Texas A&M to award scholarships to first McAllen class

    McALLEN — Texas A&M University announced plans to award four-year scholarships to the inaugural class of the upcoming Texas A&M Higher Education Center at McAllen.

    McALLEN — Texas A&M University announced plans to award four-year scholarships to the inaugural class of the upcoming Texas A&M Higher Education Center at McAllen.

    The $2 million initiative is called Pioneers Scholars, and it is scheduled to be announced at an admissions briefing event at the Texas A&M Agrilife center in Weslaco on Wednesday.

    Students who are admitted and accept the offer to be part of the first cohort of McAllen’s Texas A&M University Higher Education Center will receive up to $5,000 per year for four years as long as they remain at that campus and are in good standing, academically and behaviorally.

    “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,” said Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp in a news release. “As Pioneer Scholars, these students will embody the Texas A&M commitment to serve the people of the lower Rio Grande Valley.”

    The campus will be an extension of Texas A&M College Station and will begin by offering a bachelor of science in interdisciplinary engineering degree in the fall of this year. Applications for the program are currently being accepted and the deadline has been extended until May 2015.

    “In order to sweeten that deal, we have a scholarship program,” said Chad Wootton, associate vice president for external affairs. “That would be hopefully our enticement to get them to hopefully complete that application by May 15, and let us consider them and their qualifications.”

    Earlier this month the first student was accepted, Marco Piña, of Donna, was the first to make the cut for the program and accept the university’s offer to attend the new campus. The university has approval to accept up to 100 students into the initial cohort in McAllen, Wootton said, but the final count will depend on the number of qualified applicants.

    These students will take the first year of courses in classrooms leased from South Texas College while the new building goes up at the Tres Lagos community in north McAllen, which is scheduled for completion by the fall of 2018.

    The university plans to add more degree plans once the building is complete. At this point they have also proposed to offer a bachelor of science in biomedical sciences and multidisciplinary engineering technology, but these have to be approved by the state and are in negotiation with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to avoid duplication, Wootton said.

    Other career paths that are under discussion, but have not been proposed, include a degree in agriculture with a focus in food science.

    “Our original thought was that we might have a couple of these degrees that we can start with on fall 2017,” Wootton said. “We only have the approval today for the interdisciplinary engineering degree so we are going to go ahead and identify the students who want to get started with that.”

    The goal is to have the other programs ready to go by the time the new facility opens in the fall of 2018. At this point the goal is not to accept a certain number of students, he said, but to attract qualified applicants.

    “We want to have enough variety in the programs that we offer so that we can attract a somewhat diverse student body for that Higher Education Center and offer more of a university feel for those students,” Wootton said.

    Those interested in applying are encouraged to call the Texas A&M-Rio Grande Valley Prospective Student Center at (956) 683-8647 or visit the admissions webpage for more details.

    dperez-hernandez@themonitor.com

    TAMU Admissions Website