SFA flag in front of other UT system university flags

Stephen F. Austin State University today officially becomes the 14th member of The University of Texas System.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Following a 13-month process that included the formation of representative input groups, the collection of community and public comment, and the filing of state legislation, Stephen F. Austin State University today officially becomes the 14th member of The University of Texas System.

The formal action of transitioning SFA into the UT System was finalized during the Aug. 24 UT Board of Regents meeting in Austin to become official Sept. 1.

“This is just the beginning of our journey. We are convinced that this new relationship will make each of us stronger,” UT System Board of Regents Chair Kevin P. Eltife and UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken said in a joint open letter to the SFA community distributed Aug. 24. “From SFA’s regents to faculty and staff, students and alumni, to the entire Nacogdoches community, we have been inspired by your enthusiasm and many new friendships that have evolved over the past year. It is our pleasure to officially welcome you to The University of Texas System.”

Benefits of affiliation with the UT System began emerging before the transition was made official. The first was announced in January 2023, when the UT System invested $1 million in SFA’s Purple Promise tuition coverage program. This need-based financial aid initiative funded through the system’s Promise Plus endowment is allowing more than 1,200 students to attend SFA tuition-free in the first year alone.

“It’s a historic year for SFA. Today, we celebrate our affiliation with the UT System and in a few weeks will celebrate our university’s 100th anniversary of educating students,” said Gina Oglesbee, SFA interim president. “SFA’s ability to continue offering a quality education in the pines will only be strengthened by our membership in the UT System.”

The UT System has also committed $22 million to address transition costs, including compensation for SFA faculty and staff, and $80 million to support capital projects, including a new forestry, agriculture and interdisciplinary facility, and investments in the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture and the Nelson Rusche College of Business’s Arnold Center for Entrepreneurship.

More than $4 million in annual support services at SFA will be covered by the UT System and will range from access to free student mental health services to cybersecurity expertise.

Affiliation process
The process of affiliating with a public university system began in August 2022, when then-SFA Interim President Dr. Steve Westbrook announced to the campus community that representatives from four Texas university systems had extended interest in affiliating.

A months-long fact-gathering process followed, headed by an SFA Board of Regents subcommittee that included Karen Gantt, chair; Tom Mason, vice chair; Jennifer Wade Winston, secretary; David Alders, member and former chair; and Westbrook. 

Over the course of five weeks in 2022, from Aug. 22 to Sept. 23, representative campus groups, including the Deans Council, Chairs Forum, Faculty Senate, Staff Council, Student Government Association and Alumni Association, developed questions related to their constituent groups. These question sets were provided to each of the four systems Sept. 26 with an invitation to respond by Oct. 6.

On Oct. 30, representatives from all SFA constituent groups shared their thoughts on the respective systems’ answers; and on Nov. 29, the SFA Board of Regents approved an affiliation with the UT System.

Sponsored and drafted by eight Texas legislators, including Sen. Robert Nichols and Reps. Travis Clardy and Trent Ashby, Senate Bill 1055 passed and was signed May 10, 2023, by Gov. Greg Abbott, effectively authorizing the transition of SFA into the UT System.

On July 27, 2023, the UT System Regents voted in favor of assuming management and operational control of SFA, effective July 28. The vote was also a requirement of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges’ continued accreditation of SFA. As a condition of continuous accreditation, SACSCOC required that the UT System assume management and control of SFA no later than July 28.

Answers to common questions related to affiliation with the UT System can be read at sfasu.edu/ut-system.

For information on the full affiliation process, visit sfasu.edu/system.

Stephen F. Austin State University, the newest member of The University of Texas System, began a century ago as a teachers’ college in Texas’ oldest town, Nacogdoches. Today, it has grown into a regional institution comprising six colleges — business, education, fine arts, forestry and agriculture, liberal and applied arts, and sciences and mathematics. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SFA enrolls approximately 11,000 students while providing the academic breadth of a state university with the personalized attention of a private school. The main campus encompasses 421 acres that include 36 academic facilities, nine residence halls, and 68 acres of recreational trails that wind through its six gardens. The university offers more than 80 bachelor’s degrees, more than 40 master’s degrees and four doctoral degrees covering more than 120 areas of study. Learn more at sfasu.edu

The University of Texas System has enhanced the lives of Texans and individuals worldwide through its commitment to education, research and health care for 140 years. With 14 institutions collectively enrolling over 254,000 students, the UT System stands as one of the largest public university systems in the United States. UT institutions annually produce over 66,000 graduates and award more than one-third of the undergraduate degrees in Texas, as well as over 60% of the state's medical degrees. The combined efforts of UT-owned and affiliated hospitals and clinics resulted in over 10.7 million outpatient visits and more than 2 million hospital days last year. The UT System’s $3.8 billion research enterprise is one of the nation’s most innovative and ranks No. 1 in Texas and No. 2 in the nation for federal research expenditures. The UT System has an operating budget of $29.1 billion for fiscal year 2024 and employs more than 116,000 faculty, health care professionals, support staff and student workers.