MCALLEN, RGV – With Texas A&M’s Higher Education Center in McAllen to open this August, the number of incoming freshmen tripled expectations.

The most recent numbers for the headcount of the incoming class are at 184, however their original expectations were at 50. Rick Margo, interim director of the Higher Education Center (HEC), says nearly 20 percent of the incoming class are from San Antonio and a little further south.

“We surpassed our expectations in a big way, so we’re really excited,” Margo said. “We’re going to have a good diverse class of freshmen coming in addition to the 30 plus sophomores of engineers and the additional 20 graduates of public health. We can expect over 200 folks in our new building come August.”

Dr. Adolfo Santos was appointed assistant provost of Texas A&M University and is scheduled to begin July 1. One thing that attracted Santos to the position is the opportunity the Higher Education Center (HEC) gives to the students in the region.

“UTRGV has a great set of programs, but it’s only one institution for a community of over one million people and there needs to be more higher education opportunities. This is an area where the percentage of those with a college degree is about 13 to 14 percent,” Santos said.

“Those are really low numbers and if this area is going to continue to be successful we need to create more opportunities. And that’s what makes you most excited about this. We have an opportunity to make some real changes in the community that are very important for the area, but also for the country. If we do this right, we can become a model for other places.”

Now that there is an extra opportunity for students of the Rio Grande Valley, Santos says the next step is to have the community help Texas A&M identify what the educational needs of the community are. This way, the HEC can provide the degrees that are necessary.

“We know that agriculture is big, we know that Space X is down there, we know that this is a hub for transportation and we know there are some health issues in the community that need to be addressed,” Santos said. “We need to be able to provide the degrees and the programs that will help address the wants and needs of the community that will help make it a far more prosperous area.”

The five major degrees Texas A&M’s HEC offers are interdisciplinary engineering, multidisciplinary engineering technology, public health, biomedical sciences and food systems industry management.

Santos told the Rio Grande Guardian some other degree programs Texas A&M would like to pursue are in social science, liberal arts, agriculture and health. However, he says the most important thing is finding out from the community what the needs are.