NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KETK) – Stephen F. Austin State University was named the number one Texas university of its size as a rural-serving institution.

The Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges awarded the designation to SFA and placed it number 11 nationally.

Jerry Kenney, a program officer for education and economic opportunity for the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, said that SFA is the only major university located in the Deep East Texas region.

“As the source of a cutting-edge rural workforce, the hub for rural innovation, and the place for pursuing big rural ideas and opportunities, a thriving East Texas, now and in the future, requires a dynamic SFA that embraces its role as a rural-serving institution,” said Kenney.

According to ARRC’s research, the findings show the importance the role RSI’s play in providing college access to smaller communities.

“RSIs are important educational access points for low-income students, adult learners, and those from marginalized racial backgrounds, and they are critical to regional economic development, as many RSIs are the largest employer in their region,” said Dr. Andrew Koricich, the project’s principal investigator and ARRC’s executive director.

While SFA serves its rural students and the surrounding rural area, Karyn Hall, SFA’s director of institutional research, said that the university serves rural areas in East Texas while serving students from metro areas.

“We’re a hybrid institution in that 90% of our students report residency within 200 miles of the university and 40% report proximity within a 100-mile radius of campus,” Hall said. “Around 50% of SFA students come from the Dallas and Houston areas and about 38% come from the East Texas area. We are rural-serving, diverse and hybrid.”

The AARC used five factors to score institutions to identify rural-serving institutions including:

  • Percent of institution’s home county population classified as rural
  • Average percent of adjacent counties’ population classified as rural
  • Population size of institution’s home county
  • Institution’s home county adjacency to a metro area
  • Percent of institution’s total awards conferred in agriculture, natural resources, and parks and recreation.