McALLEN, RGV – Texas A&M University has announced a $2 million scholarship initiative and admission application process for its Higher Education Center in McAllen.

The announcement comes a couple of weeks after 18-year-old Marco Piña of Donna was named the first student accepted to study at the Texas A&M University Higher Education Center at McAllen. The student body president of Donna North High School said intends to study general engineering and eventually focus on the aerospace industry.

Marco Piña

On Wednesday evening a buffet meal is being held at Texas A&M Agrilife Research & Extension Center for invited students and families interested in admission to the bachelor of science in interdisciplinary engineering degree program.

Participants at the buffet meal will include Chad Wootton, Associate Vice President; Dr. Johnny Hurtado, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for College of Engineering, Dr. Scott McDonald, Director of Admissions, and Rick Margo, Director, Rio Grande Valley Prospective Student Center.

The buffet meal starts at 6 p.m. Those in attendance will hear that Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young have committed $2 million to support 4-year scholarships at the Texas A&M University Higher Education Center at McAllen.

Up to $5,000 per year per student is available for the inaugural class of high-achieving students who attend Texas A&M University’s Higher Education Center at McAllen and major in bachelor of science in interdisciplinary engineering, provided they remain in good standing in the degree program and studying at the HEC.

John Sharp

Chancellor Sharp said Texas A&M’s efforts to establish the HEC in McAllen continue to proceed as planned with initial student admissions process under way.

“From its inception, our vision has been to provide students with opportunities to receive their degrees and the famous Aggie Ring by starting and completing their studies in McAllen,” Sharp said. “As Pioneer Scholars, these students will embody the Texas A&M commitment to serve the people of the lower Rio Grande Valley.”

President Young pointed out that, currently, Texas A&M is only authorized to offer the bachelor of science in interdisciplinary engineering degree at the HEC. He said engineering at Texas A&M is among the nation’s very best with a variety of unique program offerings around the state with a target of meeting the world’s engineering needs of tomorrow.

“We are proud to make this commitment for students in the Rio Grande Valley to earn one of the nation’s best engineering degrees,” Young said.

Young pointed out that Texas A&M is continuing negotiations with higher education officials in the region and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to expand offerings in additional degree programs and disciplines identified as high-need for the region. For fall of 2017, students will initially attend courses taught by Texas A&M faculty at classrooms and laboratories leased from South Texas College until the new HEC facility opens at Tres Lagos in north McAllen in fall of 2018.

Michael K. Young

Piña, the first student accepted at HEC, said he and his classmates soon will begin a unique educational journey that will allow them to pursue degrees from Texas A&M’s flagship in College Station without having to leave the Rio Grande Valley.

“To be part of a nationally ranked program is amazing,” Piña said. “It can’t get any better than this.”

Piña’s mother, Rosie Benavides said she will appreciate keeping her only child at home. Plus, she added, it will save the family a lot of money.

“I am glad A&M is moving down to the Valley,” Benavides said. “A lot of kids want to go to a great school but cannot afford to leave.”

Chancellor Sharp said he and the Texas A&M leadership saw an opportunity in McAllen to bring a world-class education to many Texans who might not otherwise have the chance to study at the largest research university in the southwestern U.S.

“Our new McAllen-based Aggies will be forging the way for future generations of South Texans who are interested in getting an education from a world-class institution while being able to stay near their families,” Sharp said. “We are certain that many more people will follow their lead.”

At the groundbreaking for the Higher Education Center last December, Chancellor Sharp recognized that many high school graduates in South Texas prefer to attend college close to home due to family responsibilities and other reasons.

He encouraged students to apply even if they already have been accepted at other universities outside the Rio Grande Valley.

“The fall of 2017 marks a major milestone for Texas A&M and college-bound young people in the Valley,” Chancellor Sharp said. “The A&M System is deeply dedicated to the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas, and we look forward to continuing to grow in the region.”

The $40 Million Higher Education Center in McAllen will have more than 61,000 square feet of space to include classrooms, laboratories, an auditorium and various gathering spaces. There also will be student services and administrative support offices. The center will open in the fall of 2018.