The possibility of post-secondary in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows is once again being talked about by all levels of government.
A letter has been drafted to Melanie Mark, B.C. Minister of Advanced Education, to request an assessment of the need for post-secondary somewhere within the borders of School District No. 42.
However, it is too early to tell what that post-secondary will look like if it comes to fruition.
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare emphasized that the letter is just the beginning of a conversation.
“We know that post-secondary education is definitely critical to the future of the next generation here in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows,” said Beare, for the well-being of businesses, both communities and increase the quality of life for local residents.
Bear said that making education equitable is also vital for first nations and reconciliation by providing fair and even access to education all across the Lower Mainland to ensure that all students thrive.
Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden described the letter as a joint agreement and a process to make an application for funding, as well as a needs assessment to review viability for post-secondary within the region.
Morden noted that staff met with a community on Vancouver Island that has undergone the same process and assured them that “this is the way to put the groundwork in place to support a case for post-secondary in our community.
“From Maple Ridge’s perspective, when you’ve got kids who are coming out of graduation and they are unable to easily access post-secondary, there’s a gap there,” said Morden.
“There’s an element of risk, too, which is one we would like to mitigate and you do that by providing a transition step, maybe its a full year of entry into a university of some sort of post-secondary,” he continued.
In 2014, former Maple Ridge Coun. Bob Masse, who was on a task force to bring a multi-university campus to the city, was hoping that three acres that were lying empty along Selkirk Avenue could be a site for a post-secondary campus.
The post-secondary task force involved the cities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows and the District of Mission and, at that point, had been trying to find a way to attract a university or college for a few years.
Their goal had been to get a variety of schools to have their satellite operations to share building space, offering multiple course options.
Both Beare and Morden explained this new venture might not necessarily be a “bricks and mortar” opportunity.
“It may not be a campus,” said Beare.
“It may be increased skills in trades training, it may be tacking onto existing opportunities that are already here,” she said, noting that the Justice Institute of British Columbia already has a campus in Maple Ridge.
“It could be a number of opportunities and that’s what the conversation has to begin,” she said, adding that the local need has to be assessed.
Morden said the various levels of government are looking at a post-secondary facility within the borders of the school district and wouldn’t rule out the possibility of it being on first nations property.
“It’s an important piece to the retention of our youth,” he said, because they are going outside of the community where there are jobs and secondary education.
Post-secondary, Morden said, is a major piece of what is needed for a sustainable city.
“If you take a look at the primary three pieces of having a great city, is your economy, your economic side of things, then there’s your sustainable side of things, then there’s your environmental side of things. The two sub-sets to that, that really make it work, other key pieces to it, are post-secondary and transit,” said Morden.
Morden said there have been discussions with a “willing partner.”
Although the cost of a post-secondary facility needs assessment in this region, the one on Vancouver Island cost around $1.6 million, funded by the province.
Morden estimates assessment and funding approval will take a minimum of six months to a year.