Texas A&M, Tarrant County College team up to boost engineering degrees

TCC South Campus President Dan Lufkin. (Photo by Heather Shannon)
Dr. John E. Hurtado, interim vice chancellor and dean of the college of engineering at Texas A&M (Interview by Heather Olivia Shannon)

Texas A&M University and Tarrant County College have launched an innovative co-enrollment partnership to address Texas’ growing need for engineers.

The Texas A&M Engineering Academy at Tarrant County College will admit qualified students to the Texas A&M College of Engineering and allow them to complete the first two years of coursework at Tarrant County College before earning their engineering degrees at A&M’s main campus in College Station.

Applications for the program will be accepted through July 31. The program will begin this fall.

“It’s particularly a huge win for the state of Texas because it finds a lot of really qualified young men and women that didn’t know they had the opportunity to get an engineering degree from one of the top 10 engineering schools in the United States,” Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said as officials unveiled the program with a formal announcement May 13 at the TCC South Campus in Fort Worth.

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Sharp said the TCC program and similar A&M academies at other schools afford first generation college students the opportunity to excel and overcome economic hardships.

“Maybe they have to stay home and take care of a parent or something in particular,” he said. “The amazing thing about these engineering academies,” Sharp said, is that students who transfer from community colleges to A&M have better scores in engineering and better grades in engineering then the students who began at A&M as freshman.

John E. Hurtado, interim vice chancellor and dean of the college of engineering at Texas A&M, understands what it is like to be a community college student.

“I started at a community college,” said Hurtado, who earned his Ph.D in Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M. “I did not go to college right after high school. I took a few years to work and then I started at a community college,” he said. “The big difference for me was the college counseling and the college counselor that made an impact in my life at a community college and I know that those individuals are here also at Tarrant County College.”

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TCC South Campus President Dan Lufkin said he believes the partnership will thrive over the next five years.

“It is a wonderful opportunity. It’s an on-ramp to a career and pathway into engineering,” he said.

Ed Bassett, director of Texas A&M engineering academies, said the program fits perfectly with TCC’s motto, “Success Within Reach,” because the academy puts the engineering profession within reach for  students who didn’t think it was possible before and for those students who just prefer to start locally and then move on to a larger university.

“What is special about today is that the students will have an opportunity to attend Texas A&M that perhaps in the past wouldn’t have,” said Elva LeBlanc, TCC acting chancellor, executive vice chancellor and provost. LeBlanc said by that by starting at TCC, the students “will get a good foundation” and will learn “how to become very good college students and become very successful.”

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The partnership with TCC marks another phase in Texas A&M’s expanding presence in Fort Worth, where the university is constructing a research and academic campus near the Fort Worth Convention Center. Representatives of the A&M System, the city of Fort Worth, Tarrant County and the economic development nonprofit Fort Worth Now signed a memorandum last fall outlining plans for the new campus, a three-building development that will be constructed in phases. The three projects are expected to cost a minimum of $250 million.