Record retention, student success highlight fall semester at UT

Published 6:00 am Monday, August 28, 2023

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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is set to welcome more than 36,000 students to campus this fall, an enrollment record thanks in part to record retention rates, growth in the number of graduate and professional students, and innovative student success initiatives.

“Our students are excited to experience life and learning on Rocky Top,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “We are committed to ensuring that once they’re here, they have the support they need to be successful. UT has made significant investments in student success initiatives over the years, becoming a national model for other institutions. These efforts have led to big increases in retention and graduation rates, which is important not just for our students but also our state. Our graduates become Tennessee’s workforce of the future.”

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Retention rate highest on record

Although enrollment numbers are not final until the 14th day of the semester, around 36,122 Vols will be on campus this fall. In addition to a retention rate of around 90% — the university’s highest on record — more students than ever are drawn to UT’s highly regarded academic programs and the Volunteer experience.

The university is also seeing increases among graduate and professional students. More than 7,300 will be enrolled this fall, a 10% increase over last year.

“The rise in graduate student enrollment at UT is a testament to the outstanding educational opportunities we offer students,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick. “Our graduate and professional programs empower students to explore big ideas and work to positively impact the communities we serve every day.”

Supporting academic success

UT’s faculty and the Division of Student Success take a strengths-based approach to helping students leverage their talents personally and professionally. Programs like the Veterans Impact Program, the UT Success Academy, Vol Success Teams and Vol Study Sessions help students find academic success and build lasting relationships on campus, while Success Grants and the Volunteer Experience Faculty Fellows program are promoting accessibility, well-being and career readiness. With academic support, resources and guidance, 96% of last year’s first-year students finished the year in good academic standing — the highest percentage in UT’s history.

This year the university is piloting the innovative Vol Edge program, which will offer a flexible array of learning and engagement activities to foster well-being and purposeful life and career readiness preparation. The pilot consists of a small group of students this fall and will expand to offer opportunities to more students in 2024.

UT is welcoming around 600 student veterans to campus, expected to be one of the largest groups since the Veterans Success Center was established in 2017. More than 1,400 student veterans and military-connected students are currently pursuing degrees on campus. Last year the Board of Trustees approved a measure allowing veterans, active military and ROTC cadets to attend any UT campus at the in-state tuition rate.

A growing university

The Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs, the College of Music and the College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies are beginning their first academic year. The new units support UT’s mission as the state’s flagship public university to deliver a world-class education to students and meet the needs of the state.

The university is welcoming 187 new full-time faculty across all academic units.

UT has its largest-ever housing inventory this fall, with more than 8,400 students expected to live in university housing. To continue to meet housing needs while supporting the Volunteer experience, the university is moving forward with plans to build three new multiple-use student housing facilities through a public-private partnership.

The Pride of the Southland Band, one of the most prestigious college marching bands in the United States, has a record number of members this year. More than 400 undergraduate and graduate members are ready to energize the UT campus, the state of Tennessee and fans around the world with their powerful sound and showmanship.

Highlights from the Class of 2027

• Nearly 6,700 first-year students are joining UT this fall.

• First-year students hail from 92 Tennessee counties, 48 states and 40 countries.

• First-generation college students make up 15% of incoming students.

• 58 first-year students are becoming Army ROTC cadets.

• 45 first-year students are becoming Air Force ROTC cadets.

• 93% of first-year students are receiving some form of scholarship or financial aid, demonstrating UT’s continued investment in college access and affordability.

• More than 95% of in-state first-year applicants are offered a pathway to an education at UT Knoxville through initiatives like the Vol Access Collaborative, a new UT System program that expands admission options.

• The second class of Distinguished Tennessean Scholars will join the Volunteer family this fall. The award, which is offered to a high school senior from each of the state’s 95 counties, covers full tuition and mandatory fees and is renewable for four years.

• Welcoming first-year and transfer students

• First-year and transfer students will be greeted with six weeks of programming to kick off their Volunteer experience. Big Orange Welcome — the final phase of orientation for incoming students — features hundreds of events for students to explore all that UT has to offer.