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SFA State May Join University System

Education

Stephen F. Austin State University | Image by FJ Gaylor/Stephen F. Austin State University

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The likelihood of Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) joining a university system is growing as four state university systems expressed interest in the East Texas school.

During the fall, Stephen F. Austin’s Board of Regents will review the benefits of joining up with the Texas A&M University System, the University of Texas System, the Texas Tech University System, or the Texas State University System. It will also consider remaining independent.

Various news stations reported that SFA’s Board of Regents showed a slide presentation to faculty and staff earlier this month, indicating that SFA had conversations with each interested university system.

Before the next state legislative session starts in January, the board will have to decide if it wants to join a system and which one. Texas requires legislation to allow a university to leave or enter a university system.

“The timing of the upcoming legislative session … necessitates a brisk and deliberate pace,” interim President Steve Westbrook wrote in a note to faculty and staff about the board’s upcoming decision.

Besides SFA, Texas Southern University is the only other public school not affiliated with a university system.

The Texas A&M system already works with SFA on several fronts, including SFA’s investments, which Texas A&M manages. Additionally, SFA instructors teach at the system’s RELLIS campus.

“The Texas A&M Forest Service also would be a great asset for a university located in deep East Texas,” Texas A&M University System chancellor John Sharp told the Texas Tribune.

“It would be the third largest university in our system and would give us a larger presence in East Texas,” he said.

Texas State University is also interested in rolling SFA into its system.

Mike Wintemute, a spokesman for Texas State, emailed the Texas Tribune, stating it had advantages over the other universities because it does not have one flagship institution. Instead, it has seven flagship institutions that operate individually.

“As our eighth flagship, [SFA] would have access to valuable programs and services while maintaining its unique identity, culture, traditions, and a high level of local control,” said Wintemute.

The SFA Board of Regents has assembled a sub-committee to discuss governance and potential financial issues the university could face joining a system.

In a letter to faculty and staff, SFA interim President Westbrook stated that he would present inquiries from SFA’s faculty, staff, and alums to the four interested systems. These systems would then have until October 6 to respond.

Groups consisting of faculty and school leaders would then assess the answers and create a report to present to the Board of Regents, highlighting each system’s pros and cons.

The board will meet at the end of October.   

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