More than 700 college students in Greater Sudbury have dropped out of their programs following this fall's nearly five-week-long faculty strike.
After school resumed in November following the labour dispute, the province promised a full tuition refund for students who decided to walk away from their college studies.
They had two weeks after school started again to decide whether or not they wanted to continue with the semester. The deadline was Tuesday, Dec. 5.
Cambrian College said 610 students have dropped out following the strike, and Collège Boréal said it has 126 students who dropped their courses.
The schools are still waiting for a breakdown of how many students chose to withdraw because of the impact of the strike versus those who dropped out for other reasons.
However, last year at this time, 130 students had dropped out at Cambrian and 60 at Boréal.
Cambrian College spokesperson Dan Lessard said in an email that the college estimates tuition refunds will cost the institution about $1.4 million.
The province has also required colleges to establish dedicated student support funds with net savings from the strike that will assist students who have experienced financial hardship as a result of the strike.
Full-time domestic and international students will be eligible to receive up to $500 for incremental unexpected costs they incurred, such as additional child care fees, rebooked train or bus tickets or January rent.
Lessard said about 600 Cambrian students have applied for this grant. He said there may also be other financial impacts on the college.
“We've also put in place extra supports for students such as tutoring and counselling services to help students cope, and there are costs associated with that,” he said.
“We also have to see what the arbitrator awards faculty during binding arbitration, which may also have a financial impact on us.
“We'll only really know the full financial impact by the end of this school year, as students can apply to the Student Strike Relief Fund until the end of the academic year.”
Émilie Charette, president of Boréal's student association, l'Association générale des étudiants et étudiantes (AGEE), said she's heard from several students who have dropped out of college following the strike.
“It's mostly students that already had difficulty in school and were already thinking of dropping out — people that weren't satisfied,” she said. “When the opportunity came, they took it.”
As for the $500 Student Strike Relief Fund grant, Charette said her association encouraged all students to apply who thought they may be eligible.
“We suggested everyone apply, because taking the chance of hopefully getting that money is better than not doing anything,” Charette said.