KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Efforts to increase African-American enrollment at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville appear to be paying off, the president of UT said Tuesday.
Dr. Joe Johnson said that from 1995 to 1996 the number of first-time African-American freshmen at the Knoxville campus increased 22 percent, from 154 to 188.
As of last week, the number of first-time freshmen admitted to UT-Knoxville for the upcoming fall semester is up more than 27 percent from a year ago, Johnson said.
Johnson is scheduled Thursday to lead a group of UT representatives at a meeting of the Desegregation Monitoring Committee of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
The Knoxville campus historically has had difficulty attracting large numbers of outstanding African-American students, Johnson said.
“The biggest obstacle has been the fact that more than half of Tennessee’s African-American high school graduates comes from Shelby County, more than 400 miles from Knoxville,” Johnson said.
“It takes a bit extra to get top African-American students to travel 400 miles to go to school. UT-Knoxville had to go through a period of trial and error to learn what to do and how to do it effectively.”
Beginning in 1995, UT-Knoxville greatly increased its recruiting efforts in Shelby County. In addition to hiring a full-time African-American recruiter for Memphis, the campus has sent deans and department heads to Shelby County to meet with guidance counselors, principals and students from area high schools.
Johnson said one of the most innovative recruiting programs occurs each fall when dozens of high school seniors are brought to Knoxville to visit the campus and meet with students and faculty.
In late April, students who have been admitted are brought to Knoxville to spend a weekend in a dorm and attend social events. Sixty-five students from Memphis visited Knoxville this year.
Johnson said UT-Knoxville also has had success in attracting outstanding African-American students from Nashville and Chattanooga by expanding scholarships for minority graduates. Since 1995, the campus has awarded 59 of the new four-year African-American scholarships.
“When combined with the state’s highest graduation rate for African-American students, these numbers suggest that UT-Knoxville’s freshman enrollment of African-American students is a strong trend in the right direction,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to enroll more outstanding students who have a strong chance for success.”
Contact: John Clark (423-974-2225)