Texas A&M Is All-in When It Comes to Engineering

Can it be that Texas A&M plans to out-tech…Georgia Tech? Engineering majors at the renowned Georgia institution make up almost 60% of undergrads. It now appears that Texas A&M may be headed toward a similar profile–and may well have the funding and the will to make it happen.

Only a few years ago, the Texas A&M and University of Texas systems were fighting to maintain academic excellence in the midst of severe legislative budget cuts and attacks from then-Governor Rick Perry, an A&M alumnus.

Today, Perry is out of office, and the A&M System just approved a $400 million funding increase, thanks in large measure to legislative action that added $3.3 billion in higher ed funding.  Almost $200 million of this amount will be for research. The bulk of the money will go for expansions to keep pace with enrollment increases in the A&M and UT Systems. The University of Houston System also received additional funding.

And this: the Legislature also added $91 million in financial aid funding. A&M will also use $10 million, from multiple sources, for professorships and for the Texas A&M Institute for Advanced Study, “which aims to attract top-tier academic and research talent from around the country to participate in fellowships.” Such a plan contrasts sharply with the aims of Perry and his allies, who were willing to sacrifice academic research and excellence in the name of cheaper, more “productive” strategies.

The 2016 budget narrative states that the A&M System is providing $22.5 million in one-time available university funding to Texas A&M University (main campus). Some of this largesse is the result of the state’s booming economy, and some has come about with the change of leadership in the state.

For a while now, A&M has had a plan for using this and other money, much of it in donations to support the Dwight Look College of Engineering. In 2013, the Texas A&M main campus in College Station announced the “25 by 25” project, aimed at increasing the enrollment of engineering students on campus to 25,000 by the year 2025.

Chancellor John Sharp, a powerful leader in state higher ed and political circles, said that in 2012, the main campus had 10,000 applications for only 1,600 slots in engineering. You can bet that a lot of the money this biennium will go to salaries and research in engineering.

To put the goal of 25,000 engineering students in perspective, we have estimated the percentage of engineering majors that Texas A&M could have if the “25 by 25” goals are met. If the undergrad student body grows to 40,000, and 25,000 of those are engineering students (60%), then Texas A&M will bear a strong resemblance to the engineering behemoth that is Georgia Tech.

What happens when an Aggie meets a Ramblin’ Wreck? This is one Aggie joke that is likely to be no joke on the Aggies at all.

Honors News is a regular (not always daily) update, in brief, of recent news from honors colleges/programs and from the world of higher ed. Occasionally, a bit of opinion enters the discussion. These brief posts are by John Willingham, unless otherwise noted.

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