WIT restructures diversity scholarship to further increase access

Starting in summer 2020, WIT will introduce changes to the structure of our diversity scholarship program in an effort to support more students and expand access to need-based applicants.

Three years ago WIT launched our scholarship with the goal of increasing diversity among the performers on our stage. With that in mind, we designed the scholarship to be need-blind and focused our resources on reducing barriers to the stage. We are thrilled with the early success.

To date, WIT’s scholarship has supported 46 students of color. Of these, 27 have completed the training program and 20 have been cast on WIT teams and projects (including four individuals on company ensembles).

While the number of scholarship recipients cast in WIT shows is a huge success, about 30 percent of recipients must leave the program. In fact, some aren’t able to start their first class with us (we maintain an alternates list to fill those spots) and many have to leave in the middle of the curriculum. Moving for a new job is the number one reason students cite for leaving the program.

With the increasingly competitive pool of applications, most applicants never get the opportunity to take a class. “It pains me to tell people we can’t get them into classes,” says Education Director Jonathan Murphy. “It’s incredibly competitive and we’re only able to fund about one in five applicants. There are lots of people with amazing stories who we want to help. But due to the all-or-nothing funding approach of the scholarship, as well as our focus on performance-track improvisers, we have to make really tough calls every session.”

The next phase of our scholarship efforts builds on the lessons we’ve learned from our current program and creates pathways for more students to start taking classes.

Moving forward, the program will be divided into two tracks: one designed to provide financial aid to need-based students for WIT’s training program and a second need-blind track that fully funds current WIT students to complete the program (levels 3-5).

Financial Aid for Underrepresented Communities: In the new structure, WIT will sponsor students from underrepresented communities to join WIT’s training program. Financial aid will be awarded based on need as well as factors such as race, ethnicity, social identity, and personal background. Applicant income is a consideration for the track.

Diversity Scholarship for Current WIT Students: WIT’s diversity scholarship focuses on students who increase the diversity of race and ethnicity in our classes program and on stage. This part of the program is an investment in students who wish to become performers on WIT’s stage. Factors such as teacher evaluations and student performance goals are criteria for selection for the second part of our scholarship.

“After three successful years, these changes reflect an evolution in our approach to lowering barriers for the greater DC community,” says Murphy. “Our goal is to serve as many individuals as possible while providing extra support to individuals who demonstrate a potential and desire to become performers.”

To be considered for Financial Aid for Underrepresented Communities and its corresponding deadlines, fill out the application form.

February 27, 2020