Program grows 700% since its 2012 launch
Any West Houston resident who is eyeing a career in engineering need look no further than the corner of Westheimer and Hayes Roads as they consider where to seek their education and training. Houston Community College’s Engineering program offers an opportunity to receive a two year Associates Degree in Engineering Science that is transferable to a four year institution or they can earn a four-year engineering degree at about half of the cost of other universities without ever leaving Westchase District.
Start at HCC; stay at HCC
There are about 2000 declared majors in the HCC engineering program. Students enjoy smaller class sizes, personal attention and lower costs of education for the first two years. The Associates Degree in engineering Science is designed to be transferable to any four-year institution. But many choose to stay at HCC because of the ground-breaking partnership between HCC and the University of Texas at Tyler.
“Our program is unique, “said Andres Garcia, director of the UT-Tyler Engineering Center at 2811 Hayes Road. “Students take their first two years of classes at HCC, Lone Star College, San Jacinto College or any other community college to receive their associates degree in engineering. Then they spend two more years with us. By the time the students come to us, they know what they want to do and they haven’t spent a lot of money getting there.”
The program has grown exponentially since it was first launched in 2012. “We started out with 50 students,” said Garcia, “Today we have 400 students in our program.” The students can receive degrees in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering or construction management. The degree program is approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology.
Garcia says two factors contribute to the program’s success. One is that UT-Tyler accepts 100 percent of a student’s community college credits. And the other factor is that the students can be co-enrolled in HCC and UT-Tyler. “They may not have finished at HCC, but they can already be taking classes with us,” Garcia explained.
Garcia said another element of the program’s success is understanding their students. “Most of our students are adults. Some are trying to modify their career path. We have single moms and veterans. Having late afternoon classes helps accommodate their schedules. And having a location that is already so close to the engineering firms and employment centers in West Houston is a plus. They’re working adults and commuting to the other side of Houston for classes is just not an option.”
Graduate with a job
Garcia says the engineering program has the best employment rates in the entire UT system. “Most of our students graduate with jobs and no debt,” he said.
In addition to technical skills, the program focuses on soft skills. “We teach the students presentation skills and interview skills. We have Student Success Coaches who review their resumes, work with them on interview skills and conversational style, even help them determine what to wear to an interview.”
Each year, approximately 100 HCC engineering majors transfer in the UT-Tyler program at HCC to complete their junior and senior year of classes. Since 2015, when the first Houston Engineering Center students began graduating, 670 HCC students have graduated with a four-year engineering degree from the University of Texas at Tyler.
Garcia said the program plateaued in terms of registration during the pandemic, but that university leadership still plans to grow the program. “People are coming back now that we’re offering face-to-face teaching again. We can easily accommodate around 550 students, so there is still room for us to grow here.”