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Demographer criticizes plans to expand infrastructure

May 28, 2009

David Foot, the demographer who penned Boom, Bust and Echo and has moved demography to the center of social and economic considerations, argues that spending infrastructure money to expand universities is a waste of money. In the Globe and Mail today, he is quoted as suggesting that the current round of spending will do little but create new buildings with empty classrooms and graduate new PhDs without undergraduates to teach. 

His suggestions are based on the observation that post-secondary institutions are currently flush with the peak population of the “echo generation”, the children of the huge baby boom generation. Far fewer students in elementary and secondary students are coming through the system, suggesting that expanding to accomodate today’s numbers will leave a huge oversupply in five to ten years. Furthermore, he suggests that while large urban centres like Toronto may see continued increases in enrolment, the drop-off in enrolment will be even more severe at secondary centres like Peterborough or Sudbury. He therefore suggests retrofitting and fixing current infrastructure instead of expanding.

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