Stephen F. Austin State University is reporting an increase in enrollment for the fall semester, as well as several other indicators of positive performance at the institution.

Enrollment increased from 12,606 in the fall of 2015 to 12,742 this fall. The largest growth was among freshman students, whose numbers increased 3.5 percent, from 3,251 in the fall of 2015 to 3,364 this fall.

"A strategic decision was made several years ago to increase the admission standards beginning in fall 2012," explained Monique Cossich, executive director of enrollment management. "We knew the result of that decision would be a few years of smaller incoming freshman classes, but we also expected that the increased standards would pay dividends in the form of a higher retention rate for the university, with more students persisting to graduation."

Retention rates and persistence to graduation are two metrics by which the Texas Legislature judges state universities. SFA officials reported the highest first-time undergraduate retention rate in university history, with the fall 2016 value of 71.4 percent representing an 8 percentage point increase during the past five years. 

"We have intentionally focused our efforts on retention in several ways," said Dr. Steve Bullard, SFA provost and vice president for academic affairs. "We have created a Student Success Center that offers free tutoring and supplemental instruction, and our academic advisers are using new resources to keep freshman students connected, especially first-generation students. Through freshman seminar courses and a variety of other programs, our faculty and staff help our students succeed 'one Lumberjack at a time.'" 

For each of the past six years, SFA has reported graduating classes that were the largest in school history.

"We have awarded nearly 8,000 degrees in just the past three years," said Dr. Baker Pattillo, SFA president. "Our fall 2016 graduation rate of nearly 30 percent is the highest in SFA-recorded history. That's what we consider the biggest part of our success. While the number of incoming students is important, having those students successfully persist to graduation is truly the reason for the university's existence."

The percent of students graduating within four years has improved from 23.2 percent for the cohort of students who entered SFA in fall 2008 with a targeted graduation date of 2012; 29.6 percent of students who enrolled at SFA in fall 2012 have graduated. The state average four-year graduation rate for 2015 was 30.1 percent.

The number of students in each of SFA six colleges is included in the fall census report: Nelson Rusche College of Business, 1,787; James I. Perkins College of Education, 4,076; College of Fine Arts, 919; Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, 768; College of Liberal and Applied Arts, 2,724; and the College of Sciences and Mathematics, 2,468.

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