Post-secondary institutions increasingly eyeing Surrey market for expansion

The rapidly growing area’s younger demographic and dearth of post-secondary options are convincing SFU, Kwantlen and private institutions to expand their enrolment capacity south of ...

Joanne Curry, SFU Surrey’s executive director and associate vice-president of external relations, is disappointed that Victoria has not committed resources to expand SFU’s Surrey presence

Surrey’s combination of a large proportion of high-school students and young adults coupled with its limited number of post-secondary options is convincing post-secondary institutions to open new facilities or seek expansion opportunities in the fast-growing suburb.

Simon Fraser University (SFU), Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), CIBT Education Group and Brighton College are some of the institutions with planned or desired expansion in Surrey.

SFU, for example, is seeking $90 million from Victoria to build a 120,000-square-foot building near its current Surrey City Centre campus on 4.3 acres that it partly owns (and has an option to buy the remainder). The project would be the first phase of a much larger expansion and enable SFU to educate an additional 800 students at an extra cost to the province of approximately $9 million annually.

Joanne Curry, SFU Surrey executive director and associate vice-president of external relations, told Business in Vancouver she was disappointed that B.C.’s Ministry of Finance’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services (SSCFGS) didn’t make specific recommendations to fund the expansion in its November 15 report.

SSCFGS consults the public about what should appear in the next provincial budget.

Curry believed that the SSCFGS would recommend money for SFU’s proposal because the Surrey Board of Trade and the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association strongly endorsed the proposal to the committee.

“I was truthfully hoping for something more specific,” she said, “but we’re in a pre-election period, and we’re optimistic about the future.”

Curry estimated that 70% of SFU Surrey’s 3,500 students live south of the Fraser and that 50% come from Surrey. Curry’s goal is to double that enrolment to 7,000.

KPU spokeswoman Joanne Saunders similarly estimated that 80% of her university’s 19,000 students come from south of the Fraser and most come from Surrey.

“We would love to expand,” she said. “As of now, there are no plans to expand because we would have to get the funding from somewhere first.”

Brighton College, a private institution that has vocational colleges in Burnaby and Vancouver, plans to open a Surrey campus January 1.

CIBT Education Group (TSX:MBA) CEO Toby Chu wants to expand in Surrey and told BIV that he’s exploring opportunities there.

CIBT has owned Sprott-Shaw Community College since it bought that 99-year-old vocational education institution for $12 million in 2007. CIBT then bought the English-as-a-second-language school KGIC Education Group Inc. for $9 million in 2010.

Chu said both Sprott-Shaw’s Surrey campus and KGIC’s King George International College Surrey campus are at capacity. He plans to open a new Sprott-Shaw campus south of the Fraser River, in Richmond, on January 2. 

gkorstrom@biv.com

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