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Fall leaves frame the pedestrian bridge over Cumberland Avenue on UT’s campus.

The Campus Advisory Board of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, gathered Nov. 3 to hear updates on enrollment, the university’s new guaranteed admissions policy for undergraduate students and an innovative career-readiness program.

Chancellor Donde Plowman shared some of the ways UT is on the rise, including record-setting enrollment, a 10% increase in degrees awarded from 2018 to 2022, and a record $428 million in research awards and sponsored projects funding.

Plowman told the board, “People want what we are turning out here — well qualified students who are ready for the jobs, ready for the world and ready to be good citizens.”

Enrollment Update

Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Kari Alldredge said total enrollment for fall 2023 includes more than 36,000 students, with undergraduate enrollment up almost 7% and graduate enrollment up nearly 10%. The university intentionally enrolled a smaller first-year class for fall 2023 to deliver the best Volunteer experience for all students, and more than 95% of all first-year applicants from Tennessee were offered a guaranteed pathway to attend UT Knoxville.

Alldredge said a record percentage of first-year students returned to the university for their second year. “It puts us in a different category of universities to have over 90% first-year retention. It’s an incredible place to be,” she said.

As of Nov. 3, the university has received over 49,000 first-year applications for fall 2024. Applications came from all 95 Tennessee counties and all 50 states. Students have until Dec. 15 to submit a first-year application for fall 2024.

Guaranteed Admissions Policy

The Board of Trustees in September approved a new undergraduate admissions policy starting in fall 2024 that will guarantee UT Knoxville admission to all Tennessee residents attending a high school in Tennessee who apply by UT Knoxville’s early action deadline and meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Be among the top 10% of their high school graduating class or
  • Achieve a UT core GPA of 4.0 or higher

The new policy is showing an early statewide impact, with eligible applicants from nearly all 95 counties.

Vol Edge Program

Vice Provost for Student Success Amber Williams provided an update on the Vol Edge Program, which launched a pilot this fall. The program will create one of the most high-demand pipelines of career and graduate school talent in the nation. The program has four goals:

  • Elevate student confidence, strengths and well-being
  • Develop graduates who can articulate their value to employers and graduate programs
  • Expand transformational experiences for students by deepening campus engagement
  • Bolster employer involvement in life-career readiness

Students in the program engage in self-paced learning; complete at least one meaningful transformative experience like an internship, research project or study abroad experience; participate in intentional and ongoing reflection; and receive meaningful feedback from professionals in their desired field.

The program will continue to roll out in phases over the next three years until all stages are available in fall 2027.

“We want our scholars to walk out as graduates and feel confident and they can articulate exactly what they need to thrive in their careers and speak to the value they bring to any company or organization,” Williams said.

College of Law

UT’s College of Law hosted the meeting. Dean Lonnie Brown Jr. told the board that the college rose five spots to 51st among all law schools in the 2024 U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings. The college is 24th among public law schools, and its Legal Clinic is ranked 11th among those at public law schools.

Brown noted that the current first-year law class is the college’s largest in about a decade, with 142 students. The class’s median LSAT score was 162 and the median GPA was 3.78 — both record highs for the college.

Brown said the rankings, quality education and increased recruitment efforts are drawing students. Scholarship dollars are also an important factor, with more than $4.2 million awarded this academic year — up from about $3 million during the 2022-23 academic year.

About the Board

The board was created in 2018 when the Tennessee General Assembly passed the UT FOCUS Act, restructuring the UT Board of Trustees and creating an advisory board for each campus in the UT System. The board is charged with making campus-level recommendations to the UT Board of Trustees on strategic planning, operating budgets and tuition, as well as advising the chancellor.

Public members of the advisory board are Allen Carter of Niota, Alexia Poe of Nashville, Tomi Robb of Knoxville, Tom Smith of Nashville and John Tickle of Bristol.

The Faculty Senate appointed Joan MacLeod Heminway, Rick Rose Distinguished Professor of Law, to serve as the faculty appointee to the board.

The student appointee is Jessica Barfield, fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the School of Information Sciences.


Lisa Leko (865-974-8698,