B.C. to study West Shore college, with push from mayor

A proposal to establish another college or university campus on the fast-growing West Shore got a boost from the provincial government on Tuesday.

Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark announced $250,000 to study the idea at the urging of Langford Mayor Stew Young.

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The campus would focus on first- and second-year students.

“The mayor came to me with an idea,” Mark said. “He is very passionate. He’s got lots of partnerships out in the West Shore and Sooke, and our government wanted to sit down and have a conversation on what that could look like.”

Royal Roads University in Colwood will head the study in partnership with the University of Victoria, Camosun College and the Sooke school district. A report is expected by the end of the year.

“We know that Langford is a young population,” Mark said. “We need those young people going on to school, investing in themselves, investing in their future, that’s going to lead to good-paying jobs.”

Young wants to see a campus in downtown Langford that will allow local high school graduates to remain in the community and get a post-secondary education.

“We need to make sure that the transition is easy and seamless and affordable,” he said. “And we don’t have that right now.”

Sooke school district superintendent Jim Cambridge said students have to spend too much time travelling from the West Shore to the University of Victoria or Camosun College’s Lansdowne campus. “For kids from Sooke, who live in Sooke, they might as well go to the University of Toronto,” he said. “It’s a two-hour bus ride one way.”

Cambridge said some Sooke parents put their children in residence at the University of Victoria so they don’t have to juggle school work with a four-hour daily commute. “I truly believe it is a transition barrier for lots of our Grade 12s to attend university.”

Royal Roads president Allan Cahoon said the study will explore whether it makes sense to have another post-secondary campus on the West Shore.

“The question is: Is there a need by parents, by students, by business leaders, by governments, to do something here? And, if the answer is no, then by all means we’re not going to proceed. If there is something, then how could it be established in a collaborative, efficient, effective style?”

Cahoon said one idea would be to create a program on the West Shore that would “ladder” into Royal Roads, Camosun or UVic for completion of a degree. But, as to what the final proposal will look like exactly, Cahoon said: “If I knew the answer, we wouldn’t need the study.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

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