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KNOXVILLE –- The University of Tennessee is welcoming its most academically qualified freshman class in its history.

With about 4,200 freshmen expected to start classes on August 23, one-third of the class has a core GPA of 4.0. That’s the highest percentage of straight-A students ever in a freshman class, said UT’s Dean of Enrollment Richard Bayer.

Additionally, the new class has an average ACT score of 25.8 and a GPA of 3.6. Both indicators are up from 25.6 and a 3.54, respectively, over last year.

More than 12,000 students applied to enter UT in this past year.

UT’s student enrollment, preparedness, achievement — and diversity — continue to grow, due in large part to Tennessee’s HOPE scholarship as well as university-funded scholarship programs. In 2001, the average ACT score was 24.3 and the average GPA was 3.3.

“That’s a huge jump in average ACT scores in five years,” Bayer said.

Chancellor Loren Crabtree said several factors have raised the academic bar at the University of Tennessee.

“The Hope Scholarship program has encouraged more high-achieving Tennessee students to attend a college in-state, and our flagship, research-intensive university is a very attractive option for the best and brightest students,” Crabtree said.

The Tennessee Pledge Scholarship program, now in its second year, has opened doors to students who might not otherwise attend. The Pledge covers tuition and fees and room and board for eligible low-income students. This year, about 250 students will benefit from the program.

“It ensures that able young people can enroll and graduate without any debt, regardless of their financial means.” Crabtree said. “We expect this program will continue to strengthen the university’s outreach and its diversity, while providing opportunities to students across the state.”

Crabtree said UT plays a critical role in the state’s future.

“Along with keeping our best and brightest students in the state, we ensure they receive the education and have the experiences that best prepare them to compete in a global economy. We also set the stage for our graduates to consider beginning their careers in Tennessee; all of these factors will have a great impact on our state’s workforce,” he said.

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported earlier this month that black student population at UT jumped 1.9 percentage points between 2001 and 2004 — the largest jump at any of the nation’s flagship state universities.

About 15 percent of this year’s freshman class are minorities; about 10 percent are black.
The number of international students at UT is also on the rise. Last year, UT welcomed 1,052 international students — almost 10 percent more than five years ago when there were 959, according to UT’s Center for International Education.

“The diversity of the class also dramatically enhances the student life experience and opportunities for learning outside the classroom,” Crabtree said.

Resident students begin moving in on Saturday, Aug. 19. There are about 7,200 students who live in UT residence halls. Welcome Week activities are planned for this next week, including a freshman picnic expected to draw at least 2,000 students.


Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034,