New scholarship aims to remove barriers to entry for Black engineering students

Photo of a banner on the exterior of the Bahen Centre.  The banner is dark blue and cyan with the Faculty's crest and the words "#1 Engineering School in Canada" in white text.

The Bahen Centre for Information Technology is seen on St. George Campus. As a first-entry degree, the tuition for engineering programs at universities is significantly higher than many other fields. (Photo: Daria Perevezentsev)

 

By Safa Jinje

The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering has launched a new scholarship for the 2022-2023 academic year. The U of T Engineering Entrance Scholarship for Black Students will provide 10 annual scholarships valued at $10,000 each, renewable for four years for a total of $40,000, to incoming Black students for the next three academic years. 

“I hope that this attracts, excites and encourages more Black youth to consider U of T Engineering,” says Dawn Britton, Associate Director of U of T Engineering Outreach Office. “This is the first step, in what I hope will be many, of acknowledging our responsibility to remove barriers to access for this community.”  

Through the Engineering Outreach Office, academic enrichment programs such as Blueprint have provided education opportunities and mentorship to Black high school students who are interested in STEM and pursuing a career in engineering.  

“This scholarship is a piece of a larger framework of what the Faculty is trying to do to address the lack of inclusivity and pathways for Black individuals within engineering education, research and the wider profession,” says Mikhail Burke (MSE 1T2, BME PhD 1T8), who is the Dean’s Advisor on Black Inclusivity Initiatives.  

“It will help prime the foundation for the rest of the programmatic infrastructure that will hold us accountable, such as building support for entrepreneurship, graduate studies and research opportunities for Black students.” 

In 2019, the Faculty’s Black Inclusion Steering Committee published the Striving Toward Black Inclusivity report, which highlighted a variety of recommendations to address Black access, inclusion and success. One barrier to access that the Committee identified was financial need. 

While not all Black students need external financial support, the cost of an engineering education is a barrier for many. As a first-entry degree, the tuition for an Engineering program is higher than many other fields. Undergraduate tuition for a domestic student at U of T Engineering was $14,180 for the 2021-2022 academic year. 

“These $40,000 scholarships demonstrate that our commitment to supporting these students doesn’t end at the front door of our institution,” says Britton. “We want to actively support their success when they’re here. And part of being successful means that they need to have the burden of the costs reduced.” 

The scholarship application is part of the admissions process. Prospective students can fill out an Applicant Census and self-identify their ethnicity this information has no impact on the success of an application, as no one in the admission selection process can access this data, but it does give prospective students the opportunity to be contacted about scholarships. 

Applicants will also complete a needs assessment to determine their eligibility for financial supports, such as OSAP and UTAPS, which students can receive in addition to the new scholarship.   

I think that this funding will empower people to make a choice for their post-secondary future based on what they want, instead of what society and financial barriers are allowing them to do,” says Burke, who knows first-hand how life-changing a scholarship can be. 

“When I came to U of T Engineering as an undergraduate student, I had an Island scholarship from my home country Grenada, which paid for my tuition, books, and room and board,” he says. “That scholarship allowed me to thrive and focus on my studies in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to if I had the same financial stress that some of my Black peers had. I was able to just excel in school.” 

 The first cohort of scholarship recipients will be notified this spring when they receive their offers of acceptance. 

This story was originally published in the U of T Engineering News.


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