Pursuing a university education can be daunting, especially for those who have faced obstacles in completing a high school diploma or attaining other admissions prerequisites. The Transitional Year Program at the University of Toronto Scarborough is making university education accessible to those who have faced educational barriers.
The new Transitional Year Program (TYP) at the University of Toronto Scarborough (TYP@UTSC) offers a pathway for Black and Indigenous adults, as well as other groups who have experienced barriers to education.
The 9-month program focuses on building community among the adult students enrolled, as they undertake a series of university courses with extensive support. Additional non-credit workshops help to demystify university and build academic skills. Those who successfully complete the program are immediately eligible to enrol as a degree-seeking student if they choose.
Returning to school can be intimidating. The program understands that and has a team of people supporting students – even offering help with completing the admissions application. Staff are on hand to provide academic advising, accessibility accommodations, mental health support, career planning strategies, financial advice, and more.
What I learned got me to where I am now, and increased my confidence, I’m grateful that a program like this exists. Everyone deserves the chance to learn.
“I’ve always wanted to go back to school. I left college after having my child,” Charmaine Allen explains. Charmaine spent many years in retail management before enrolling in the pilot year of TYP@UTSC, where Charmaine benefitted from the program’s many supports, including one-on-one writing assistance and advising.
Ven Triratana Samanera is a Buddhist monk who came to Canada from Thailand three years ago. “I love TYP,” he said, shortly before completing the program. “I don’t want to leave. Everyone is helping each other.” As a new English speaker, he built confidence with the help of writing support, professors, and his peers.
The original Transitional Year Programme on the St. George campus was established over 50 years ago by Black and Indigenous community educators and graduate students. They wanted to increase the numbers of Black and Indigenous students enrolled at the University of Toronto and provide a pathway to more viable employment.
Recognizing a need for a similar program to serve residents of the eastern Greater Toronto Area, faculty and staff from both campuses collaborated in the design of TYP@UTSC. The programs share a commitment to activism and community engagement designed to center Black and Indigenous voices towards the goal of making a university degree more accessible to all disenfranchised adults. This work was made possible by a grant from the University of Toronto’s Access Programs University Fund (APUF).
UTSC’s commitment to increasing access for underrepresented populations is not new. “Our campus has been actively engaged in access work with Black communities for the past 16 years,” says Dr. Kathy Liddle, Director of TYP@UTSC. “Black and Indigenous communities have been systematically excluded from higher education for generations. This program is our most recent step toward rectifying that.”
Tuition, fees, and textbooks will be covered for those admitted to the program. Financial advisors can help identify other funding sources to help with living expenses if necessary, both during the program and after a student progresses into degree studies. “Our goal is to remove as many barriers as possible,” says Dr. Liddle.
The cornerstone of the University of Toronto Scarborough’s strategic plan is, “Inspiring Inclusive Excellence.” It emphasizes embracing and promoting the enriching contributions that come from the diverse backgrounds, ways of knowing, ideas, perspectives, and experiences represented in its community.
TYP@UTSC is actively recruiting Black and Indigenous students, students from LGBTQ2+ communities, sole-support parents, persons with disabilities, and individuals from working-class backgrounds of all ethnicities and communities who have experienced barriers to education. The next cohort will begin studies in September 2022.
“What I learned got me to where I am now, and increased my confidence,” Charmaine Allen adds. “I’m grateful that a program like this exists. Everyone deserves the chance to learn.”