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College tuition refund figures release delayed

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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 yesterday, 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 likely is to cost Ontario colleges millions of dollars which otherwise would have 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 [Thursday] but they just aren't ready for that,” she added.

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 noted, adding the transition back to class has been hard on students and faculty alike.

“It's always going to be a little bit bumpy . . . 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 conceded. ”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 re-register for January or next September,” Matthews added.

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