The Texas A&M University System on Monday announced plans to spend $150 million renovating an old satellite campus a few miles from its flagship in College Station to include new buildings, research facilities and, eventually, space to teach as many as 10,000 new students.
But there's a twist: Those new students would be people who were "not admitted" into A&M.
It's not immediately clear how that would work. A press release announcing the project explained it like this: "Students could start their college careers at the center or transfer from community colleges to complete their college degrees. They could be accepted later at Texas A&M University or choose a degree program from another Texas A&M System university. Faculty members from other System schools would either travel to the new campus or teach courses online."
A system spokesman said details are still being conceived, but the students would likely enroll in another university — like one of the 10 others in the A&M System — and take their courses near the flagship. These days, many students from the Bryan-College Station area don't get into A&M and are forced to leave. This could keep them local, the system said.
But, officials said, those details are still a work in progress. The first phase of construction and renovation will focus on research facilities and possible partnerships with private companies.
The overhaul of the Riverside Campus, which is just outside the city of Bryan, will cost about $150 million, the system said. It will be renamed the RELLIS Campus, which stands for the "Aggie core values" of respect, excellence, leadership, loyalty, integrity and selfless service. There are currently 32 old buildings on the satellite campus — it's mostly used now for research handled by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Those buildings will be torn down, the university system said.
"This will keep thousands of fine students in the Brazos Valley that might have left for other universities," A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said.
The new buildings will include facilities for research on infrastructure, transportation and robotics. Officials said the site will try to attract private-sector research on subjects like smart power grids, driverless cars and advanced manufacturing, although no private partnerships were included in the announcement Monday.
Construction on the first building is scheduled for September. No timeframe was given for the full build-up or when students might begin studying there.
In announcing the project, Sharp referenced the state's new higher education plan, 60x30, which aims to increase the number of young Texans who hold a postsecondary degree or certificate to 60 percent of the population by 2030.
“This will be a magnet for technology companies locating their research facilities to the Brazos Valley and for thousands of additional students to study here, contributing to the local economy,” Sharp said. “It’s a great one-two punch for economic development.”
Disclosure: Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M University System have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.