Texas A&M University on Tuesday announced plans to open a satellite campus near McAllen that will offer students the chance to earn degrees from A&M's main campus in College Station without leaving the Rio Grande Valley.
The campus, which will be built on land donated by the McAllen city government, is scheduled to open in 2017 with around 100 students. The school plans to grow enrollment to more than 750 over the next five years. Degrees will be offered in engineering, technology and agricultural fields, among others.
The plan is the first of its kind in South Texas. Both the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems have schools near the border, but those are their own standalone universities. The satellite campus will operate more like A&M's two branch campuses in Galveston and Qatar, which are overseen by the A&M president and where students are considered part of the A&M flagship's student body.
"It's the same degree, same ring, same admissions standards, same everything," said A&M System Chancellor John Sharp.
The plan was revealed by city leaders and A&M officials at a press conference in McAllen Tuesday afternoon. Local officials touted the announcement as "groundbreaking" and said it would "transform the region and enhance the quality of life in South Texas."
McAllen and Hidalgo County will contribute about $18 million worth of land and infrastructure to the campus. A&M officials didn't release how much they plan to spend on the project.
The region has worked for years to increase educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley. Last month, the University of Texas System opened the UT-Rio Grande Valley, which combined the previously existing UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville into one larger school. A&M's entry into the community will provide even more options, local leaders said.
"With the addition of a Texas A&M campus, our region will have two flagship institutions with access to Permanent University Funds,” said Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia, referring to the state's multi-billion dollar higher education endowment fund. “Hidalgo County is proud to partner with the city of McAllen and Texas A&M University. Education is the great equalizer."
Disclosure: Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M University System are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A full list of donors and sponsors can be found here.