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KNOXVILLE – Enrollment at the University of Tennessee here is down 700 students from last fall, the dean of enrollment services said Monday.

Total undergraduate and graduate enrollment is 24,798, compared to 25,501 in 2002, Richard Bayer said. The drop is more in continuing students who didn’t come back to UT rather than in new students, and officials are looking for reasons why.

“At this point, we think the decline is due to a number of factors – rising tuition, smaller freshmen classes since 1999 and perhaps because of controversy that has surrounded the university over the past few months,” Bayer said.

Approximately 4,100 first-time students enrolled in 1999, higher by 300 to 400 than normal. This fall that class is now entering its senior year and 263 of them didn’t return this fall.

“That’s much higher than the norm. We’re at a loss as to why that many students, so close to finishing their degrees, didn’t come back,” Bayer said. “We think many of them may have dropped out to work for a semester or two but will eventually come back.”

Dr. Loren Crabtree, UT chancellor, said more attention will be given this year to why students are dropping out of school and what the university can do to curb it.

First-time or freshman enrollment is 3,575, down 107 from last fall. The overall undergraduate count is down 729 to 19,112. The number of graduate students on campus went up 26 and is 5,686. The College of Veterinary Medicine and UT Space Institute are not included in these figures.

Full-time-equivalent enrollment, the basis on which the university receives it state funding, is down 463. The FTE number is determined by dividing a full-time class load by the total credit hours taken by all students.