Tuition Refunds and the Student Support Fund
For the first time in history, Ontario college students have the option to receive a full tuition refund if they choose to withdraw from the Fall semester due to the recent faculty strike. CSA advocated specifically for tuition refunds directly to the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD).
Students will have a two-week window to return to classes, determine how comfortable they are with a condensed semester, and then have the option to withdraw and receive a full tuition refund. Apprentices who are unable to complete in-school training are also eligible for a full refund of classroom fees. If students choose to stay in school, they will receive Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) funding for the length of their semester extension. The Ministry also confirmed OSAP extension payments for students will begin in mid-December, and if students choose to withdraw, their OSAP grants will not be turned into loans.
Withdrawals are completed at an institutional level; you must contact your college in writing to withdraw from the semester and receive a tuition refund.
CSA is also pleased the Student Support Fund, advocated for by CSA, is an option for students to receive some financial compensation due to the strike. Though CSA specifically advocated for all students at all colleges to receive an equal amount from the fund, we are relieved the Ministry has ensured funding is there for students who need it most.
Through the fund, students are eligible to receive up to $500 for unexpected costs they incurred during the strike, like rebooked train or bus tickets, January rent, and more. The Ministry has said students will be able to apply to their college for financial assistance through the fund starting this week. As well, any strike-related support will not count against a student's OSAP assessment in the future.
In addition, student associations must be involved with any dispute resolution between a student and their institution regarding the Student Support Fund. This is an important role for student associations to play in protecting the interests of students, especially given the academic, emotional, and financial burdens students are faced with.
Read the announcement from MAESD: http://bit.ly/2mJLT6x
Find frequently asked questions below. We'll update this blog as more answers are available.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS - last updated Dec. 4, 2017.
What is the process for applying to withdraw/for the support fund?
The support fund will be administered by each college. College financial aid offices have existing processes in place to support the assessment of applications and payments to students. Students will apply for aid and will need to provide evidence to demonstrate costs have been or will be incurred. Students will be able to submit applications until the end of the winter term.
Students applying for a tuition fee refund must make the application to their registrar’s office in writing, notifying the college of their intention to withdraw and the reasons why they are unable to complete the program or continuing education course which must be strike related. This request must be submitted no later than two weeks after the end of the strike.
How much detail will students need to provide to get reimbursed?
Colleges will communicate the details of the application process to their students and it will depend on the type of expense. In most cases, students should expect to show documentation of the additional costs they have incurred. Colleges will have a dispute resolution mechanism in place to ensure adequate review of decisions.
Who does the refund policy apply to?
The tuition refund policy applies to both full-time and part-time college students, regardless of the source of their tuition funding, who are unable to complete their program as a result of the strike.
Students applying for a tuition fee refund must make the application to their college in writing, notifying the college of their intention to withdraw and the reasons why they are unable to complete the program or continuing education course which must be strike related. This request must be submitted no later than two weeks after the end of the strike.
Partial tuition fee refunds will not be granted.
In the spirit of transparency, will a report back on how the funding was allocated be made public? What will happen to unused funds? Will institutions keep them?
Yes, colleges will report publicly on the amount of support provided through the fund. If savings identified exceed student claims, the surplus funding will be used by the colleges to support student learning by providing additional learning supports, such as additional tutoring or library hours.
Will all students who apply and are approved receive something from the support fund? Or is it a first come, first served basis?
All full-time domestic and international students who remain enrolled in their studies will be eligible for the student support fund. A key principle of this fund is that no student will be turned away because of insufficient funds.
How does this impact OSAP in general?
If students choose to stay in school, they will receive Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) funding for the length of their semester extension. The Ministry also confirmed OSAP extension payments for students will begin in mid-December, and if students choose to withdraw, their OSAP grants will not be turned into loans.
Will OSAP view the Student Support Fund as additional income?
Any strike-related support will not count against a student's OSAP assessment.
If students withdraw & receive tuition refund, are they still eligible for the support fund?
Students who withdraw will receive a tuition refund and will not be eligible for any additional support through the fund.
How will OSAP extensions be administered? Will students have to apply for the extensions or will we automatically qualify? Students currently receiving OSAP who have their current semester extended will receive additional OSAP for the length of the extension. Financial Aid Offices at colleges will work with OSAP to update the study dates in the OSAP system, and this will result in automatic assessments for the additional study period. Students will not be expected to apply for additional funding through OSAP.
If students withdrew due to the strike before Nov 20, are they still eligible for a refund? Students are eligible for tuition refunds if they are withdrawing for strike-related reasons. In general, students withdrawing before the end of the labour disruption did so before knowing the length of the disruption and what accommodations to complete their programs would be available to them. Since ministry direction was not yet in place, colleges likely would have applied their regular refund policies for those students. It is suggested that students direct questions about their specific situations to their college. Colleges will have a dispute resolution mechanism to review whether their withdrawal can reasonably be considered strike-related.
Is the extra OSAP granted for semester extensions a loan or grant? Students attending Ontario’s 24 publicly-funded colleges who had active OSAP applications in the 2017-2018 academic year will have the opportunity to be assessed for additional OSAP assistance to support living expenses they may incur for extended studies. These additional supports will be made available to eligible students by adjusting the study period information on their OSAP applications. As a result, the OSAP assessment will take into account a longer study period, and will calculate living allowance according to the assessment rules currently applied to OSAP applicants.
Consistent with the OSAP assessment formula and in alignment with the OSAP transformation initiative, eligible students will be assessed for assistance comprised of grant and loan funding. This will limit the amount of debt students incur as a result of the strike.
The Ministry has maintained close communications with the financial aid community throughout the labour disruption, and will be providing technical instructions to Financial Aid Offices at Ontario colleges to process adjustments to student OSAP records arising from study period extensions.
Is the payment release for regular OSAP being altered due to extensions?
The Ministry is working closely with the Financial Aid Offices (FAOs) across all 24 colleges to ensure Confirmation of Enrolment (COE) is being completed on time so there will be no disruptions to the disbursement of OSAP for the winter term.
Do provincial grants turn into loans if a student chooses to withdraw under the Tuition Fee Refund policy? OSAP will not convert grants to loans for any college student who has withdrawn or dropped courses due to the strike.The college strike may result in some students withdrawing from classes because of disruptions to the fall semester. Therefore, reassessments after course drops or withdrawals (that occurred between Oct. 16 and Dec. 5 as a result of the strike) will not result in any OSAP grants being converted to repayable loan. Financial Aid Offices at Ontario’s public colleges have been made aware of this direction and will be working with the ministry to implement this exception to students affected by the college strike. Is the non-refundable deposit an administrative fee that is required to be reimbursed to students who choose to withdraw due to the strike? Yes, colleges will be required to refund tuition deposits for students who use the tuition refund policy.
Are ancillary fees covered by the tuition fee refund?
Students withdrawing from programs or continuing education courses which were affected by the academic strike can apply for a full tuition fee refund of the 2017 fall semester, and any tuition and ancillary fees paid for the next or subsequent semesters. As well, no administration fee can be withheld. Ancillary fees for this semester may be refunded depending on the institution.
Is there support for loss of wages? For example, students who would have been finished in early December and would have been able to start their career but will now be losing approximately a month’s wages as they will not be finished mid-January.
All full-time domestic and international students who remain enrolled in their studies will be eligible for the student support fund. Eligible expenses are those that are incremental due to strike related reasons and that represent the reasonable-cost solution to the problem. Examples of eligible costs could include incremental travel costs, incremental child care expenses, or incremental living expenses such as the cost to extend rent for a month to accommodate the fall term extending into January or the cost to purchase a transit pass for an additional month.
Will board exam dates be pushed back as well for students such as nurses, paramedics, dental hygienist, etc. who may only have a week to study and prep instead of a full month or longer?
Certification examinations are administered by their respective professional bodies. We encourage students to contact the associations administering the examinations for further information.
I'm an international student. What are my options?
According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada: “In general, international students must continue to meet the conditions that are set out on their study permits. This includes continuing to be enrolled at a designated learning institution and continuing to pursue their studies. There are a number of possible scenarios for international students as they consider their post-strike options:
Students who continue to remain enrolled and actively pursue their studies following the strike: There will be no impact on the immigration status of students who, following the strike, continue to remain enrolled and actively pursue their studies at their designated learning institution. The interruption in studies caused by the strike will not affect a study permit holder’s eventual eligibility for a post-graduation work permit.
Students who accept the refund and are enrolled at a designated learning institution for the January 2018 semester: There will be no impact on the immigration status of students who withdraw from the 2017 Fall semester and are enrolled at a designated learning institution for the January 2018 semester. Students will be eligible for on- or off-campus work after they resume full-time classes in January 2018. The interruption in studies caused by the strike will not affect a study permit holder’s eventual eligibility for a post-graduation work permit.
Students who accept the refund and are not enrolled at a designated learning institution for the January 2018 semester: Students who withdraw from the 2017 Fall semester, and are not enrolled at a designated learning institution for the January 2018 semester, may change their status to “visitor” if they wish to remain in Canada or they may leave Canada altogether. Students who choose this option no longer meet the eligibility requirements for either on- or off-campus work or a co-op work permit, and will not be eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.
Students who accept the refund and are enrolled at a designated learning institution for the Summer or Fall 2018 semester: Students who withdraw from the 2017 Fall semester, and are enrolled at a designated learning institution for the Summer or Fall 2018 semester, may change their status to “visitor” if they wish to remain in Canada. Students who choose this option no longer meet the eligibility requirements for on- or off-campus work or the post-graduation work permit program. Students who change their status to visitor will need to apply for a new study permit from abroad if they wish to return to full-time studies.”
This page will be updated with more questions and answers as they become available.