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UT approves admissions policy, defers one measure for Knoxville campus due to capacity concerns

The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees today approved a policy that will guarantee admission to any university in the UT system for students who finish in the top 10% of their graduating class or have 4.0 grade point average.

UT President Randy Boyd said the board wants to increase enrollment “significantly” to increase the workforce for Tennessee, and also to draw students from economically disadvantaged areas.

A third criteria for qualification, which is to achieve a 3.2 GPA and a composite ACT score of 23 or higher (or an SAT score of 1130-1150 or higher), will apply only to UT Chattanooga, UT Martin and UT Southern, but not yet to the Knoxville campus.

Boyd said the potential enrollment pool for that category of students is unknown.

“We are nervous about that third one,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman, referring to the 3.2 GPA and ACT score qualification.

“If we go lower on our standards, which is what that would do … the cost to us in trying to get more advisors, it requires more support, wraparound services," she said at today's meeting. "We know what happens to kids that get in a math class and they have a lower ACT score: they struggle. So those are some things we want to think through before we put that in place. There are costs associated with it.”

Other public universities in states including Arizona, Florida and Texas already offer guaranteed admissions to eligible students.

Plowman said a “small number” of students with ACT scores of 23 have already been admitted, but the university does not yet have data on their performance. “We would love the increase in the economically deprived areas,” she said, referring to results seen in the Texas system.

Boyd also said that the third admissions measure would further stress the Knoxville campus’s housing capacity.

“At UT Knoxville there would be a risk that we’re over-subscribed, and as is well-documented, we do have some challenges with housing and capacity,” he said.

Plowman said the university is expecting another 1,900 beds to be available as of Fall 2025. She also indicated the university is still open to adjusting the ACT metric.

The new admissions policy will go into effect for Fall 2024.

Melanie is WUOT’s interim news director and is a distinguished lecturer in journalism at the University of Tennessee, where she has taught reporting, editing and media entrepreneurship since 2012. Before teaching, Melanie worked for Bloomberg News for 11 years in a variety of cities and roles, from managing the multimedia desk to producing television. In between her journalism jobs, Melanie worked as director of information services at Opera America, putting her M.A. in musicology, from Montreal’s McGill University, to good use.