SFA enrollment jump not just about the economy

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - SFA is reporting a fall student enrollment of a record 12,845 students. Other schools across the nation also have breaking enrollment records due to the economy. However, SFA administrators say the university can take some of the credit. "Retention rate is something we've targeted pretty seriously in the last several years because our retention rate has not been very good compared to our sister schools," Dr. Rick Berry, vice president of academic affairs said.  "And so we're looking at a two percentage point increase in our retention rate. We're really pleased with that and I don't think that can really be traced to the economy."

There are also more students taking online courses. They may never set foot on the campus, but their online connection includes them in the enrollment count. "Last year we grew at a rate of about 34% annually," Randy McDonald, director of office of instructional technology said. "This fall our online enrollments are up 38% from what they were this time a year ago."

For the students who are physically at SFA every effort is made to make them feel connected to the school.  "More activities to do. More activities to do with other college students," Emily Williams, a SFA senior noted. But Zack Overfield warns SFA "not to rest on their laurels". He sees policies that hinder retention.  "Not allowing people to move off campus until they have sixty hours or until they are 21," Overfield stated. "I think if they reduce that to just 30 hours that would not only free up a lot of housing, but it also retains students."

Recruiting initiatives will continue to reach students as early as the seventh grade. The preparation will help, just in case this year's enrollment jump is a fluke.

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