Texas A&M University’s College of Engineering is working on an ambitious initiative called 25 by 25, with a goal of almost doubling enrollment to 25,000 students by 2025. “When Dean Banks came on board, she put some aggressive plans in place, including 25 by 25,” says Ed Pierson, chief information officer at the college. “She laid out a great plan for us to focus on student retention and to expand and enhance our program to better suit today’s students.”
Better communication = higher retention
Current retention is around 60 percent; Dean Banks wants to bring that up to 75 percent by focusing on students who transfer out of engineering to other colleges within A&M. The first step? Determining why students were changing majors.
“A lot of it revolved around a simple misunderstanding of the various types of engineering,” says Pierson. For instance, lots of students were not sure of exactly what a particular branch of engineering did so they may have selected a major that really didn’t fit them well, and that could cause them to transfer out of engineering.”
The department revised the freshman program so that students are no longer required to choose a major before they arrive. Now, during the first semester and half of the second semester, they learn about different engineering disciplines, talk with juniors and seniors and industry people, and gain insight about the various majors and their requirements so they can choose their major toward the end of their first year. Pierson says they’re already seeing positive benefits from this simple change and believes it will significantly improve retention.
Use data to add more programs
Another way the college is driving growth is by expanding career options such as ocean engineering to include the Galveston campus. “It’s one of the few ocean engineering programs in the country,” says Pierson. They also built a new campus in South Texas to reach students in the Texas valley.
The college’s Engineering Academy program is another way they are increasing enrollment. It’s a co-enrollment program with community colleges in Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. Students take math, science, and core courses at their local community college and engineering courses from Texas A&M professors. They can spend up to two years at their community college before transitioning full time to Texas A&M to finish their bachelor’s degree. “Students get to live at home and save money for the first two years while getting a standard A&M engineering curriculum,” says Pierson. “It’s a wonderful and diverse cohort.” When fully deployed, there will be 1,500 students in the Engineering Academy, and most of them will go to Texas A&M after their freshmen or sophomore year.