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UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek shared an update with the UT Board of Trustees last week describing the “dramatic progress” and “tremendous amount of momentum” in the university’s journey to become a Top 25 public research university.

Since the journey began five years ago, the university has taken big steps forward on improving student retention and on-time graduation. Research expenditures and fundraising have risen and the campus is being transformed by a record-setting amount of construction and renovation.

The Top 25 goal involves improving undergraduate and graduate education, attracting and retaining the best faculty and staff, growing research, and improving campus infrastructure and resources.

“We have a tremendous amount of momentum going on this campus,” said Cheek. “We had a 10 percent increase in our freshman class this year. We have a growing demand by students to come to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.”

The chancellor provided updates on key metrics:

  • The four-year graduation rate has gone up 12 percent, to 43 percent. The Top 25 target is 54 percent.
  • The six-year graduation rate has gone up 9 percent, to 69 percent. The Top 25 is goal is 77 percent. The chancellor noted that each year the Top 25 peer goals are adjusted to reflect the progress being made by other universities. In 2010, the peer goal was 75 percent for six -year graduation.
  • The first-year retention rate has gone up 3 percent, to 87 percent. UT’s Top 25 target is 90 percent.

Total research expenditures have increased by $83 million. Fundraising is up 81 percent, with $130 million collected in 2014. One billion dollars in new construction and renovation projects is either underway on campus or in the planning stages.

UT invested $10.4 million in the past three years on academic initiatives that support Top 25 goals. These include expanded first-year transition programs, experiential learning and service, undergraduate research programs, honors programs, study abroad, and leadership opportunities.

Technology and data collection now play a central role in tracking students’ progress, which allow faculty and advisors to intervene sooner when students are struggling with coursework.

Cheek concluded the presentation by sharing a video featuring UT students and how the Top 25 journey has changed campus life. Watch the video below.

Watch Cheek’s full presentation below.