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Canadian billionaire and philanthropist Seymour Schulich, seen here at his office in Toronto on Sept. 18, 2006, completed his master’s of business administration in 1965 with the help of a scholarship.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

By 21, Emma Mogus had been the chief executive officer of a non-profit, an intern at Tesla, a biomedical inventor and had even had a moment on late-night television.

“I keep busy,” the fourth-year McMaster University student said. She’s one of hundreds of students across Canada testing an important question: What can someone achieve if they don’t have to work during school?

It’s an idea Canadian billionaire and philanthropist Seymour Schulich has been pondering since a scholarship helped him complete his master’s of business administration in 1965. Since 2012, the Schulich Leader Scholarship program has been testing the theory on a bigger scale, by paying for the undergraduate educations of some Canadian science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students.

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And in 2020, more students than ever will have the chance to be part of the program; the Schulich Foundation is doubling the amount of scholarships available, to 100 from 50 annual awards.

The program gives students demonstrating academic excellence and leadership the opportunity to pursue an undergraduate STEM degree at one of 20 Canadian partner universities, free of cost. Three hundred and seventy Schulich Leader Scholarships have been awarded across the country since the first wave of applications.

Lance Pitka, from Regina, was one of those first recipients, receiving $60,000 to pursue an electrical engineering degree at the University of Saskatchewan.

“The most beneficial part of university is the stuff you do outside of it,” Mr. Pitka said. “Because of [the scholarship], I was able to pay for school and not work during the year,” he added, instead using his time to do extracurricular activities and focus on his career path.

The experience he gained in those out-of-class activities – robotics club, an aircraft design team, working as a research assistant – helped him earn grants and scholarships to complete a master’s degree in digital signal processing. During his master’s, he started a company, Rivercity Innovations, which develops engineering solutions to reduce rural crime in Saskatchewan.

Yaakov Green was another early recipient of the scholarship, earning $60,000 to study biology at York University. He’s now a third-year medical student at Yale University.

Ms. Mogus, who is the second-oldest of five siblings, said it gave her “the financial freedom to be more selective about what I wanted to do,”

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“I would have had to work multiple minimum wage jobs, and my parents would have had to make a lot of financial choices in order to support sending five of their kids to school.”

By expanding the program, Mr. Schulich wants to keep Canada at the forefront of STEM innovation. He hopes students who receive the scholarship will focus their time on their studies, research projects and entrepreneurial ventures.

As many of the program’s early winners begin to complete their master’s degrees and enter the work force, “we’re going to see the direct impact of the Schulich program,” Mr. Pitka said.

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