By ANDREW WALTER
Funded by a $5 million gift from Chevron, the Texas A&M-Chevron Engineering Academy will allow Eastfield students to save money while getting a head start on their engineering degrees.
The program started in the Dallas County Community College District at El Centro in 2015.
A student in the academy is enrolled at both a DCCCD college and Texas A&M University at College Station.
Once accepted, a student has the choice of staying at a DCCCD college for one or two years and then transitions to College Station.
The academy’s creation was influenced by Texas’ need for more engineers, said Amy Vance, the Texas A&M-Chevron Engineering Academy liaison.
The Texas Workforce Commission estimates that 53,000 more engineers will be needed in the workforce by 2024.
“Prior to this academy, students would take their core classes their first couple of years at Eastfield and then transfer to A&M,” Vance said. “But when they transfer to A&M after that second year, they’re one or two years behind in their engineering courses. So, what should take four, maybe five years, you’re taking six or seven years because you didn’t start your engineering courses right away.”
Once the academy has expanded to all DCCCD schools, students will take their core classes at the DCCCD college of their choice and take engineering classes at El Centro, Vance said.
“I am so excited about this program,” she said. “It is such a benefit to students to be accepted at A&M, which is an incredible engineering college. [Your] very first year, you’re going to save a tremendous amount of money by taking a majority of your courses here in Dallas. Then you’re already in [at A&M]. You just move.”
The 2017-2018 annual estimated cost of attendance at Texas A&M College Station was $28,476 while it was $11,006 at a DCCCD college for in-district costs while living at home.
Promotional flyers for the Chevron Academy claim that enrollment in the program can save students up to $4,000 per semester.
Applications to the academy for fall 2019 are due June 30.
Vance said that the academy’s expansion will make it much easier to obtain an engineering degree by starting at Eastfield.
Engineering professor Ian Horbaczewski, who’s employed by both the DCCCD and Texas A&M, teaches for the academy at El Centro. His students work in the lab created with funding by Chevron.
“It’s a small program right now,” he said. “We’re definitely looking to expand it. We’re trying to make sure that people locally here know about the program.”
Mechanical engineering major Duncan Robertson is in the program and will transition to A&M in the fall.
He said he learned about the program by word of mouth during an Eastfield summer class several years ago.
Currently, Robertson said the program has less than 25 students in the DCCCD.“It is a very small program for the DCCCD,” he said. “But if you were to compare that to other coleges that are also running the same academy, some of them have 80, 90 kids throughout their same community college academy program. It’s a very stark difference.”
Computing professor David Kirk graduated from Texas A&M University at College Station years ago.
He said that the academy’s expansion could open opportunities that STEM students at Eastfield don’t normally see.
“Still, for our students to be able to drive or take the train [to El Centro for A&M engineering courses], that’s awesome,” Kirk said. “That’s an incredible opportunity. I wish I could’ve done that.”