NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Stephen F. Austin State University Board of Regents voted unanimously to hire a Dallas-based executive search firm with a history in higher education to lead the search for a new president for SFA.

R. William Funk & Associates has placed presidents for universities including Rutgers, Purdue, Auburn, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Southern Methodist and Clemson.

"The firm has a proven track record of providing personalized service with a commitment to meeting the needs of all university constituents," said Brigettee Henderson, chair of the board. "We look forward to working with Funk & Associates to find SFA's next great leader."

The firm will assist in identifying candidates and will collaborate with a university search committee to identify finalists for the presidency.

SFA President Baker Pattillo passed away on Dec. 29. An SFA employee for more than 50 years, Pattillo began serving as president in 2006.

The Board of Regents voted on Tuesday to reaffirm its focus on supporting faculty and staff by approving a $12 per semester credit hour increase in designated tuition. This new rate will help fund a faculty and staff salary pool as well as strategic institutional initiatives.

Regents were provided data regarding the funding SFA has received from the state since tuition deregulation in 2003, when SFA received slightly more than $36 million in net general operating revenue funding from the state. Rather than keeping up with rising costs and inflation rates, contributions from the state have decreased. In the most recent fiscal year, SFA received less than $33 million in operating revenue, according to SFA administrators.

Approximately 4,000 students participate in fixed-rate tuition plans, which set the tuition price for 12 consecutive semesters. The university approved a $233 per semester credit hour fixed-rate tuition plan for eligible undergraduate students entering in the fall 2019 semester.

A board rate increase of 2.1 percent also was approved for meal plans for resident and commuting students.

Along with approving policy revisions and changes in course fees, the board waived Student Recreation Center and student center fees for summer study-abroad students whose programs will occur outside the country.

"We want to make study-abroad programs more affordable and encourage participation," said Dr. Steve Bullard, provost. "We removed similar fees for online-only students in the past. We want to ensure students who are paying these fees are enjoying the associated facilities and benefits."

A lab located on the first floor of the Cole STEM Building was named the Rex Engelhardt Laboratory. Engelhardt graduated SFA in 1986 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and was a member of the Lumberjack football team. He was a part owner of Documation, a company specializing in copiers and document management, which was changed in 2017 to UBEO and later sold to a private entity.

"Gifts like Mr. Engelhardt's will elevate our STEM programs here at SFA," said Jill Still, vice president for university advancement. "His generous spirit is setting a distinguished example for others."

Regents approved selecting an architectural firm to rebuild the Walter C. Todd Agricultural Research Center Livestock Facility, which burned down in November 2018. An architectural firm will be selected from a regents' approved indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity architectural services pool.

In May 2018, SFA graduated its largest class in university history with more than 1,500 candidates. As the graduation numbers have increased over the years, SFA has offered two graduation ceremonies in the fall and spring semesters to accommodate for this growth. Regents signed off on purchasing new commencement chairs and equipment at an additional $29,670 to a previously approved budget of $105,330.

Regents approved almost $5 million in grant awards for fiscal year 2019, which is an increase of about $1.45 million; the 2017-18 annual financial report; and minutes from the October, December and January meetings.

Additionally, the board acknowledged the receipt of audit services report, review of investment policy and strategy, and a resolution to approve qualified financial institutions and investment brokers. Due to administration changes, the board approved a resolution with Texpool, an investment entity for public fund investments, to authorize university representatives as signatories.

The board heard reports on current construction, planned maintenance and investments. Interim President Steve Westbrook, the Student Government Association, and the Faculty Senate also delivered reports to the board.