Stephen F. Austin State University has reported a fall student enrollment of 12,845, surpassing last year's figure of 11,990 by 7.1 percent and breaking the university's all-time enrollment record set almost two decades ago.

The number of SFA students attending classes grew by 855 between fall 2008 and fall 2009, marking the seventh consecutive reporting period with an enrollment increase. The highest previous SFA enrollment was recorded in fall 1990 with 12,815 students.

"This record enrollment is a significant achievement for SFA," said Dr. Baker Pattillo, university president. "I am thankful for the recruiting and retention efforts of our enrollment management team, as well as the entire faculty and staff, which have led to this historically high enrollment for the university. What a great way to begin the academic year."

SFA also recorded an increase in the retention rate for first-time, full-time freshmen. The rate increased from 62.9 percent in fall 2008 to 65 percent in fall 2009. Increasing enrollment and retention are among the major initiatives included in the university's latest strategic plan, which was adopted last year by the Board of Regents.

"What is particularly gratifying is the fact that we are experiencing increases at every level, freshmen through doctoral students," said Dr. Richard Berry, SFA provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Undergraduate enrollment increased 7.1 percent, from 10,404 last fall to 11,144. Graduate enrollment rose 7.3 percent, from 1,586 to 1,701.

"I believe that our work on various initiatives of our strategic plan is already paying off," Berry said. "Additional academic advisers, new degree programs, intensified work on the first-year experience, increases in online course offerings, opportunities for student engagement - all of these are helping us attract and retain more students."

The largest increase in enrollment was in the James I. Perkins College of Education, which grew from 3,524 students to 3,933, an 11.6-percent increase. The Perkins College remains the largest at SFA and recently opened a new $30.8 million Early Childhood Research Center. The state-of-the-art facility houses the nationally accredited Early Childhood Laboratory, "exemplary" rated University Charter School and award-winning Department of Elementary Education.

The second-largest College of Liberal and Applied Arts had a 6.1-percent increase in enrollment, growing from 3,107 students in fall 2008 to 3,298 in fall 2009.

Enrollments in other colleges were: College of Sciences and Mathematics, up 12 percent from 1,863 to 2,087; College of Fine Arts, up 3.9 percent from 820 to 852; Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, up 1.2 percent from 661 to 669; and Nelson Rusche College of Business, down .4 percent from 2,015 to 2,006.

Monique Cossich, executive director of enrollment management, said various long-term recruiting initiatives, including a re-tooled communication plan that reaches students as early as the seventh grade, have resulted in the markedly upward trend in enrollment. The newly adopted "Purple Promise," which guarantees full tuition for low-income students, aggressive outreach programs and a more personal approach to recruiting new students also have contributed.

"The Board of Regents and administration had the vision to improve the campus infrastructure with new residence halls, a state-of-the-art recreation center and new academic facilities that are unrivaled in the state of Texas," she said. "A new freshman residence hall and Freshman Success Center set to open in fall 2011 will further enhance the first-year experience for our students, reflecting SFA's status as a premier university in the state of Texas."