Freshmen Set New Standard for Academic Excellence

KNOXVILLE –- The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is welcoming its new freshman class — more than 4,300 strong and the latest record-setters for academic excellence.

Total campus enrollment is expected to be 26,500 to 26,750, an increase of 2 to 3 percent over last year.

This weekend, about 4,100 freshmen are expected to move into UT’s campus housing. All freshmen who applied for university housing are being accommodated.

Student preparedness and quality have seen a sharp incline since 2004, when the HOPE Scholarship debuted.

Thirty-three percent of this year’s freshmen had straight-A averages in high school.

This year’s freshmen come to UT with an average core GPA of 3.65, compared to 3.58 in 2006 and 3.54 in 2005.

The average ACT score of this year’s freshman class is 26, up from 25.8 in 2006 and 25.6 in 2005.

To help students, and their parents, feel more at ease with the move to campus, UT’s security efforts have been enhanced. UT ALERT, an “opt-in” text-messaging emergency alert system, is now in place to quickly inform students, faculty and staff should an emergency arise. Messages can be sent to a designated cell phone, e-mail address, PDA or pager.

Also under way is a comprehensive plan to upgrade and expand campus housing facilities. Design work is scheduled to begin this year on UT’s first new residence hall in more than 30 years, and planning is under way for as many as 13 sorority houses on land adjacent to the west side of campus, which will be called “Sorority Village.” Improvements are being made to several residence facilities, including a $7-million project to renovate the lobby, entrance and one section of Hess Hall, as well as a $21-million project to convert Laurel Avenue Apartments to undergraduate housing.

Despite last year’s end of the Geier Consent Decree, which provided scholarship funds for African American students, UT’s efforts to ensure access to the university and promote a diverse learning environment continue to be strong.

Minority students make up about 14 percent of this year’s freshman class. Of those, about 9 percent are African American.

To further enhance its accessibility to all students, the Knoxville campus has added $1 million to support its new Tennessee Pledge and Promise scholarship programs.

The Pledge Scholarship, started in the fall of 2005, provides for the cost of attendance, including tuition and fees and room and board, for any admitted student whose income level is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level (about $27,000 for a family of four). This year, UT offered more Pledge Scholarships than ever before, and about 68 percent of all students offered Pledge Scholarships accepted them.

The Promise Scholarship, being offered this fall for the first time, is intended to increase enrollments from high schools around Tennessee that historically have not sent many students to the flagship institution. Applicants from the schools where it is offered are up by more than 44 percent. About 59 percent of students offered Promise Scholarships accepted them.

“These two scholarship programs are extremely successful,” said Richard Bayer, dean of enrollment services. “They have the highest acceptance rates of any of our institutional scholarships.”

To help students who receive the Pledge and Promise scholarships to achieve academic success and fulfill the grade requirements of the scholarships, the university has created the UT Lead Program. The program will provide students with academic counseling, first-year seminars, leadership development programs, academic success workshops and other learning opportunities.

Similarly, the start of school debuts a number of special programs and courses designed to help all freshmen feel welcome and get them quickly assimilated into academic life. These programs — which include college open houses, a “Passport to Success” program to help students find their way around campus, “How to Succeed” sessions and a variety of small-enrollment freshmen seminars — also are intended to boost the likelihood that freshmen stay in college to complete their academic careers.

Also increasing accessibility to UT is greater funding from the state’s Lottery Scholarship, now $4,000 annually — up from $3,800 — for students attending state colleges and universities.

Although 98.5 percent of the freshmen class has enrolled to date, final enrollment figures and student data will be calculated on the 14th day of classes.

For more about new programs and initiatives at UT, see http://www.utk.edu/features/new07.shtml.


Contact:

Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu