NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University has recorded a fall enrollment of 12,801 students, up 0.2 percent from one year ago. The slight gain marks the first overall increase since stricter admission standards were implemented at the university beginning with the fall 2012 freshman class.

"As expected, we had a dip in enrollment last fall, due in large part to the higher admission standards for the freshman class," said Monique Cossich, executive director of enrollment management. "We are very pleased that enrollment is rebounding quicker than expected, and we hope to continue to see steady, incremental growth going forward."

Cossich credited efforts of the entire university community to recruit and retain students for the increase. "It is now understood at SFA that this is part of everyone's role - regardless of their position at the university," she said. These practices have helped attract and keep enough quality SFA students to compensate for the increased admission standards combined with recent record-breaking graduations.

"There is an incredible amount of technology and media at universities' disposal now, and we continue to stay the course with a high-tech, high-touch approach to recruitment," Cossich said. "But, overall, I think that our personal touch is what sets us apart from our competitors.

"We continually hear from parents and students that we have found the right formula in terms of when and how often we communicate with prospects, as well as getting across the message that SFA is fully invested in helping them achieve success in college and in life."

Especially encouraging to SFA officials is a stark increase in the retention rate of first-time, full-time undergraduate students, another predicted outcome of the higher admission standards and increased student-engagement and success activities, said Dr. Richard Berry, SFA provost and vice president for academic affairs. That figure represents a 6.6 percentage-point increase in the rate since standards were increased. At 70 percent, the current SFA retention rate is the highest ever recorded at the university.

Efforts across the university to support current students and connect them to available resources also have contributed to higher retention, he said. More efficient student advising practices, increased student engagement opportunities, a vibrant SFA 101 freshman seminar program and expanded academic support offerings through SFA's award-winning Academic Assistance and Resource Center all have played a role in helping more SFA students persist to graduation.

"We are extremely pleased with the increase in the freshman retention rate, something we have been working on very diligently," Berry said.

The university reported the following fall enrollments by college: Nelson Rusche College of Business, 1,718; James I. Perkins College of Education, 4,250; College of Fine Arts, 915; Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, 712; College of Liberal and Applied Arts, 2,736; and College of Sciences and Mathematics, 2,470.

SFA also experienced higher summer enrollment in 2014, which totaled 8,801 students. Included in that figure were 862 students who attended Maymester classes, an increase of 13 percent from Maymester 2013. Summer I enrollment increased 1.9 percent to 4,093 students, and Summer II enrollment was up 2.3 percent with 3,846 students attending classes.