NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University is ranked in the first tier among the best regional public and private universities in the western United States, according to the 2011 edition of "Best Colleges" by U.S. News & World Report.

The rankings, which include more than 1,400 schools nationwide, are available today at and will be published in the September issue of U.S. News & World Report, hitting newsstands Aug. 31.

During the past two decades, the U.S. News college rankings, which group schools based on categories created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, has grown to be a comprehensive research tool for students and parents considering higher education opportunities.

"While college rankings should never be the primary consideration for those seeking higher education, this designation by U.S. News & World Report certainly validates our belief that the quality, personalized education offered by SFA makes us an excellent college choice," said SFA President Baker Pattillo.

"Best Colleges" provides a thorough examination of how accredited four-year schools compare on more than a dozen indicators of excellence. Among them are peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, and alumni giving.

The other Texas public regional universities joining SFA in the first tier of regional institutions in the western United States are: Texas State University, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, University of Texas San Antonio, Texas A&M International, University of Texas at Tyler, West Texas A&M University and University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

The western United States grouping includes schools in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.