It is no secret that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has a variety of important roles in our community.
First, it educates thousands of undergraduate and graduate students every year, equipping them for productive lives.
An institution the size of UTC is also a significant economic engine in the Chattanooga area, of course.
But the university is not resting on its laurels.
Dr. Joe DiPietro, president of the University of Tennessee for the past several months, pointed out during a visit with editors and reporters of the Times Free Press on Monday that UTC aims to enhance its reputation throughout the region.
How does it plan to accomplish that goal?
UTC aspires to be one of the top five public master's degree-granting universities in the South, DiPietro noted. At present, UTC ranks about 20th.
Other schools that have rated highly in that category are institutions such as James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.; Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.; the Citadel in Charleston, S.C.; the College of Charleston; and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Clearly, achieving UTC's goal of breaking into that top five will not happen overnight. It will take a concerted effort by students, faculty and administrators, as well as adequate funding.
DiPietro noted that, unfortunately, continued tight funding will likely necessitate higher tuition.
"The trend is that we'll see tuition increases," he said.
But it is imperative, DiPietro said, for Tennessee as a whole to improve its academic standing to be able to compete with other states.
Only about 21 percent of young adults in Tennessee have four-year degrees, compared with 27 percent to 28 percent of young adults nationwide.
UTC and other colleges and universities in the state have their work cut out for them in enhancing educational opportunities. But we have every confidence they are up to the challenge.