More than a week after the school year was supposed to start at colleges and universities across the country, most of Israel's 60 technological colleges still haven't opened.

The colleges - where more than 20,000 students are seeking certification as practical engineers, a job that falls somewhere between engineer and technician - went on strike to protest their difficult financial situation.

The strike will continue Tuesday, despite progress in negotiations with the government over an infusion of funds.

According to the Forum of Technology Colleges, many of the technical schools are on the brink of closure and urgently need the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, which oversees them, to give them an extra NIS 40 million.

The forum blames the colleges' financial woes on "criminal neglect" over the past decade, during which the institutions' government funding was repeatedly cut. The colleges are now demanding that the government fund them at the same level as it funds the so-called academic colleges, saying the extra money is needed to purchase laboratory equipment, build additional classrooms and hire teachers.

On Sunday, forum representatives held their first negotiating session with representatives of the finance and industry ministries.

The talks continued yesterday, and the forum said late in the day that they were making good progress. But it decided the strike would continue anyway since no agreement has been finalized.