The province has announced that full-time Ontario college students who decide to withdraw from school as a result of the five-week faculty strike will be given a full tuition refund.

The announcement was made by the Ontario government on Monday morning.

The provincial government previously directed colleges to create a fund for students with the money saved from the strike. In addition to a full refund for those who withdraw, full-time students who decide to stay can apply to receive up to $500 for unexpected costs they incurred due to the strike.

Unanticipated costs include additional child care fees, train or bus tickets that required rebooking, or additional rent costs in January.

Apprentices, according to the province, will also be able to apply for a full refund of classroom fees if they cannot complete their in-school training due to the labour disruption.

About 500,000 students have been out of the classroom since Oct. 15 after contract talks broke off between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents striking staff, and the College Employer Council, which represents Ontario’s 24 colleges.

Back-to-work legislation was passed over the weekend and teachers will return to work today in preparation for the resumption of classes on Tuesday.

Colleges have extended the fall semester to make up for lost time.

“These financial supports for students were determined through consultations with student leaders and their provincial associations and colleges,” the province said in a news release issued Monday.

“The province will continue to work with students and colleges to finalize implementation plans in the coming days.”

In a statement issued Monday, the College Student Alliance said they are thankful that students will have the option for a full refund if they choose to withdraw.

“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,” the group’s press release read.

“In addition to a tuition refund, students 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.”

The province has noted that strike-related support will not count against a student’s OSAP assessment.

Joel Willett, the president of the College Student Alliance, said his team met with Ontario Education Minister Deb Matthews multiple times during the strike.

“We are thankful students finally have a voice after five long weeks of being ignored,” Willet said.