The Brantford Expositor recently reported here that the Ontario Government cited Brantford as a “model community for the way it has reinvented itself through education.” While its true that there are more bricks-and-mortar post-secondary education options in Brantford, points in the article need clarity.
“reinvented itself through education” “model community for the successful attraction and implementation of post-secondary education”1
Post-secondary opportunities have existed in Brantford for decades. Mohawk College Elgin St. Campus, which now sits idle because Mohawk has left the city, was operated for 40 years. Institutions, e.g., Western University, have offered courses in Brantford. It’s a reminder that all you need for a classroom education is an instructor, some chairs, tables and technology—not multi-million dollar taj mahals.
“Residents have engaged and support council…”2
When and how were Brantford citizens asked if they want a satellite campus in their downtown and if they want the campus to takeover their downtown?
“We have had the opportunity to evolve successfully, pioneering a model that will be used by the province. ”3
Many municipalities offer post-secondary education. There’s nothing new about this concept.
A smart city or town knows that education, or any other sector, is not the be all and end all its existence. Education is one piece of the puzzle. Its fine to have an education facility in a downtown if that’s what citizens want. Since a downtown is, in part, a microcosm of a city—it is everybody’s downtown. Therefore, education is only one of the sectors that creates everybody’s downtown.
The campuses have “resulted in an annual economic impact of between $43 million and $58.5 million annually.”4
This 2011 estimate comes from the consulting firm Adventus Research Inc. The Grand Valley Education Society (a not-for-profit organization funded mainly by the education sector and government) hired Adventus to do a study. It is purely an estimate. What is more difficult to determine is has $43 million to $59 million in yearly economic activity taken place?
After 14 years, there are some new businesses in downtown Brantford, such as restaurants, business services and technology services, e.g., Wipro. Unfortunately, the downtown vacancy rate is still high (as are other commercial and industrial areas of the city). Brantford needs to move away from the over reliance on government stimulus and allow the private sector to build on the variety of sectors that exist.
The Brown Dog Coffee Shoppe, 53 Dalhousie St., which is up for sale, told the Expositor that their “bread and butter” is serving business customers, which is what the John Peel Restaurant across the street did for decades before it closed.
The Ontario Government is “committed to provide funding for 60,000 additional post-secondary education spaces across the province.”5
This doesn’t jive with The Drummond Report (Commission on the Reform of ON Public Services) that states: “the current Post-Secondary Education system is unsustainable from both a financial and a quality perspective.” It calls on government to:
– “contain funding and institutional expenses”
– create a “funding model that rewards degrees awarded rather than just enrolment levels”
– ensure that “universities and colleges not overlap in their functions (degree-granting) and programs”
Bricks-and-mortar campuses are less in demand because of MOOCs (massive open online courses). This will make it easier for government to contain and even reduce post-secondary education costs.
Education is important. But it must be kept in perspective, particularly when we are talking about the success of a whole city.
1-5. Expositor Staff. 2014. “Brantford cited as a model community,” Brantford Expositor, March 27.
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