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The University of Tennessee is readying itself for one of the largest and best-prepared classes of incoming freshmen in school history Aug. 18, the UT dean of enrollment services said Thursday.

Richard Bayer said 4,331 freshmen are enrolled for classes, an increase of 879 first-time students from fall 2003.

“That’s a huge increase for us,” Bayer said, “both because of the Hope scholarships from the Tennessee lottery, and because of improvements in our marketing and recruiting efforts.”

Preliminary figures indicate total enrollment will be more than 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students, Bayer said, up from 24,798 last year.

Mark Luprecht, director of the UT honors program, said the freshman class is also among the brightest he’s seen.

“This year the average ACT score for entering freshmen is 24.9,” Luprecht said. “Two students have a perfect score of 36 on the ACT, and roughly one-fourth of the entering class has a high school grade point average of 4.0.”

Jeff Gerkin, assistant dean for financial aid, said all of the entering freshmen who are in-state students will receive a $3,000 Hope lottery scholarship. Those with a 29 or better on the ACT or proof of financial hardship will receive an additional $1,000.

With the influx of students, university housing officials have taken steps to accommodate all those wanting to live on campus.

“No student who applied for university housing was denied,” Jim Grubb, housing director, said. “We postponed the closing of Melrose and Strong halls, which gave us hundreds more spaces.”

More than 6,700 students are registered to live on campus this year. Residence halls will open on Friday, Aug. 13 for students to move in.

Beautification of the campus remains a high priority item in UT’s campus master plan. The Joe Johnson-John Ward pedestrian greenway between Hodges Library, Clarence Brown Theatre and the humanities building is now open.

Fall 2004 will see the last classes to be held in the Glocker business administration building for three years. Glocker will be renovated and expanded and reopen in 2007.

One of the academic offerings for incoming freshmen is the Life of the Mind program. Over the summer, the students were asked to read “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” by Alexander McCall Smith.

During Welcome Week, the students will participate in group discussions of the book, as they create intellectual bonds with fellow students and faculty and prepare for their academic careers at UT.

In spring 2005, all students will be encouraged to take part in Environmental Semester, a multi-disciplinary effort to enlarge and enhance awareness of the natural environment.