University of Tennessee System Guarantees Admission to Top High School Students

High school students who finish in the top 10% of their graduating class or graduate with a 4.0 GPA or higher will now be guaranteed admission to all University of Tennessee System campuses.
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Updated on September 12, 2023
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  • The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees voted Sept. 8 to guarantee admission to students who finish in the top 10% of their graduating class or have a 4.0 GPA or higher.
  • Additionally, the University of Tennessee (UT) at Chattanooga, UT Martin, and UT Southern will admit students who have a 3.2 GPA with an ACT score of 23 or higher or an SAT score of 1130-1150 or higher.
  • University officials also recently expanded income eligibility requirements for the tuition-free UT Promise scholarship program.
  • Various colleges and states have undertaken guaranteed admission policies to boost enrollment and increase access for students.

High school students at the top of their graduating class will now be guaranteed admission to University of Tennessee schools.

The University of Tennessee (UT) Board of Trustees approved a resolution at their Sept. 8 meeting to guarantee admission to top high school graduates. That resolution provides that students be offered admission if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Finish in the top 10% of their graduating class
  • Achieve a 4.0 or higher GPA

Additionally, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, UT Martin, and UT Southern will admit students who have a 3.2 GPA with an ACT score of 23 or higher or an SAT score of 1130-1150 or higher.

The resolution is effective immediately and applies to all of the university's campuses.

"In taking this step, the UT System would join public institutions in at least a dozen other states

including Arizona, Florida, and Texas, that offer guaranteed admissions to eligible students," the proposal reads.

The proposal estimates that, based on 2022 state high school graduate figures, at least 6,400 prospective students would have qualified for automatic admission in that year alone. The effort comes as the university system looks to keep more students in state — with the proposal noting that 28% of public high school students who graduated in 2021 with a 3.75 GPA or higher chose to attend college out of state.

"While the university's campuses in Chattanooga, Pulaski, and Martin admit the majority of

applicants who meet the above criteria, their offers are not guaranteed," the proposal reads. "Having a public promise of admission is likely to have a positive effect on applications and the number of enrolled Tennesseans at each campus."

The resolution initially included all three admissions requirements for all campuses, but board members amended the proposal after University of Tennessee, Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman said at the meeting her institution wanted to start with the 4.0 GPA or top 10% in a graduating class requirements in order to ensure that all students have a spot on campus.

"We could guarantee admission that we wouldn't be able to deliver on, too many students," Plowman said.

The flagship institution hopes to open another 1,900 beds of dorm space in the fall of 2025, opening the door for further expanded guaranteed admissions criteria, Plowman said. She also noted that the university system plans to expand income eligibility for its UT Promise scholarship program, which guarantees free tuition and fees, and that could also lead to an enrollment bump.

The University of Tennessee system plans to extend the qualifying household income level for recipients of the last-dollar UT Promise scholarship from $60,000 to $75,000, according to a press release.

That program will also include a $500 grant for students to help with expenses.

"UT Promise is more than a scholarship program; it's a promise that we make to the young people of Tennessee. It's a promise that their dreams, ambitions and hard work will not be limited by financial barriers," UT System President Randy Boyd said in that release.

"Through UT Promise, we are investing in the next generation of leaders, innovators and change-makers who will shape the future of our state and beyond."

The UT Promise program launched in 2019 and initially required students to have a household income of $50,000 or less. Eligibility was expanded to $60,000 in 2021.

Direct admissions programs have increased in recent years as colleges look to boost enrollment: 38 Indiana colleges and universities agreed to offer students pre-admission based on their GPA or SAT scores, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education announced in August.