As the Ontario college strike nears its fifth week, students say they are becoming increasingly anxious about how they will be able to complete their semester.

Speaking to CP24 on Thursday morning, Joel Willet, the president of the College Student Alliance, said students never anticipated being out of the classroom this long.

“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,” Willett said.

“Students are petrified that they’ve lost the knowledge that they gained in the first half. They are concerned about what the rest of the semester could look like after such a big gap in their learning.”

Centennial College student Lovey Reid told CP24 the strike has been very “stressful” for students who have “more questions than answers.”

“It’s been so long. We’ve lost our routine and it is just that fear will we be able to be as successful when we return to school,” she said.

“How are we going to manage trying to compress an entire semester within those last four or five weeks?”

Approximately 500,000 students have been out of the classroom since Oct. 16 when faculty at 24 Ontario colleges walked off the job.

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.

While the CEC is taking its latest offer, which has been rejected by the union, directly to faculty members for a vote scheduled to take place next week, Willett said students can’t waste any more time waiting.

He said the College Student Alliance is asking the two sides to agree to binding arbitration, which would end the strike and force the union and the CEC to work with a mediator to find a solution.

“We asked that both parties ask for arbitration so that we can see students back in class as soon as possible,” he said.

“It’s a very big concern among all college students in Ontario at this point.”