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Gov. Perry Ceremonially Signs SB 596

Location: Nacogdoches, TX

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.

Thank you Baker [Patillo, President, SFASU] and thank you for welcoming me back to Stephen F. Austin State University.

It is good to be in Lumberjack Country.

If I would have timed my visit a little better, I could have come to “Meet the Jacks” over at the Student Center tomorrow night.

If you go, be sure to tell Jeremy Moses we're expecting him to set a few more records this year- if his arm doesn't fall off first.

His excellence on the football field last fall is just another thing that people can be proud of here at Stephen F. Austin.

This is a school with a long, proud history. Named for one of our state's founding fathers, this school has been setting a high standard for eighty-five-plus years.

This is a school that is proud of its history, but has never been content to stand on the status quo.

Things here at Stephen F. Austin are getting better all the time, and things are getting better across the state when it comes to higher education.

Did you know that enrollment has increased every year since 2000 at our public and independent institutions of higher education?

In that timeframe, an additional 280,000 additional students have taken that vital step of improving their lives and that of their families.

I credit that to our growing population and the fact that we have made higher education more accessible by increasing financial aid more than 550% since 1999.

I suspect that helped the enrollment here at Stephen F. Austin grow six percent over the past five years.

We've also instituted incentives for higher education, rewarding schools for results, not just enrollment.

From 2009-2011, we're dedicating $160 million to colleges that increase the quality and number of degrees they issue.

In this last legislative session, we also took a big leap forward in our efforts to move several institutions into what experts call “national research university” status, and casual observers call Tier One.

With House Bill 51, we've given the leaders of our emerging research universities a clearly-marked path to certification that ties funding to key accountability measures, like procurement of matching funding and the attainment of key measures like degrees actually awarded, instead of students enrolled.

In short, we're working on several fronts to improve the quality of higher education in our state, and keep launching high-quality graduates into our workforce who will continue strengthening an economy that is the envy of the nation.

Speaking of envy, I bet there are some schools who would like to have an expanded nursing school like the one you have here at SFA.

It's hard to believe that it's been two years since I was here to sign the bill that kick-started the expansion.

Seeing that building ready to go is a real inspiration to me and proof that good people, with the right resources and principled leadership from folks like Baker Patillo will get things done.

The men and women who train there will not only put a dent in our state's nursing shortage, they will improve and save lives all across our state.

I am also impressed with your new charter school that just opened.

Considering that a quarter of your graduates enter the teaching field, it makes great sense to put an elementary school here on campus, along with your nationally accredited Early Childhood Laboratory.

Not only are you giving your teachers-in-training the sort of experience they need to develop their skills, you're giving the children of Nacogdoches a chance to learn in a completely new type of environment.

It's clear that Stephen F. Austin State University is a school that not only sharpens the mind, it engages the heart and teaches its students to use their hands- all to make a difference.

I am confident that the remarkable combination of educational excellence, personal accountability and community involvement that has carried you to this point will continue well into the future.

That is why it is appropriate to cement the legacy of this school in name form too.

Senate Bill 596 is a simple effort by the members of elected representatives from all across the state to recognize your heritage, celebrate your accomplishments and encourage you to continue your tradition of excellence.

By signing this bill, I make it very clear that I totally agree.

I would now like to introduce Senator Robert Nichols to share his perspective on this piece of legislation. Senator?

Thank you, Senator. Now, for the House perspective, Representative Wayne Christian. Wayne? [CHRISTIAN SPEAKS]

Gentlemen, I want to thank the both of you for your continued support of this fine institution and education across our state.

Now, let's get down to cases and sign this bill.

Now, we'd be happy to take questions about this bill from our friends in the working press.

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