The University of Tennessee-Knoxville has set enrollment records in recent years, but the state university system’s flagship campus has bumped into its ceiling. UT-Knoxville anticipates a smaller freshman class next year despite a dramatic increase in applications.
Members of the UT Board of Trustees Executive Committee discussed the situation at a meeting last Friday, where Chancellor Donde Plowman gave hints of plans to give prospective students who don’t get into UT-Knoxville options to attend other UT campuses.
“We’re sort of capped on what we’re going to be able to accept in the fall of ’23 compared to the fall of ’22, yet applications are going to be way up,” said John Compton, chair of the Board of Trustees.
As of Jan. 1, UT-Knoxville had received 48,665 first-year applications, a 40.3 percent increase over the number at the same time a year ago. Kerry Gardner, assistant director of news and information, said the 2023 applicant pool is the most competitive in the university’s 228-year history.
About one-fourth of the applicants live in Tennessee, an increase of 13.2 percent over last year. Out-of-state applications have increased by 51.6 percent.
The 2023 application numbers dwarf 2022’s numbers. As of Jan. 1, 2022, UT-Knoxville had received 34,698 applications for fall 2022 enrollment. The university accepted 24,826 students and 6,846 actually enrolled. The others apparently received multiple offers and enrolled at other institutions.
The enrollment number will be lower in fall 2023, though no maximum number has been set as a cap.
Plowman said the flood of applications is “a great problem to have,” noting that the first round of acceptance decisions have gone out and the second round will go out on Feb. 15.
She and other UT System chancellors are working on a pilot program that would allow some students who have been accepted to UT-Knoxville but can’t enroll because of the cap to attend UT-Chattanooga, UT-Martin or UT-Southern, even if they haven’t applied to the other campuses.
“We are working out the details, which we’re going to be able to share with you at the February meeting (of the Board of Trustees),” she said. “It’s kind of a pilot, and we’ll see how it works and then how we will build on it in the future.”
UT-Chattanooga Chancellor Steve Angle said students who go through the program would likely be given the opportunity to transfer to UT-Knoxville later in their academic careers if they so choose. “If a student wants to start with us and transfer, we’ll do everything we can to help them get to where they want to be to finish their college career,” he said. “I think every campus is committed to that,” he said.
Gardner said a number of factors have led to the increase in UT-Knoxville applications and positive momentum, including a commitment to affordability, increased retention and graduation rates, and athletic success, which increases the university’s visibility.
“We also rely on our strong partnership with alumni who share their unique Volunteer experiences and can speak to the way their time at UT helped prepare them for success,” she said.