NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Researchers at Stephen F. Austin State University have filed for patent protection for "Purple Pride," a new type of Chickasaw Plum tree known for its purple fruit and foliage.

At a meeting Tuesday, the Board of Regents authorized agreements with several nurseries interested in selling SFA's new cultivar of Prunus angustifolia. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of "Purple Pride" will be returned to the university.

"This project is part of our ongoing plant evaluation program," said Dr. David Creech, associate director of the SFA Mast Arboretum. "We have introduced many SFA plants to the industry, but this is the first one we decided to patent. We are especially excited because it is a native plum that is very well adapted to Texas conditions, including extreme heat and drought."

Also at their meeting Tuesday, regents approved moving the Department of Computer Science from the Nelson Rusche College of Business to the College of Sciences and Mathematics, where it resides at many other universities, in order to increase effectiveness and efficiency of the programs. As of fall 2013, all computer science programs will move into the College of Sciences and Mathematics, with the exception of the Bachelor of Business Administration in computer information systems, which will remain in the business college.

Dr. Richard Berry, provost and vice president for academic affairs, also reported to the regents that SFA has received approval from the commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to submit a formal proposal for a Bachelor of Science in engineering physics. Berry said the preliminary proposal should be submitted to SFA regents within the year.

The board also approved an increase in designated tuition for the 2013-14 academic year. Designated tuition will be $158 per semester credit hour beginning in fall 2013, increasing from $141.86 per hour, a difference of about $242 for a 15-hour semester.

"We don't take (this increase) lightly," said Dr. Scott Coleman of Houston, chairman of the board's Finance and Audit Committee. "We look at this from a lot of different angles for a long time before we decide on tuition costs."

Room-and-board rates will increase 1.5 percent and 1 percent, respectively. The undergraduate admission application fee will increase from $35 to $45, and the graduate application fee will increase from $25 to $50.

The regents adopted a summer budget totaling approximately $3.69 million. The figure represents an increase of approximately $120,000 from last year's summer budget, and includes funding for 24 additional courses, Berry said.

Regents also approved a construction budget of $876,895 for a planned Conservation Education Center to be located at SFA's Pineywoods Native Plant Center. Sutton Mitchell Beebe & Babin Architects designed the facility, and J.E. Kingham Construction will manage the project, which is being funded entirely through private donations and foundation support.

The artificial field surface at Homer Bryce Stadium will be replaced this summer by Hellas Construction, which has installed artificial surfaces in more than 80 stadiums around the state, including Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Regents approved the purchase, which is not to exceed $550,000, and it will be paid for with income from the university's exclusive soft drink contract.

In addition to policy revisions and updates, the board also approved:

  • a schedule of course and lab fees for the coming academic year;
  • the purchase of new band uniforms, instruments and a cargo trailer for transporting band instruments and equipment at a cost not to exceed $300,000;
  • entering negotiations with BancorpSouth/First Data for credit card payment processing services;
  • revised tuition-share percentages with Academic Partnerships, a company that markets specific online educational programs for SFA;
  • a new exclusive beverage agreement with Coca Cola with a total value of approximately $3.84 million;
  • additional grant awards allocable to Fiscal Year 2013 totaling about $156,000 and financial-aid awards totaling approximately $1.06 million;
  • the purchase of a five-year license for Collaborate Web Conferencing software to provide desktop videoconferencing tools for online teaching;
  • replacing the existing core network switch servicing the residence hall and wireless networks;
  • refinancing and/or redeeming some of the university's outstanding bonds to reduce debt costs;
  • undergraduate and graduate curriculum changes;
  • extending the university's contract with South Texas Technology Management for invention management and marketing services for an additional three years; and
  • an agreement recognizing the Nelson Rusche College of Business Executive Advisory Board as a support group of the university.