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The City of Brampton is still planning to move ahead with smaller scale programs even after the province cut funding for the new Ryerson University campus.
The Ontario government cancelled a combined $307 million in funding last week for three planned satellite campuses in the GTA, $90 million of which was earmarked for a new Ryerson campus in Brampton. The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario cited budget constraints and the $15-billion deficit it says it inherited from the previous Liberal government.
Even without the cash to build a satellite campus, the city – which committed up to $150 million for the project – is hoping that Ryerson will still be interested in launching programming that does not rely on a new development.
“We’re both committed to this partnership to keep moving forward in one way or another,” said Paul Aldunate, project manager of the university initiative at the City of Brampton. “Sure we have a little bit of a setback, but we’ve identified a number of projects that we can move forward with.”
Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi agrees. He said Ryerson is still committed to a project – in some form – with its Brampton partner.
The campus, which was being developed in partnership with Sheridan College, included an innovation hub, cybersecurity programs and Chang School of Continuing Education courses. If these projects move ahead, Aldunate said they could open as soon as early 2019.
While these cheaper initiatives could be housed in existing buildings in Brampton’s core, according to Aldunate, it is still unclear whether the cancelled campus would be a deal breaker for Ryerson.
“I know (Ryerson) want(s) to continue with our relationship for sure,” he said. “We just need to talk about how we’re going to do it. Is it smaller scale?”
The city is continuing its search for an architecture firm. Brampton had whittled the options in its request for proposals down to a short list of six firms.
“We’re just going to have to redefine our project a little bit,” Aldunate said. “I think there’s an opportunity to move forward on it in other ways.”
The city was expecting an economic boon spurred by the new campus, estimating that the project would create more than 5,380 jobs, attract more retail businesses and lower downtown commercial vacancy rates.
For Ryerson, the campus would have been its first outpost. It would have competed for student enrolment with other post-secondary institutions with satellite campuses, such as the University of Toronto’s Mississauga and Scarborough locations and Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford site. The enrolment plan was to open the campus with an initial 2,000 students.
Like Brampton, Ryerson is not passing up on the opportunity just yet.
“I think it’s important for Ryerson to continue the collaboration and develop a plan for partnership in Brampton regardless of the decision by the government,” said Lachemi.
“The money was for infrastructure. In terms of programming, we’re thinking about bringing more funding from different levels of government. The discussion is still ongoing.”
Rather than duplicating programs offered at its Toronto campus, the Brampton site would offer unique areas of study, such as cybersecurity and business analytics, in addition to bringing university courses to the Brampton community.
“The main purpose was to serve students in their community and also offer something that we don’t already offer here,” Lachemi said.