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Blinn College to Partner with The Texas A&M University System at RELLIS Campus

Blinn will develop facilities at new research and development campus

May 31, 2016

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.

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $4.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, seven state agencies and a comprehensive health science center, the Texas A&M System educates more than 140,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $946 million in FY 2015 and helped drive the state’s economy.