Laurier plays the waiting game on Milton campus
While discussion around a potential Milton campus for Wilfrid Laurier University has been consistent for the past few years, progress and movement towards the materialization of that particular project has been slow and minimal.
“Right now, we’re in the ‘go slow’ stage,” explained WLU president Max Blouw. “In the sense that the [provincial] government announced to us back in the spring of 2011 that they were putting in place in effect a competitive open bid system for the development of satellite campuses.”
Reinforced by their throne speech when they were re-elected in the fall, the Liberal party has set up a bidding process in which they will announce, at later date, the three universities and sites they will give capital funding to.
But in the mean time, Laurier has been working with Milton, as part of the town’s planned education village — a 450-acre plot of land on the western boundary of the town.
“We’re quite far down the road in terms of being ready when the province gives us the green light,” said Brain Rosborough, director of government relations at WLU, adding that the university has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Milton. “In terms of the explicit deal, we really have to wait until the province sets out what its plans are.”
According to Rosborough, the town has agreed to give 150 acres of the land reserved for the education village, making the proposed campus the central hub of that village. No other universities, beside WLU, appear to have interest in the land at Milton.
“Now, the community has come on board with 150 acres of land at no cost. The region has agreed that it will service that land. We’re bringing a lot to the process already, the partnership that’s behind this,” continued Blouw.
But from the government standpoint, the process is still in the early stages.
“There’s no commitment to a Milton campus at this point. Laurier will have to apply [through the bidding process],”said Glen Murray, the minister of training, colleges and universities for the Ontario government.
Murray also noted that, if WLU were to receive the capital funding from the government, there would still be months of subsequent work.
According to Rosborough, the interest in Milton mainly has to do with the rapid growth of the town and its close proximity to other Greater Toronto Area (GTA) communities. One of the goals of the government is to bring more affordable education, since they would be able to live at home, to students in the GTA.
“[Milton is] very fast growing, young families, high educational attainment, the province is building a lot of schools to keep up with the population, and you’re looking at a large number of prospective students there with no place local to go,” added Rosborough.
Though developments have been minimal, many organizations, such as the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU), have been planning in the event a Milton campus does emerge. WLUSU, just as they are doing for the Brantford campus, will reserve two spots on the board of directors for students from Milton.
“We’re committed to before students walk through those doors and we’re committed to even after students walk through those doors,” said Chris Walker, chief governance officer for WLUSU.
As for funds, the university is waiting for the government to say how much they will contribute before they determine the actual cost. But for now, the university will continue to wait on word from the government and how long that will be is also undetermined.
“As for timing, we really don’t know,” concluded Rosborough.