Milton campus delayed indefinitely

Graphic by Kate Turner.
Graphic by Kate Turner.

Wilfrid Laurier University first began exploring the possibility of creating a new campus in Milton in 2008. But for the past two years, the realization of such a campus has been put on pause as Laurier, and other universities and colleges in Ontario seeking to expand, await a new policy from the provincial government.

Brian Rosborough, senior executive officer of the Brantford campus, explained that in 2011, the ministry of training, colleges and universities put a moratorium on “new so-called satellite campuses” until they released a policy on their creation.

“It’s expected to classify what the government means by satellite campuses,” Rosborough explained. “And how they’re planning on regulating the development of new ones and potentially how they’re going to support the development of new ones.”

The policy was originally expected to be released before the election in 2011. Now Rosborough said they are anticipating its release this fall.

“We’re in the process right now of determining next steps,” said Brad Duguid, minister of training, colleges and universities.

“We’re in discussions right now of ‘where do we go from here?’ to ensure that proponents like Laurier can have some clarity as to what their next steps are going to be.”

The formation of this policy was instigated, he explained, from the government’s identification of a student need; the province has seen 161,000 students being added to the system over the past few years.

“There are now certain regions in our province that, if you look to where growth is going to be in the future and to where the gaps are now, are not as well-served as they need to be in the area of post-secondary education,” he continued.

According to Chris Walker, former vice-president of university affairs at the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, Milton is one of these areas.

“I think if [the government does] decide to build another campus, Milton is definitely on the shortlist being just outside of the GTA,” he said. “It’s one of the more populated areas — Milton is a fast growing city, so it does make a lot of sense.”

Walker commented that the university has already put in the effort to make a proposal to prove that Laurier is the right institution for Milton.

Rosborough confirmed, “We have made a number of formal submissions to the government supporting our proposal.”

Duguid also made note of Laurier’s efforts to make their goals visible, saying that Max Blouw, president of the university, “puts forward a very compelling case” and that “the officials involved with the Milton proposal and president Blouw have really worked hard to get out in front and be very proactive in putting together what’s a very impressive partnership.”

He did add, however, that there is interest across the province in terms of expansion and that he anticipates competition between institutions.

Milton already has 150 acres of land for the site of the anticipated campus. As well, Laurier made the commitment that they would invest $2.4 million in a velodrome for the 2015 Pan Am Games pending on the creation of the campus.

Jim Butler, VP of finance and administration at Laurier, explained that the velodrome would be located on a corner of the property that is to be part of the new campus, and would serve as an athletic facility for the institution after the games. However, the actualisation of this is dependent on timing as the university will not be investing until the campus has been confirmed.

Walker voiced that he “wouldn’t hold [his] breath” that the campus will be happening anytime soon, however, as he asserted that the government has other priorities at the moment.

But Rosborough explained that the university has a long-term view on campus expansion.

“It’s taking a while to determine what will happen in Milton, but it’s a very long-term vision that we have and therefore it’s worth spending the time that’s needed to try to make it happen.”

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