Skip to main content

KNOXVILLE — For the fifth year in a row, incoming freshmen at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have set an academic record.

Students will move in on Saturday; classes begin on Aug. 20. More than 7,000 students live on campus; non-commuting freshmen are required to live on campus.

The class of 2012 — expected to be about 4,200 strong — arrives on campus with an average core GPA of 3.76 and a 26.6 average ACT score. Both scores are the highest ever for an entering class.

By comparison, last year’s freshmen came in with an average core GPA of 3.68 and an average ACT score of 25.9, and the 2004 freshman class had an average core GPA of 3.45 and the average ACT score of 24.7.

Thirty-nine percent of this year’s incoming freshmen had straight-A averages in high school, compared with 32 percent last year.

About 87 percent of incoming freshmen are from Tennessee, and almost all of them have received Tennessee Education Lottery HOPE Scholarships.

The HOPE Scholarship began in 2004, and last spring the first four-year HOPE Scholarship recipients graduated. UT Knoxville officials say the scholarship has impacted the flagship university more than any institution in the state by increasing applicants, bolstering incoming students’ academic preparedness and allowing the university to increase access by creating need-based scholarship programs.

Now two years since the Geier Consent Decree was dismissed, UT Knoxville’s freshman minority enrollment is 13 percent, down only slightly from last year’s 14 percent. The consent decree, stemming from the 1960s-era Geier lawsuit over racial segregation of Tennessee’s colleges, had required state money be allocated for desegregation efforts, including race-based scholarships. With the consent decree’s end, race-based scholarships became illegal.

In an effort to maintain a diverse student body, increase accessibility for all qualified students and help ensure student success, UT Knoxville this year dedicated an additional $1 million to expand Pledge and Promise Scholarship programs and also created the UT LEAD program.

Twelve percent of the incoming freshmen have received a Pledge or Promise Scholarship.

The Pledge Scholarship provides low-income students with the cost of attendance, including tuition and fees, room and board, and — new this fall — books. This fall, more Tennessee students were eligible for these full-ride scholarships because income guidelines were changed so that students with an adjusted family gross income of $36,000 or less would qualify.

Promise Scholarships are available to graduates of specific Tennessee high schools that historically haven’t sent many students to UT Knoxville.

During the 2007-08 year, applications from students who attended Promise high schools were up 46 percent over the previous year. Applications from Promise school students who want to attend UT are up another 10 percent this year.

UT LEAD, which debuted this summer with a five-week summer institute, continues during the school year with academic counseling, first-year seminars, leadership development programs, academic success workshops and other learning opportunities. The program will focus on students who have received the Pledge and Promise Scholarships, as well as students who are continuing on the African American Achievers Scholarship (AAA) and African American Incentive Grant Program (AAIG). UT LEAD’s goal is to help these students achieve academic success and fulfill the grade requirements of the scholarships.


Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034,