NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University has recorded a fall enrollment of 12,772 students.

This figure represents a slight decrease from the all-time high SFA enrollment of 12,999 recorded in fall 2012. University officials attributed the 1.7-percent decrease to various factors, including higher SFA admission standards and graduation of the largest class in school history in May.

"A strategic decision was made several years ago to increase the admission standards beginning in fall 2012, and we knew one result of that decision would be a few years of smaller incoming freshman classes," explained Monique Cossich, executive director of enrollment management.

SFA administrators also expected the increased standards would pay dividends in the form of a higher retention rate for the university with more students persisting to graduation, she said. According to SFA census data released this week, the first-time, full-time undergraduate retention rate increased from 63.4 percent in fall 2012 to 65.4 percent this year.

"This is particularly good news for SFA because we know that if students are retained after that critical first year, they are very likely to continue with their education and complete a degree," Cossich said. The absence of the largest graduating class in SFA history - 1,285 diplomas were awarded in May - also contributed to the slight reduction in enrollment.

"We always hope to replenish the graduates with incoming students, but this year's combination of a record-breaking graduating class along with a decrease in freshman enrollment due to the higher admission standards has resulted in a slightly lower enrollment this year," she said. "Our freshman numbers were down last year, and this year they are down even less. We expect freshman enrollment to pick up in the future."

According to the census report, freshman enrollment decreased by 182 students or 5.1 percent from fall 2012 to fall 2013. There are 3,376 freshmen enrolled at SFA, along with 2,268 sophomores, 2,468 juniors and 2,894 seniors, combining for a total undergraduate enrollment of 11,006 students. Graduate enrollment at SFA increased 3.8 percent from fall 2012 to fall 2013 with 1,766 students enrolled in advanced degree programs.

The university also reported the following enrollments by college: Nelson Rusche College of Business, 1,620; James I. Perkins College of Education, 4,267; College of Fine Arts, 870; Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, 725; College of Liberal and Applied Arts, 2,843; and College of Sciences and Mathematics, 2,447. Recently, the Department of Computer Science moved from business to sciences and mathematics, which contributed to enrollment fluctuations in those two colleges.