Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek was invited to visit the White House in January 2014 for a summit about increasing college access for low-income students.
In preparation for the summit, participating universities were asked to commit to plans for expanding college opportunity. UT plans to implement three programs aimed at recruiting academically qualified low-income students and helping ensure their success once they arrive:
- A coaching program for students who face barriers to their success at the university. A retention index will be used to understand potential risk factors that can prevent students from successfully completing their degree. The university will hire professional coaches to help students transition to university life and develop academic and nonacademic success strategies. A pilot program is already under way.
- A summer math camp for incoming freshmen. The camp will target students who are interested in math-intensive majors but do not have strong ACT math scores. The camp will help students develop the needed math skills or identify majors that interest them but have less focus on math. The camp will launch this summer.
- Expansion of transfer programs with community colleges. Offering support from both UT and the community colleges, these programs set clear benchmarks for successful transfer to UT. The university will invest in professional staff, including an admissions counselor who already has been hired to work with community colleges, and will develop support materials to enhance recruitment, transition, and retention.
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Graduation and retention rates have become common success metrics in higher education. These statistics are at the core of a growing political discussion to make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable.
The current six-year graduation rate for public colleges and universities in the United States is 57%, a percentage that is broadly deemed unsustainable. A post-secondary educated workforce, many argue, is necessary to ameliorate the widening earning gap and resulting hit to the middle class. As more jobs become automated, demand for employees with an associate or bachelor’s degree will outstrip supply, a process that many say has already begun.
In response to these troubling trends, the University of Tennessee made graduation and retention rate improvement an institutional commitment. UT’s success is worthy of investigation at a time when graduation metrics have become part of the public dialogue, but have shown little movement on a national level.
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This edition of the newsletter focuses on implementation team updates, leaver’s survey results, and news from UT.
Students from the College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering took part in the Chem-E-Car Competition at the Southern Regional Conference in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Read more.
Avery Dobbs, a senior majoring in political science with a history minor, has received a 2014–2015 Fulbright International Scholarship to teach English in Bulgaria. Read more.
Monica Black, associate professor of history, has been named a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. This year, sixty-five ACLS fellowships were awarded to faculty to support research in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. The winners were selected from about 1,000 applicants. Read more.
Candidates for the position of associate vice chancellor for research–research development will be on campus over the next four weeks. As part of the campus visit, each candidate will hold a public forum and respond to questions following the presentation. The search committee invites students, faculty, staff, and the public to attend the public forums. Read more.
A professor who is one of the world’s leading experts on invasive species has received a top award from the Southeastern Conference. Read more.
The project is designed to eliminate coal use completely by transitioning to natural gas. A successful conversion will lead to decreased amounts of emissions, less costly fuel oil delivery, and a better water treatment system.
The Steam Plant Division of the Facilities Services Department is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the central steam plant, which serves the university’s Knoxville and Institute of Agriculture campuses. Read more.