SFA achieved a significant milestone in fall 2018 when enrollment reached 13,144. This achievement was not reached by accident — rather, it was the result of strategic planning and intentional goal setting.

The university’s current strategic plan, SFA Envisioned, is built upon a foundational goal of Meaningful and Sustained Enrollment Growth. Among the strategic plan’s enrollment objectives is to reach 15,043 students by 2023.

What contributed to the current record enrollment, and what plans are in place to help attain the 2023 objective? There is no magical solution higher education institutions use to reach enrollment goals. SFA, like many other colleges and universities, experiences economic, social and cultural changes that challenge our enrollment. Therefore, it is important to identify both existing factors and characteristics that positively impact enrollment (and there are many) and experiment with and introduce new initiatives that can enhance enrollment in a meaningful and sustained manner.

The enrollment increase this past fall was impacted by an increase in dual credit and graduate student enrollment. SFA has made a commitment to serve as a dual credit provider to school districts in East Texas. This initiative allows us to take an active role as a public institution in helping the state prepare and develop a more educated population. A great benefit of expanding our dual credit program is that many of these students will become full-time Lumberjacks after they graduate from high school.

An additional strategy to increase enrollment is to expand the reach of our graduate programs through targeted recruitment initiatives. Prospective graduate students may be unaware that SFA offers 40 master’s programs — many online — and three doctoral degrees. Expanding awareness outside of SFA regarding these top-quality offerings will help encourage postgraduate enrollment. At the same time, we will steadfastly continue to recruit SFA graduates to stay and complete their graduate degrees.

In addition to dual credit and graduate enrollment initiatives, increasing partnerships with community colleges is key. Strategic planning is underway to continue to build these partnerships and impact transfer student success and SFA enrollment.

Establishing partnerships includes increasing service to prospective transfer students so their transition to a four-year institution is seamless. Community college partnerships also include specific academic pathways that involve collaboration between SFA and community college faculty members.

Recently, SFA formed a number of specific academic partnerships with area community colleges, which include offering programs in social work, sports business and interior design. These partnerships are critical in helping transfer students complete their bachelor’s degree via a delivery format that meets their needs and helps them graduate in a timely fashion.

Additionally, we must not overlook traditional incoming freshmen and our current students. The recruitment and retention of these students is a top priority across campus. From offering quality academic programs with transformational learning experiences to providing academic support services and involving them in a variety of student life activities, these students chose SFA, and we must continue to keep them engaged.

Through strategically prioritizing and investing in recruitment and retention initiatives that lead to student success, SFA’s enrollment will continue to thrive.