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Richard BayerOur door says "admissions," but our mission is much more. Student access and success are among our highest goals.

This year’s freshman class arrived with an average GPA of 3.76 and a 26.6 average ACT score. Both scores are the highest ever for an entering class.

As UT Knoxville becomes more a school of choice for our state’s—and nation’s—best and brightest students, we must increase our efforts to maintain a diverse student body and increase accessibility for all qualified students.

To that end, this year we dedicated an additional $1 million to expand the Pledge and Promise Scholarship programs. We also launched UT LEAD, a program that assists students through academic counseling, first-year seminars, leadership development programs and other learning opportunities.

Fifty-five students—most of them Promise Scholarship recipients—just attended the first LEAD Summer Institute. They lived on campus and got a taste of college life and a chance to develop a support network of friends before the semester started.

The Pledge Scholarship, approved by the UT Board of Trustees in the summer of 2005, provides for the cost of attendance, including tuition and fees and room and board, for low-income Tennessee residents.

This fall, the income eligibility guideline was adjusted so more students could benefit from Pledge, which now covers books, too.

The Promise Scholarship has succeeded in recruiting students from high schools that have traditionally been underrepresented at UT Knoxville. Last year, applications from Promise high school students were up 46 percent over the previous year. Applications from Promise are up another 10 percent this year.

We have also increased the number of seats set aside for students whose admission was deferred until spring; and we are allowing those students and Tennessee Board of Regents Community College graduates who transfer to UT to remain eligible for both the Pledge and Promise scholarships.

We look forward to a great year, and we will continue to search for innovative ways to ensure student access and success.