UTC sets sights on Top 5 in the South

UTC sets sights on Top 5 in the South

February 26th, 2011 by Perla Trevizo in News

UTC AT A GLANCE

Compared to 17 other peers including Louisiana Tech, North Florida and Northern Kentucky.

• 42 percent of full-time undergraduates in the fall 2003 cohort graduated within six years, about 8 percentage points lower than the average institution.

• Freshman retention improved from 60 percent in 2007 to 67 percent in 2009, but UTC remains in the bottom quartile of selected peers.

• UTC awarded nearly 900 fewer bachelor's degrees in 2009 than the average peer institution.

• 28 percent of UTC undergraduates received Pell grants in 2009, slightly above the peer average of 26 percent.

• The undergraduate student/faculty ratio is equal to the peer average at 18:1.

• At $5,700, in-state undergraduate tuition and fees are about $650 lower than the peer average.

Source: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wants to become one of the top five public master's-degree universities in the South, but getting there could take up to 10 years and about $20 million, administrators said Friday.

UTC Chancellor Roger Brown told the UT board of trustees about the university's plan to advance from No. 17 to the top five on U.S. News & World Report's ranking of the top 20 regional public universities in the South.

"Clearly we have to have a better rate in keeping our students in school once we admit them as freshmen," Brown said.

"So we are working hard to do better advising, to have better tutoring, math laboratories, ways that students who need some extra help will be able to get that help and move ahead," he said. "By doing a better job on the entry level with our freshmen, we will automatically see our graduation levels improve."

UTC's six-year graduation rate for full-time undergraduates in the fall 2003 cohort is 42 percent, compared to 55.5 percent at universities in the top 10 percent and 70.9 percent of those in the top five.

And UTC awarded nearly 900 fewer bachelor's degrees in 2009 than the average institution in the selected peer set of 17 universities, including West Florida, Missouri State and Appalachian State. It also was in the bottom quartile for the number of master's degrees awarded.

UT trustee Jim Hall, of Chattanooga, said he supports UTC's plan but wants to ensure the university continues to focus on access.

"This campus needs to be open and available to the young people of Tennessee," Hall said. That means that students from disadvantaged backgrounds must have the same opportunity to learn and succeed as everyone else."

Richard Brown, vice chancellor of finance and operations, said the university can very likely make the top 10 within five years and the top five within 10 years.

"I think we are well positioned to close that gap, but we are going to have to do it in three ways," he said. Those are:

n Look at tuition and fee modeling, making sure costs remain moderate but enough to deliver quality.

n Raise more money on the development side.

n Perform better under the Complete College Tennessee Act, a statewide plan to raise the number and quality of college graduates.

Brown said the projected revenue shortfall of $18 million to $20 million to achieve the goal comes from lower tuition and fees than some peers and $13.2 million in budget cuts over the last three years.

Faculty and staff salaries also are below average, he said.

But UTC has the highest endowment per full-time enrolled student of all its peers institutions at $8,000.

Brown said that fiscal advantage and ACT scores that align with its peers' averages are pluses for the university.

"We have a student body that should be able to succeed, and we have the resources from our foundation that are second to none," he said

He said the first step is to embrace the new goal, and UTC will probably come up with a strategic plan next year to begin the process.