Milton campus awaiting government approval
Wilfrid Laurier University has been discussing the possibility of a campus in Milton for seven years.
In 2007, just one month after joining the university, Laurier president Max Blouw received a letter from the town.
“40 other universities also received the same letter, inviting us to think about – investigate – setting up a campus in Milton,” he explained.
After following up with the letter, Blouw determined what they were offering was not feasible for the university.
“It was a very small parcel of land with a railway track on one side, a Go Train parking lot on the other and Main Street on the other, that wouldn’t serve as a campus,” he said. “So I suggested to them they needed to find more land, and if they did we might be interested in talking further.”
The town did just that, and by March 2008 a letter of agreement was signed. Since then, the university and the town have been working together to propose a Milton campus to the provincial government.
When asked what the attraction to Milton was, Blouw noted that it is “the fastest-growing municipal area in Canada.”
“It is a highly educated population, it’s a population that is young and that will demand great access to post-secondary education,” he said. “Proximity for folks to access a very high-quality university education is important, so it seemed like a great community to discuss the prospect of another campus with.”
On July 21, Milton Town Council voted unanimously to donate a $50 million, 150-acre parcel of land to Laurier to develop the proposed campus. However, according to Blouw, this offer is conditional upon government approval.
“The provincial government has a process in place. They’ve issued a request for proposals … they’ve invited all universities to indicate how they might do major expansion of their capital infrastructure to meet the growth of the student population.”
According to the Major Capacity Expansion Request for Proposals (RFP) guidelines, universities were to submit a letter of intent by June 27 this year. Full proposals are to be submitted by September 26.
Blouw explained the university is currently putting together a proposal to meet all criteria posed by the government in the RFP: strategic management of long-term enrolment growth and accessibility; differentiation, sustainability, and accountability; economic impact; quality, innovation and competitiveness; affordability for students and the province.
Blouw was unsure of how many other universities will be submitting proposals, but he speculated that the government may assess submissions and incorporate their decisions into the next budget cycle of government.
“It’s an exciting prospect to think the government may be getting close to making a decision which would enable really serious planning to take place,” he said.
However if Laurier is selected to expand, Blouw emphasized there would be at least two years of intensive planning before any construction could begin.
“In other words, people shouldn’t expect a new campus to start springing out of the cornfields within six months of a decision.”