Each year, we try to recruit and enroll the best and brightest students. Our new Volunteers come from all backgrounds and income levels, and we have a number of programs to help ensure that money is not a stumbling block for them.
A recently released report underscores our belief that universities don’t have to choose between access and success—that, in fact, the two can go hand in hand.
The study, published by the Institute for Higher Education Policy and summarized in a recent issue of Washington Monthly magazine, looks at colleges that have increased their enrollment of low-income students—specifically, those eligible for Pell grants—while continuing to hit other important marks of excellence, such as enrolling a freshman class with a high median ACT score and having a strong six-year graduation rate.
We are proud to be among the schools that have managed to improve both access and success. In fact, the University of Tennessee is cited as a success in the report.
Nearly a third of our undergraduates—31 percent—are eligible for federal Pell grants. This year, 14 percent of our freshmen received institutional scholarships to cover the cost of attending the university.
The Institute for Higher Education Policy report lists some of the key steps schools should take to enroll and retain low-income students. We’re already doing all of these things:
Our admissions office uses holistic review—looking not only at a student’s GPA and ACT score, but also at special abilities, life circumstances, and other factors that would make the applicant a great addition to the Volunteer family.
We’ve created an admissions pipeline by placing admissions counselors in West, Middle, and East Tennessee to work closely with high schools and community colleges in those areas. These counselors engage in their communities and get to know advisors and students.
The UT-funded Pledge and Promise scholarships help improve diversity by opening our doors to students who might not otherwise be able to attend. For low-income students, the Pledge scholarship, in combination with other federal, state, and institutional aid, covers the cost of attending UT. The Promise program provides scholarships for academically eligible students from high schools that typically don’t send many students to UT. Many of these are inner-city schools in Nashville and Memphis.
Programs like UT Lead and Math Camp are examples of how we have implemented summer academic bridge programs that help admitted students adjust and prepare for the academic rigors of college. Our Volunteer Bridge program, which allows students to begin their studies at Pellissippi State Community College and then transfer seamlessly to UT, is another way we’re increasing both access and success.
We also use early warning systems, including uTrack, to provide students with a road map to the courses they need to graduate on time and to alert advisors when students get behind.
Becoming a great university doesn’t just happen.
Building a diverse, well-rounded, and stellar student body takes planning, creativity, and a lot of hard work. It’s nice to see our efforts to increase access and student success are working and being used as examples to help enroll and support students with great potential across the nation.