KNOXVILLE — The first four-year HOPE Scholarship recipients are graduating this week from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and university administrators say the scholarship has impacted the flagship university more than any institution in the state.
The lottery-funded HOPE has helped increase the number of applicants to UT Knoxville, bolstered the academic preparedness of incoming students and allowed the university to increase access by creating need-based scholarship programs.
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission, in its Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship Annual Report issued in April, reported that UT Knoxville has been the only public institution to see a rise in its ACT profile since the HOPE began. The commission also noted that all UT campuses and independent institutions have had an accelerated enrollment growth since the scholarship program began in 2004.
For some students, the HOPE Scholarship has meant the chance to attend college or choose a school that they might not otherwise have been able to attend. It’s given others the opportunity to focus on classes and college life without juggling a part-time job. And, for some students, it’s allowed them to use money already saved for college for graduate school or other opportunities.
The lottery-funded HOPE Scholarship is available to Tennessee high school graduates who earn at least a 21 on their ACT and have an overall weighted grade-point average of 3.0 or better. It provides $4,000 per year for these students to four-year public or select private colleges or universities in Tennessee.
HOPE Brings Success
Since 2003, applications to UT have risen more than 45 percent. This year, UT received about 14,000 applications for the 4,200 slots in the freshman class.
“More of Tennessee’s best students are opting to stay in-state for college and many of them are choosing the flagship university,” Interim Chancellor Jan Simek said.
“The HOPE has also been a factor in the sharp increase we’ve seen in student preparedness and quality since 2004,” Simek said, noting that one-third of the 2007-2008 freshmen came to college with straight-A averages in high school. The freshman class had an average GPA of 3.61 and slightly more than one half had a score of 26 or higher on the ACT.
Nearly all students who are admitted to UT are eligible for the HOPE Scholarship.
About 60 percent or more of UT freshman HOPE recipients from 2004, 2005 and 2006 have retained it, compared to the state average of 50 percent.
HOPE Prompts Changes
Knowing the HOPE has opened the door for many students, UT Knoxville has sought ways to further increase access to the state’s flagship university.
In recent years, UT Knoxville has created several need-based scholarship programs that supplement the HOPE Scholarship and help ensure that money isn’t a stumbling block for academically eligible students who want to attend.
“We want UT Knoxville — the state’s flagship university — to serve every community in Tennessee,” Simek said. “To help break down some of the barriers that keep kids from coming to college, we’ve created programs like the Tennessee Pledge and Tennessee Promise scholarships.”
The Tennessee Pledge, which supplements the HOPE and other scholarships, guarantees academically qualified, low-income students can attend UT for four years debt-free.
The Promise Scholarship provides up to $5,800 per year for four years when combined with the HOPE and other university scholarships. It’s available to academically eligible students from selected Tennessee high schools. The schools were chosen because they haven’t typically sent many students to UT Knoxville, and many of their students are the first of their families to attend college.
UT also is increasing the number of students admitted for the spring semester to offer enrollment to students who were not accepted in the fall.
The HOPE Scholarship program has contributed to an influx of high-performing students coming into the university. That has increased the number of UT students competing for prestigious scholarships like the Rhodes, the Marshall and the Truman. UT has created an Office of External Scholarships to help students pursue these opportunities.
Students Reap Various Benefits
Adam Brown, a journalism and electronic media major from Etowah, Tenn., said the HOPE gave him the freedom to pursue a variety of extracurricular opportunities since he didn’t have to work while going to school.
Honored as one of this year’s Torchbearers, Brown was active in TeamVOLS, served as president of the Mortar Board national honor society and worked with All Campus Events, the group that plans homecoming, All-Sing and Carnicus. He provided campus tours to prospective students and their families as an Ambassador Scholar, chaired the Senior Gift project and served as a Student Alumni Associate.
After graduating, Brown will continue public service by spending two years teaching elementary school students in Charlotte, N.C., with Teach for America.
For Caleb Frick, getting the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship meant having the chance to move away from his hometown of Ooltewah, Tenn., to go to college.
“It meant that I would have the opportunity to live in a new city where I could grow, mature and learn about life on my own,” he said.
Frick will graduate this spring from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a degree in chemistry.
Kaitlin Cooper’s parents had saved money for her college education.
So when the Camden, Tenn., native received the HOPE Scholarship, it allowed them to keep that money in the bank for her to use for something else.
“They said I could either have it for a down payment on a house or for a really awesome wedding,” said Cooper, a public relations major.
She said she’ll opt for the down payment, but thinks there will be enough to have “a great wedding” someday, too.
Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, email@example.com