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U of T mulls program changes

TYP helps queer youth adjust to university

University of Toronto has proposed cuts to its Transitional Year Program (TYP), which would put the program under the control of Woodsworth College where it would share academic and student services with the school’s Academic Bridging Program (ABP).

Both TYP and ABP serve students who have not completed high school, but TYP has a particular focus on marginalized communities, serving a large number of queer students and students of colour. It offers services to help them make the transition to academic life easier.

“Students in TYP aren’t just catching up academically,” says Ayden Scheim, a recent graduate of the program who is leading a petition to maintain TYP’s funding and staffing. “They’re dealing with financial issues, they’re the first people in their families to go to university, they’re often part-time students, they often have children. The program often has a curriculum that represents the students, which isn’t always represented in the rest of the university.”

About 50 students are part of TYP each year, and Scheim notes with pride that in the last five years, four TYP alumni have earned U of T national scholarships.

Scheim is specializing in sociology at the university and credits TYP with helping him catch up academically after dropping out of high school.

“Like many TYP students, there wasn’t one reason why I dropped out,” he says. “I was 17, living independently, working part-time to pay my rent, living two hours from my alternative school. I switched schools many times. I had only seven credits when I should have had 20, although I had a 92-percent average. At the time I was transitioning from female to male. It was the best decision I made.

“The program has a really different set of values, structures and admission policies from the rest of the university. The way it has maintained those is by being an independent program that reports to the provost directly. It has separate and tailored student services, the things that make it possible for TYP students to be successful,” says Scheim.

The university’s statement reads that it does not intend to close the program but notes that changes must be made to the services it offers as the university navigates the recession.

“In these extraordinary and difficult economic times the University of Toronto is putting much energy into trying to enhance and improve the budget for TYP, which gets minimal funding from the province,” reads a statement on the TYP website.

Scheim doesn’t buy it.

“One of the ways that the university attacks the program is to claim that TYP students aren’t smart enough, motivated enough to make it. That’s a view that’s totally racist, classist and inaccurate,” he says.

Scheim says the students mobilizing to maintain TYP’s status quo will attempt to lobby the university’s governing council, who are the ultimate authority on the fate of the program.

This comes just after U of T’s  faculty of arts and sciences announced that students will be charged a flat tuition fee rather than paying on a per-course basis. This will significantly raise tuition for part-time students, including many independent students who must work to support themselves.

“People’s academic experience is going to suffer,” says Scheim.