prove one of the following:

Incremental childcare costs that will be accumulated due to extended weeks of the semester (Dec. 18 to 22, Jan. 2 to 5 and April 23 to 27).

Students who had to reschedule their travel plans as a result of the strike.

Rent costs for the month of January for students that were scheduled to graduate in December.

“The Student Support Fund is insufficient. It does not assist all members. Students have to prove their hardship when they obviously experienced hardship during the strike,” Morganna Sampson, president of the Fanshawe Student Union (FSU) said.

The open letter details that students from across the province are outraged that the fund does not put into consideration the hardships that will befall students who are missing out on holiday work hours due to the extended semester dates and the struggles that come with removing 15 days of classes.

On Monday Nov. 25, the student association presidents who put together the open letter to the media spoke with Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, to discuss what the presidents deemed problematic with the structure and qualifications for the Student Support Fund.

Ryan Huckla, president of the Niagara College Student Association, explained that the student association presidents expressed to the Minister that all students experienced hardship during the strike. In addition, students cannot put a price tag on certain hardships the strike caused, including how it has affected their mental health.

“We also brought up the fact that students can’t claim for lost wages. The difficult thing about the [situation revolves around the fact that] students depend on working during those three weeks. International students can also work more than 20 hours a week during that time. It is very much an opportunity for students to make extra money over the holiday season. It’s food money for January. It really increases the financial burden on a lot of students,” Huckla said. According to the open letter, the overall estimated net savings from all 24 Ontario colleges was around $135 million. However, only $5 million will remain after strike expenses.

In the open letter, the eight student associations are urging the provincial government to assist in funding the Student Support Fund, in order for all students from across all 24 colleges in Ontario to receive $500 in reimbursement for their hardships resulting from the strike.

“I think the main point we are all fighting for is to get that equal support for all the students that experienced the hardships of the strike,” Huckla said.

Students can read the open letter at fsu.ca/docs/Student-Support-Fund-2017.pdf.