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KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee officials say this fall’s freshman class is probably its best ever.

“In terms of academic quality, scholarship, and selectivity criteria, this may be the best freshman class ever enrolled,” said Richard Bayer, dean of admissions
and records.

The average ACT score of the 3,805 entering freshmen is 24, the highest ever. A third of the first-year students had ACT scores in the 26-36 range, Bayer said.

Since 1990 the high school grade point average of entering students has gone up from 3.1 to approximately 3.4.

UT trimmed freshman enrollment this fall by 350 students, a number that better matches faculty resources, classroom space and residence halls, UT President J. Wade Gilley said.

Total headcount enrollment at Knoxville is 25,474, compared to 25,981 last fall. The difference, in addition to the cut in freshman enrollment, is primarily at the graduate level.

“The unprecedented quality of this year-s freshman class is a clear signal that the university is moving in the right direction,” Gilley said. “To become a top 25 public research university, we must attract the best and brightest students. The freshman class of 2000 sets a new standard of excellence.”

The number of students enrolled in the Freshman Honors Program increased by more than 30 percent. Students qualify for this program based on high ACT scores and outstanding high school achievement, Gilley said.

A total of 169 freshmen received Bicentennial Scholarships, up from 148 last year. Bicentennial Scholars are Tennessee residents with ACT scores of 31 or higher and high school grade point averages of 3.75.

The university admitted the largest class ever of African-American Achievers, a scholarship designated for African-American Tennessee residents with ACT scores of 23 or above and minimum 3.4 high school grade point averages.

Bicentennial and African-American Achievers awards are four-year scholarships that pay all tuition and fees.

The number of institutionally sponsored National Merit Finalists rose 30 percent. National Merit Finalists who indicate UT as their first choice are eligible for the newly established Presidential Scholarship, worth $8,000 per academic year.