NACOGDOCHES, Texas -Stephen F. Austin State University has recorded the second-highest enrollment in its history, with 12,903 students registered for classes. The university's highest enrollment, 12,954 students, was recorded in fall 2010.

Although the number of undergraduate students increased by 99, from 11,269 to 11,368, the number of graduate students decreased from 1,685 to 1,535. The number of first-time freshmen increased 10.5 percent, from 2,177 to 2,406.

"We are very happy about the number of first-time freshmen we are enrolling, especially in light of the reductions in state and federal financial aid programs," said Dr. Baker Pattillo, SFA president. "In addition to a reduction in federal financial aid, there was a $1.2 million cut in state financial aid programs, but these first-year students still recognized the value of the university education offered at SFA."

As part of an initiative to recruit new students, a residence hall for first-time freshmen opened in time for the fall semester. Lumberjack Landing houses almost 400 students and includes a center where all freshmen receive free tutoring and supplemental instruction.

Enrollment in the College of Sciences and Mathematics increased 8.l percent, from 2,182 students to 2,359 students. Dr. Kimberly Childs, interim dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics, said the increase is a direct result of the university's STEM Initiative, an effort to increase the number of mathematically and scientifically proficient students by promoting active collaboration between the disciplines.

"We are actively recruiting science, technology, engineering and mathematics students in an effort to increase the number of students who are academically prepared for careers in those fields," Childs said. "Our recruiters and faculty members have done a great job of publicizing the careers that are available in the STEM fields, and the public school teachers involved in our grant programs are talking about these careers to their students."

Other colleges that reported increases include the College of Fine Arts, from 868 to 889 students, and the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, from 667 to 696 students. Enrollment in the James I. Perkins College of Education increased from 4,013 to 4,015.

A 4.4-percent decrease in enrollment was recorded by the Nelson Rusche College of Business, from 1,923 to 1,839 students. Enrollment in the College of Liberal and Applied Arts decreased 5.9 percent, from 3,301 to 3,105 students.

For the second consecutive year, SFA was recently named a top tier regional university by U.S. News and World Report. The rankings are based on several key measures of quality, including assessment by administrators at peer institutions, retention of students, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.