All colleges affected by the ongoing strike in Ontario will now be required to dedicate funding to students facing “financial hardships,” the province said on Friday.

While all the details of this funding plan have not been confirmed, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Deb Matthews said that it will consist of the savings from the strike, which is nearing its fifth week.

Matthews said in a news release issued on Friday that she is “looking for the best ideas about how to make sure this reinvestment directly benefits students who have faced hardship.”

“Since the strike began, I have been clear that my focus is on students and their learning,” the statement read. “I have had the oppourtunity to meet with a number of student leaders and their provincial associations. I have heard from them about hardships students are experiencing as a result of this strike.”

“Students have been in the middle of this strike for too long and it’s just not fair.”

Matthews said that every student facing this ongoing strike has been impacted differently.

“They are worried about how to pay for unexpected costs like additional rent or canceling long-standing travel plans to be home with family,” she said. “They’ve told me they are stressed about when they will be able to complete their studies or if there will be any extra help when classes finally resume.”

On Thursday, president of the College Student Alliance Joel Willet told CP24 that students are becoming increasingly anxious about how they will complete this semester.

“Everybody did say we are expecting to be out three weeks roughly and then we should expect a settlement, but as this continues to drag on with only really one major issue on the table, it’s become just overwhelming for students,” Willet said.

About 500,000 students attending the 24 Ontario colleges affected have been out of the classroom since the strike began on Oct. 16.

The strike continues as the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents striking faculty, and the College Employer Council (CEC) have been unable to reach a tentative deal.

A vote is scheduled for next week after the CEC’s latest offer was rejected by the union and will be taken directly to faculty members to decide.