(Photo by Doug Clement Photography)

A new report conducted by Royal Roads University has found that Langford and the West Shore could see significant benefits if it opened its own local university.

The report identified challenges in accessing post-secondary education in the West Shore, and found that without a local option, location, cost, and housing were large deterrents for students.

“Research has shown that post-secondary participation rates are higher when there is a local option available,” reads the report.

See also: Province looks at making post-secondary education more accessible in the West Shore

Over the past decade, the West Shore has seen a huge surge in population which increased by 49% between 2001 and 2016, with a predicted growth of another 27% over the next decade.

But while the population in the area has risen, the number of high school graduates that go on to attend university is much lower in the West Shore than BC’s average.

“Just 17.2% of graduates are attending university, almost half the provincial average of 34.1%,” reads the report.

Barriers of location, cost, and housing

The report found that multiple accessibility barriers can discourage West Shore graduates from pursuing a post-secondary education.

If students look to other Island communities for their schooling, they must manage lengthy commute times or look for affordable housing near universities, which can be difficult to find.

“Access to affordable housing near UVic and Camosun campuses is extremely difficult to find and often unavailable…” reads the report. “If affordable housing close to campus cannot be obtained, West Shore students often choose to continue to live at home to manage costs.”

“First-year post-secondary students rarely have their own personal vehicle and typically need to rely on public transportation. Depending on where in the West Shore a student resides, daily commute times to campuses vary between just over an hour to nearly four hours.”

While the lengthy commute times are already unattractive, they also further deter post-secondary attendance as it makes it difficult for students to find simultaneous employment to support the cost of their education.

Next steps

While the report concludes that there would be significant benefits to opening a post-secondary institution in the West Shore, it also lists a number of challenges.

Firstly, the report recommends that further research must be conducted on the various education barriers, including distance, transportation/commute times, and housing options.

Secondly, a review of the population growth forecast and graduation/enrolment predictions would be needed to determine a West Shore university’s realistic demand.

Lastly, a full and detailed analysis of the project would have to be conducted. The report recommends that the provincial government fund a comprehensive business case, which would cover infrastructure needs, site selection and design, financial analysis, timelines, and the entire academic curriculum designed in collaboration with the school district and other South Island post-secondary institutions.

The full report conducted by Royal Roads University can be found online here.

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