Texas higher education officials have approved Texas A&M University’s plans to expand into the Rio Grande Valley.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has given the go-ahead to begin construction of an academic center on 100 acres of land in McAllen. The $40 million, 60,000-square-foot building will house classrooms, laboratories and offices.
The students will be considered part of Texas A&M University. The school will begin enrolling students in fall 2017 in a temporary facility while the center is being built. The facility is expected to open in 2018.
The university plans to pay for the building with student tuition and fees, state appropriations, special initiative funding and gifts. The city of McAllen and Hidalgo County have pledged to contribute a total of $10 million for infrastructure and utilities.
“Within the Valley, there’s a lot of students that are really place bound – they need to remain there to continue working and help support their families,” says James Nelson, associate vice chancellor and director of special academic initiatives for the Texas A&M University System. “We have an opportunity to bring an A&M education to them.”
The center will enable Texas A&M University to channel money from the multi-billion dollar state Permanent University Fund into education in the area, where the poverty rate is more than double the national average.
Texas A&M follows the University of Texas system in expanding in the Rio Grande Valley. In 2015, UT launched its merged the University of Texas at Brownsville and the University of Texas at Pan American and created University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.