MCALLEN, Texas – The Texas A&M Engineering Academy at South Texas College would not be coming to the Rio Grande Valley if it were not for STC President Ricardo Solis.

That is the view of Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp.

Sharp and Solis were STC’s Pecan Campus in the McAllen on Monday to announce the new academy.

“You will be able to stay in McAllen, Texas, or Edinburg, Texas, and get a degree from a Top 10 engineering school and never have to leave home if you choose not to,” Sharp told the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, in an interview immediately after the academy announcement. “That is because they could go to the A&M McAllen Center. Or they could go to A&M College Station, whichever one they want to do.”

Sharp said the academy is being set up to address a huge shortage of engineers across the United States, including Texas. Qualified students will be admitted to the Texas A&M College of Engineering after first completing the first two years of coursework at STC. STC will enroll the first cohort of students in fall 2023. 

In an earlier interview with the Guardian, John E. Hurtado, interim vice chancellor and dean of engineering at Texas A&M University, said A&M has started a number of engineering academies across Texas. Sharp was asked why it took so long to launch one in the Valley. He responded: “Because you did not have this president before.” As he said this, Sharp gestured towards Solis.

Solis responded: “We are being bold. We were not doing that before.”

Sharp was asked if the Valley’s traditional “brain drain” would continue, even if the engineering academy is a great success. In other words, the region might produce many great engineers but in order to develop their careers the engineers might have to go to other parts of the country.

“It’s a chicken and egg thing,” Solis responded. “Do they come here because of the engineers? We contend that that’s the case. I mean, we’re the largest engineering school in the United States of America and we cannot fill the engineering jobs that Samsung wants, much less all the other people move moving into the state of Texas. Industry will go to where the engineers are. That has always been true.”

The Texas A&M Engineering Academy at South Texas College allows students to pursue one of 22 majors within the College of Engineering at Texas A&M. Students will save an estimated $4,600 in tuition and fees each semester if they are enrolled in an Engineering Academy before transitioning to Texas A&M to complete their degree.

Sharp was if he thought the engineering academy was a game-changer for the Valley.

“I think so. And it’s here because of this guy,” Sharp said, again gesturing towards Solis.

In Texas, the projected need for engineers in the workforce is 51,000 by 2028. To meet this need, Sharp said, universities and two-year colleges must work together to bridge the gap and attract and retain students who are interested in STEM fields. He said students in the Engineering Academy will be able to enroll in math, science and core curriculum courses through STC and have the unique opportunity to enroll in engineering courses taught by Texas A&M faculty on the STC campus.

Sharp was asked if he agreed with comments from Hurtado that the Valley could become the Silicon Valley of Manufacturing. He responded:

“We train almost 10,000 kids in advanced manufacturing. Now, granted, some of them are going to go to Michigan, they’re going to go to other places But the industry is going to come to the source before it’s over with. Engineering and advanced manufacturing, that’s what is coming to Texas right now. That’s what is coming to Florida. That is what is coming everywhere. As manufacturing finally is returning to this country, instead of China and places like that, we find ourselves in situation where we have not got enough on engineers. And that’s what this academy is about.”

Editor’s Note: The above new story is the third in a four-part series on the Texas A&M University-South Texas College partnership to create an Engineering Academy. Click here to watch Part One, which features the analysis of Mike Willis, executive director of South Texas Manufacturers Association. Click here to watch Part Two, which features the analysis of John E. Hurtado, interim vice chancellor and dean of engineering at Texas A&M University, STC President Ricardo Solis, and Texas A&M University System Regent Mike Hernandez.

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