Facts are, indeed, stubborn things; however, they provide opportunities to evaluate and improve.

Here are two facts that have major implications for SFA’s future:

  • Today, only about 23% of Texas high school graduates enroll in college.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the Texas population will grow by 41 million by 2036. Economic indicators predict 65% of jobs at that time will require a certificate or a two- or four-year degree.

To address these challenges, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has launched a strategic plan titled 60X30TX. The plan’s goal is for 60% of Texans who are between ages 25 and 34 to hold a certificate or college degree by 2030.

In 2015, SFA unveiled its own strategic plan, SFA Envisioned, with its overarching goal of creating transformative experiences for students. This, in addition to the plan’s foundational goal of meaningful and sustained enrollment growth, provides a road map to help ensure SFA achieves both the university’s and the state’s objectives.

All colleges and universities offer degrees — what differentiates them is unique student experiences, the professoriate and the beauty of the campus. To help prospective students get a true feeling of what it’s like to be a Lumberjack, we host high school students throughout the year, inviting them to visit classrooms, eat in our dining halls and attend athletic events. This practice allows students to have their own personal experiences with SFA so that when the time comes for them to enroll in college, SFA is foremost in their minds.

Another way high school students are exposed to SFA is through dual credit, a program where high school students take college-level courses to get a jump on their college education.

Recently, SFA teamed with Jasper, Newton and Tyler county schools to create the Deep East Texas College and Career Alliance. The alliance makes it much easier for students living in rural areas to take dual credit courses in facilities close to their homes. There is a strong increase in the likelihood of students completing degrees if they take dual credit courses during high school. Additionally, these courses are being offered at a reduced tuition rate, making this opportunity accessible to almost everyone.

Offering new majors, minors, certificates and concentration areas also helps SFA stand out among our competitors. In April, the Board of Regents approved a variety of new degree programs, concentrations and certification options that will begin this fall in areas such as construction management, social media, medical humanities, and private security and asset protection.

Student and faculty interaction also differentiates SFA from other schools. SFA’s student-to-faculty ratio is 18:1, which facilitates more collaboration and mentorship opportunities. As you recall your time at SFA, I’m certain you remember at least one professor who had a profound impact on your life. The connection our faculty members make with students is the foundation in creating unique personal experiences, and it is among the most notable memories of our alumni.

When asked why alumni chose to attend SFA, one of the most common responses is, “I fell in love with the campus.” Nestled within Texas Forest Country, SFA is the perfect home for Lumberjacks. The beauty of the campus draws prospective students and their parents in, but it’s the students, faculty and staff who make them want to stay. Every person on the campus is a stakeholder, and each person’s individual role determines whether or not a prospective student becomes an enrolled one. Every interaction is important.

Looking ahead to the next decade, we must serve as strong influencers to our posterity regarding the importance of higher education. We must remove obstacles and deploy opportunities to ensure we reach the goals of our strategic plan in 2023, when we celebrate the university’s 100th anniversary, as well as the graduation goals the state has set for us by 2030.