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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The high school GPA of first-year students entering the University of Tennessee Knoxville have moved from a solid B in 1989 toward a B-plus in 1998, according to the university’s annual Report on Performance.

The report, released by retiring President Joe Johnson, shows that the mean grade-point average of entering first-year students at UT-Knoxville hit 3.29 in 1998, compared to 3.03 in 1989. On the typical four-point scale, that improvement represents a move from a B average toward a B-plus. At UT-Chattanooga, the average improved from 3.03 to 3.2; at UT-Martin, the average moved from 3.01 to 3.13.

Graduation rates at UT Knoxville continued at almost 60 percent, the highest among public institutions in the state.

Another indicator of the quality of entering first-year students, the average ACT score, held steady at 23.8 on the Knoxville campus, higher than any other public institution in Tennessee. Some 6.6 percent of 1998 first-timers scored 31 or better. Nationally, only 2 percent of ACT scores fall above 31.

Average scores at the system’s smaller campuses showed increases of about two points over the same period: UT Chattanooga’s average rose from 20.2 in 1989 to 22.0 in 1998, and UT Martin’s rose from 19.3 to 22.2.

Many of the system’s academic programs are among the best in the nation, according to peer rankings published by professional journals. UT Knoxville programs in logistics and transportation; hotel and restaurant administration; and textile, retail and consumer sciences have a number-one ranking. Another six are in the top 10 in their fields: the pharmacy and nursing anesthesia programs at UT Memphis and the engineering science, graduate advertising, marketing and entrepreneurship programs in Knoxville.

The advances come despite a widening gap between the average UT faculty salary and the comparable salary figures for faculty at peer institutions in the South and nationwide.

The report shows that in 1995 at $65,200, UT Knoxville professors were $3,600 behind their peers in the region and $2,400 behind the national average. In 1999, the regional average had grown to $81,100, the national average was at $79,300, but UT’s average had risen only to $70,100.