Images from campaign launch

By Lucianna Ciccocioppo  / Photography by Dhoui Chang

From the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Nexus

The University of Toronto Faculty of Law has announced a $30 million campaign to significantly deepen the financial aid pool and enhance the student experience. The Campaign for Excellence without Barriers, with a specific goal of raising $20 million for student financial aid, is the largest bursary-focused campaign at any Canadian law school.

Increasing accessibility to the Faculty of Law for students who merit admission is the number one priority for the law school. The Faculty of Law awards bursaries only on the basis of financial need, to those students who need it most. Increasing the financial aid pool helps support applications by top candidates with financial need, alleviates stress for students during law school, and helps graduates make career decisions based on their choice and passion—often in social justice and public service areas, benefitting our communities. And the Faculty assists wiht eligible academic debt repayment with its unique Post-Graduate Debt Relief Program.

“It's fundamental that we continue to get the very best students interested in studying law here no matter their backgrounds,” says Dean Edward Iacobucci. “We need to have a diverse profession that reflects the range of experience that we're so proud of in this country. I think a great deal would be lost if financial obstacles prevented a broad range of people from attending the Faculty of Law.”

Student holding #Excellencewithoutbarriers signTo date, U of T Law alumni and other supporters have given more than $25 million to the Campaign for students, including $15 million for student financial aid—and the support keeps growing. Other gifts support co-curricular programming for students, such as legal clinics, mental health initiatives, professional skills development and other opportunities while in law school.

The number one priority is financial aid. “Student financial aid is important because it is imperative to recognize that there are barriers to education, and financial barriers do prevent students from studying law,” says Maressa Singh, JD/MBA Candidate 2019. “If we want the legal profession to be representative of the population that it serves, we need to identify these barriers and do something about it.”

“For a number of Canadians, the choice to go to law school or not is dependent on whether they can afford it,” says Alexandra McLennan, JD Candidate 2019. “For me, financial aid has made possible what initially seemed impossible. I would not be able to attend law school without this support. I would encourage future donors to consider the impact of their monetary donation on a future student’s life.”

“I’m here at the Faculty of Law because other people believed in me,” says Wanekia Dunn, JD Candidate 2019. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for their generosity. Donor support is critical to my being able to complete my law degree.”

Student and alumna holding Instagram frameA number of factors, including declining government support for post-secondary institutions, have created a sobering reality for many Canadian law schools. The Faculty of Law’s tuition fees, $36,720 for 2018-19, make possible a world-class academic experience and robust co-curricular programming, such as clinical and internship opportunities, combined degree programs, career services, to name a few, in addition to one of the best legal educations in the world.

“I am pleased to be a Campaign Co-Chair because I’m an ardent supporter of the Faculty of Law’s vision,” says Campaign Co-Chair Mark Wiseman, LLB/MBA 1996, Global Head of Active Equities for Blackrock and Chair of Blackrock Alternative Investors. “I understand first-hand the imperative to deepen financial aid. I received financial assistance during law school, and I worked throughout my studies.”

Co-Chair Melissa Kennedy, LLB 1987, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at Sun Life Financial, says: “I am a proud alumna and owe much to the law school, which I believe has helped my career and I know has forged many lifelong friends. Like many students, I worked to pay for my education and received financial aid as well, so I understand the importance of deepening financial aid at U of T’s Faculty of Law.  I am delighted to co-chair this campaign with Mark.”  

“Student financial aid is important because it is an investment in the leaders of the future, who will have to tackle the challenges that our community faces,” says first-year student Ahmed Elahi. “Hence, investing in students is tantamount to investing in the future.”

First-year student Sarah Feutl says: “The money you donated gives me a level of freedom to choose jobs and activities that will help me shape the well-rounded lawyer I one day hope to be.”

The campaign is expected to wrap up by December 2019. “The momentum for the Campaign for Excellence without Barriers has been tremendous. Through their generosity, our alumni have dramatically opened up opportunities for many brilliant and talented law students, and we are truly grateful,” says Dean Iacobucci.