BRENHAM, Texas - As expected, Blinn College is taking the Texas A&M System up on its offer for a new partnership.
Blinn and A&M will share real estate with A&M at the System's new RELLIS campus, formerly known as the Riverside campus.
Blinn said they are saving money by sharing infrastructure at the RELLIS campus instead of moving forward with its original plans for 94 acres it purchased at FM 2818 and Leonard Road. That plan was expected to cost $46 million. The RELLIS partnership is expected to end up costing Blinn between $24 million and $31 million.
"I've been wanting to go to A&M since I found out how family-related it is, or just like the idea of the 12th Man. I love that,” said Cesar Martinez.
Martinez, who is enrolled at Blinn, now has a better opportunity. At the soon-to-be-built RELLIS campus, Blinn and Texas A&M students will engage in the same opportunities.
RELLIS for Blinn will accommodate 2,500 students and faculty, giving more students a chance to get into the competitive Texas A&M system.
"It's why the flagship is as large as it is, and we have ten other regional campuses, but we still don't reach the demand,” said Billy Hamilton, Texas A&M System Vice Chancellor and CFO.
Blinn believes the RELLIS campus will allow a seamless transition for their students into the A&M System. They will also be able to interact with the private sector. Texas A&M's focus for RELLIS is on high tech innovations like robotics, driverless cars and connected vehicles.
Blinn wants this major research hub to be budget friendly for many.
"Obviously, the tuition at Blinn is very different from the tuition at A&M,” said Martinez.
Blinn District President Mary Hensley said data shows many Brazos County students leave the county and even state to attend a community college, something she wants to see stop.
"This is a way to capture many of those students to make sure that they have access to higher, which is both affordable and excellent within our local community,” said Hensley.
The multi-million-dollar decision is something many students did not see coming.
"I felt like it was too good to be true, because I was going to be a Blinn student and an A&M student,” said Martinez. He is already enrolled in an engineering academy at Blinn. That allows him to take Texas A&M classes, but the new campus will expand those opportunities and bring students together in a central location.
Blinn said it spent $4.8 million on construction at their 2818 site. The college has not released what the future of the 2818 site will be, and no official timeline has been given for RELLIS.
Blinn hopes to open the campus in 2018.
The following is a press release from Blinn College:
The Blinn College Board of Trustees unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding with The Texas A&M University System at its meeting today to build a facility at the newly announced RELLIS Campus, formerly Riverside Campus.
The Board also approved a stop work order to halt construction on its property at 851 N. Harvey Mitchell Parkway in Bryan.
John Sharp, Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System, recently unveiled plans to invest $150 million to create a new research and development campus to help companies move ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace while also offering a new path toward a college degree.
One aspect of the RELLIS Campus plan involves the development of a multi-institutional Gateway Education Center that will provide space for Texas A&M System member institutions and Blinn to offer a variety of curricula.
The new campus establishes a new educational community combining a major university system and a community college at a single physical location.
This co-location will allow Blinn College students to transfer seamlessly to leading universities throughout The Texas A&M System in the years to come.
The site also creates opportunities for Blinn to partner with other organizations and institutions located on the RELLIS Campus, including high-end, innovative, private research and development companies, the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX).
“Blinn College’s participation is a welcome component to this new, transformative education model we call RELLIS,” Chancellor Sharp said. “We are excited to work with Blinn to ensure that high-achieving students across the state have additional pathways to their educational and career goals.”
Located adjacent to State Highway 47 and Highway 21, the RELLIS Campus is named for the Texas Aggies’ core values of respect, excellence, leadership, loyalty, integrity, and selfless service.
“The RELLIS Campus places the Texas A&M System and the Blinn College District at the forefront of innovative partnerships between research universities and community colleges,” said David Sommer, Blinn College Board President. “It is an honor to partner with one of the nation’s top university systems to develop new educational opportunities for our students.”
“This partnership will allow Blinn College students to learn cutting-edge, high-demand skills in an environment that encourages collaboration between public institutions and private companies,” said Dr. Mary Hensley, Blinn District President/CEO. “The vision for the RELLIS Campus represents the future of Texas higher education.”
Blinn and the Texas A&M System are currently exploring sites on the Rellis Campus for Blinn’s facility.
The Texas A&M System will provide Blinn a tract of approximately 15 acres to build academic and related support services facilities.
Blinn will be responsible for the cost of construction, as well as the cost of all utility services, maintenance, and insurance for its facilities.
The Texas A&M System and Blinn will seek to execute a long-term ground lease for the Blinn tract with ground lease payments set at $1 per annum.
While plans have not been finalized, Blinn anticipates the RELLIS Campus facility will accommodate approximately 2,500 students, matching estimates for the planned academic facility at 851 Harvey Mitchell Parkway.
A timeline for RELLIS Campus development is not yet established, but Blinn plans to open the campus in 2018.
“As Texas employers seek graduates with sophisticated critical thinking and problem-solving skills, innovative partnerships between universities and community colleges enhance the student experience and create operational efficiencies that result in more affordable prices,” said Raymund Paredes, Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Blinn College has invested approximately $4.8 million at the property at 851 Harvey Mitchell Parkway.
An exact cost can be determined by Vaughn Construction Company now that the stop work order is in place and Blinn can receive final costs from the contractor and subcontractors.
Approximately $1 million of these expenses will be transferrable to work associated with the RELLIS Campus, and Blinn anticipates experiencing reduced infrastructure and utility obligations, and other lower or avoidable costs as a result of the move to the RELLIS Campus.
The total estimated cost of the initial facility on the RELLIS Campus is $24-31 million as compared to the $46.5 million planned for the Harvey Mitchell Parkway site.
This range includes soft costs and construction costs, and does not include any possible shared costs associated with parking, landscaping, or re-design due to costs associated with Texas A&M System construction and architectural standards.
RELLIS Campus development will use existing bond revenue, and taxpayer money will not be utilized.
Blinn College and Texas A&M University have a proud history of developing innovative partnerships. Since 2001, the Texas A&M-Blinn TEAM (Transfer Enrollment at A&M) Program has served as the nation’s model for a collaborative, co-enrollment partnership between a major university and a community college.
The TEAM Program has allowed thousands of additional qualified students to earn their degree from Texas A&M while enjoying the benefits of enrollment at both institutions, and in 2014 the program received the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s coveted Star Award as one of the top educational initiatives in Texas.
Texas A&M and Blinn built upon the TEAM Program’s success with the Texas A&M Engineering Academy at Blinn-Bryan and the Texas A&M Engineering Academy at Blinn-Brenham, offering students additional pathways to pursue an engineering degree from Texas A&M and helping to meet the nationwide demand for highly skilled engineering graduates.