A new pathway for engineering students in Texas

Photo by Gabe Hernandez

We’re facing a challenge in Texas. Too few of our young adults have college degrees of any kind at a time when employers are demanding more skills and education. Only 34 percent of Texans ages 25 to 34 have either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, though projections show that in 10 years almost 60 percent of all jobs in Texas will require a postsecondary credential or degree.  

Likewise, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has projected that 1 million science, technology, engineering and math degrees would be needed over the next decade. In Texas alone, 62,000 engineers will need to join the workforce by 2022. Two years ago, Texas A&M University responded to this need by launching the “25 by 25” initiative, which will increase engineering enrollment to 25,000 students by 2025. But where will we find this next generation of engineers? Many of them will be in the classrooms of two-year institutions across the state. 

Some of the brightest students in Texas don’t have the opportunity to follow the traditional path to an engineering degree from a top-tier research institution because circumstances require them to stay close to home for the first two years of college. A new program has been developed to create a unique educational model for these students.

Today, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and I will be traveling to four Texas cities to announce the formation of the Texas A&M-Chevron Engineering Academies: at El Centro College in Dallas, Alamo Colleges in San Antonio, Texas Southmost College in Brownsville and Houston Community College in Houston. The academies will allow qualified students to simultaneously enroll at one of these two-year institutions and at the Texas A&M College of Engineering.  

This, however, is not a traditional transfer or distance-education program. The academy students are accepted into and enrolled in the Texas A&M College of Engineering from day one. Texas A&M engineering faculty will teach required freshman and sophomore engineering classes, lead engineering academic success programs and advise students on campus at the two-year institutions. We’re committed to supporting these students throughout their academic program, and upon completion of the required coursework, students will receive a degree from one of the premier engineering colleges in the nation. Through this co-enrollment program, students can live at home for the first two years of college, reducing the cost of a college degree without postponing their participation in an engineering program that is highly regarded by employers across the country.

Many engineering students will still choose to enroll at Texas A&M-College Station as freshmen, and we welcome them. In fact, we’re building a 500,000-square-foot educational facility dedicated solely to undergraduate engineering students. But the Texas A&M-Chevron Academies provide a new pathway to a first-rate education at a time when many Texas families are worrying about the cost of college. And we know this model works. Our data show that two-year college transfer students are more likely to graduate with Texas A&M engineering degrees than their counterparts who enrolled as freshmen. 

As a land-grant institution, Texas A&M University has a history of serving Texans in their communities, not just in College Station. The academies, through our partnership with Chevron and the two-year colleges, expand upon that tradition. Our bright young people are our greatest natural resource, and we want to give them every opportunity to succeed.

Disclosure: The Texas A&M University System, Texas A&M University and Houston Community College are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

M. Katherine Banks

Vice chancellor and dean of engineering at Texas A&M University