What's the Latest With Milton's Upcoming University?
It’s been established that a university is eventually coming to Milton, but when?
There haven’t been many major developments in the past few months, and it’s been in the pipeline for a long, long time.
Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) has been working with the Town of Milton and other public and private-sector partners for about 10 years to develop plans for a local university campus.
In 2014, the town extended the original memorandum of understanding (established in 2008) and agreed to donate 150 acres of land - worth $50 million - to the university as part of its endorsement of the Laurier Milton campus plan.
The 150-acre Laurier Milton campus is slated to be the focal point of the 400-acre Milton Education Village (MEV). It’s billed as a purpose-built, fully integrated community with a campus, innovation centre, integrated transit hub, housing, plus commercial development and amenities.
It’s a huge deal.
And now we’re hearing word that an announcement is on deck and are curious to know where the project currently stands.
So, we’ve asked some key players what the status is.
Here’s the response from the Town of Milton.
“My understanding of where we are” in the process is that “Laurier continues to work with the province in response to the RFP,” said manager of corporate communications and marketing Jodie Sales on Oct. 4.
The formal announcement by the province will include details on cost and the allocation of funding, split between locations in Milton and Brampton, Sales added.
Here’s the word from the university itself.
“Wilfrid Laurier University continues to follow the planning process set out by the Ontario government,” said Laurier’s director of communications and public affairs Kevin Crowley.
It was a year ago - October 2016 - when the Ontario government announced that Milton and Brampton had been selected as the host communities for the province’s Major Capacity Expansion project to establish a university presence in under-serviced, high-growth areas in Halton and Peel.
“Laurier subsequently submitted an Expression of Interest as per the process established by the Ontario government,” said Crowley.
In March 2017, the province announced that Laurier, in partnership with Conestoga College, was the sole applicant to formally express interest in developing a post-secondary site in Milton.
Ryerson University, along with Sheridan College, was the sole applicant to formally express interest in developing the Brampton site.
The schools will focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM), “and these new university sites will help to develop Ontario’s highly skilled workforce by increasing experiential learning opportunities, assisting students to acquire the talent and skills they need to thrive in the knowledge economy, and encouraging partnerships in high-demand fields,” according to the province.
“Since then, Laurier has been in discussions with provincial officials regarding the Milton proposal,” Crowley said.
“In late September, the university’s Senate and its Board of Governors endorsed a final proposal. This proposal was submitted to the province on Oct. 2.”
A final decision by the Ontario government is expected in late fall 2017.
The province is expected to spend a combined $180 million for the new postsecondary sites in Milton and Brampton.
We need this campus — Halton is completely underserved when it comes to post-secondary, and building a university will bridge that gap.
Outsourcing education to larger, more established parts of the Greater Toronto Area isn’t serving residents and taxpayers.
The city and towns in Halton can no longer be bedroom communities — it’s time step out of the shadows.
There are a few absolutes: the creation of this campus will result in jobs (in and out of the classroom), build community, and bolster the town’s reputation as a place to invest.
Trend reports have been showing us Milton is young (and keeps getting younger), growing, and educated.
In fact, the majority of people I went to high school with own homes in Milton — it’s affordable, conveniently located near major highways, and they boast of a high standard of living (and way larger yards).
The announcement - when it happens - is a long time coming.
Legwork is already being done for a campus, and the Town of Milton has been working on two key initiatives to create a presence for WLU.
The first is the Laurier Milton Lecture Series, which provides an opportunity for Laurier to engage in a public dialogue with local residents.
Such interaction is commonplace - and necessary - in any university town. (I love a good lecture series and even attend them on vacation, when possible).
It’s been running annually since 2009 and is a collaboration between WLU, the town and the Milton Public Library.
Lectures are held the second Wednesday of each month, from October to May, at the Milton Centre for the Arts.
Then there’s the MEV Innovation Centre.
As an early introduction to the MEV, the centre was officially opened in January 2014 in a transitional space at 555 Industrial Dr. and it’s become a space where innovation, education and training intersect.
As a community hub, the Innovation Centre is dedicated to fostering an entrepreneurial culture for local businesses, start-ups and incubators — again, essential for a town that’s experiencing a dramatic demographic and distinctly entrepreneurial shift.
Once its new home has been completed, the Innovation Centre will be relocated to the heart of the MEV.
The 400-acre integrated neighbourhood will be located within the boundaries of Derry Rd., Tremaine Rd., and Britannia Rd., adjacent to the Niagara Escarpment.
Milton is the fastest-growing municipality in Ontario (sixth overall in Canada), according to Statistics Canada, with 110,128 residents in 2016.
Currently, the combined 18-to-24-year-old population of Halton/Peel is nearly 200,000 and is anticipated to grow by almost 20 per cent by 2035.