McALLEN — Texas A&M University’s Higher Education Center in north McAllen hopes to almost triple the amount of degree plans it currently offers in the next two years, according to Assistant Provost Adolfo Santos.
According to Santos, the university is planning on adding degree programs in agricultural economics, construction science, human resource development, international studies, maritime business administration, STEM education and university studies in arts and sciences.
“Currently we’ve got four degree options, and we’re about to increase that by seven, so hopefully we’ll be at 11,” he said.
Santos said the programs still have to be approved by the state before being officially added to the center’s curriculum.
“These are all proposals that have been submitted and have our leadership’s support. The next step is getting them to the higher education coordinating board, they have to approve the request that we’re making here, so it’s not a done deal just yet.”
Santos said if all goes well, the McAllen campus should begin rolling out the programs in 2021 and 2022.
“A lot depends on the Texas education coordinating board. They want to make sure that public institutions like us are doing our due diligence, that we’re making requests for programs that are viable, that are going to help the Texas economy and help our young people,” he said. “They also don’t want to see duplications of degree programs, and that’s one thing that makes these very strong programs: we’re not duplicating what’s being done at other public universities in the area.”
Currently, 250 students are enrolled at the McAllen HEC. Santos said he expects the new programs to spur even more enrollment.
“With these degree options, we will have greater demand from students in the community for those programs, and we could see us getting to our goal of 500 in five years or so be reached much more quickly,” he said.
Santos said there is a masterplan in place that outlines the growth for the campus.
“Right now we have a capacity for 1,000 to 1,200 students in this building, so we’ve got a ways to grow still, however we will need some space for all the faculty we’ll be hiring,” he said. “We would be able to handle a big chunk of the faculty the first year, first two years even, but once we start getting into year three and four of the new program, we’re probably going to be looking at a need for additional office space.”
According to Santos, the new degrees are tailored to help graduates from the HEC prepare for high-demand Valley jobs.
“They’re very relevant to the community, that’s the important thing,” he said. “One of them is construction science, for example. I have met with a number of heads of construction down here in the Valley, and when we mentioned it every last one got very excited about it. They know there’s a real need to have trained professionals in that industry.”
Santos also said the new programs illustrate the attention being paid to the Valley by the rest of the state.
“These programs that are being proposed, most of them are coming out of College Station, but there is one in the mix that’s actually coming out of Galveston, that’s the maritime business administration degree, which is very interesting,” he said. “It shows that people across the state have their eye on what’s going on in the Valley, because of the growth and the number of young people that are being produced in these four counties down here that are of college age or will be of college age, and there’s real interest in making sure we’re creating the workforce of the future with this program here.”