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SFA Joins University of Texas System

Education

Stephen F. Austin State University regents on Tuesday voted to move forward with joining the University of Texas System. | Image by Josh Edwards, The Daily Sentinel

The Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) Board of Regents voted Tuesday to join The University of Texas (UT) System. The university, one of the last remaining unaffiliated state universities in Texas, had considered offers from three other systems, including Texas State, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M.

The decision was made after a comprehensive evaluation that featured feedback from university stakeholders, alumni, students, faculty, and the general public, according to an SFA press release.

Karen Gantt, the SFA Board of Regents chair, shared that joining the UT System will benefit the school. “We are excited about the enormous opportunities this affiliation will provide for our students, faculty and staff. We know that the future of SFA will be enhanced by becoming a member of the leading university system in the country,” Gantt said in the press release. 

The SFA name will stay the same. The brand and culture of the school will also be kept. 

Officials with the UT System and SFA will work together going forward on the change in governance. Dr. Steve Westbrook, the interim SFA President, will also work closely with officials. 

The chairman for the UT System Board of Regents, Kevin P. Eltife, stated that SFA’s history and tradition are what prompted the regents to extend an invitation for affiliation. 

“We are honored and enthusiastic about taking the next steps together in this process with confidence that this union will make each of us stronger,” he said in the press release. “Our proposal to SFA outlined our sincere commitment to helping the university build upon its programs, traditions and culture that have made the university unique for nearly a century, while adding resources to help amplify those strengths and ultimately serve more Texans.”

There was a single dissenting vote for SFA to join the UT System, KTRE reportedRegent Robert Flores shared the worry that the SFA name would not actually be preserved. 

Westbrook told KTRE that the affiliation would give SFA access to resources it has not had before. These resources will be beneficial to staff and students, as well as the overall community. 

“It’s an opportunity that our board felt was very important for the future of our university to be able to access the resources that aren’t currently available to us that will now enhance the opportunities for our students, employees, and the community,” Westbrook said. 

System affiliation must be approved by Texas Legislation, according to KTRE. Westbrook said that SFA and University of Texas System officials will collaborate with lawmakers on the affiliation legislation.

The funding incentive that University of Texas officials offered SFA was the largest financial incentive offered to the school, The Daily Sentinel reported. SFA was offered resources of $124 million over the span of the next four years, which was more than the three other systems combined.

The second-highest offer was made by Texas A&M at $33 million. 

In the press release, Gantt thanked all four of the systems that were involved in the decision-making process. “It has been our honor and privilege to work with these systems and all on their teams and to engage in meaningful and sincere dialogue about opportunities for SFA in their respective university system,” she said.

Joining the UT System gives SFA access to a portion of the Permanent University Fund — the second-largest university endowment in the U.S. The UT System receives two-thirds of the fund, with the other third going to the Texas A&M System. The fund is comprised of assets derived from oil and gas revenue.

SFA becomes the 14th institution in the University of Texas System.

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