UTM reports highest recorded graduation rate

Announcement made at Advisory Board meeting

UT Martin announced its highest six-year graduation rate since records on that statistic have been kept (since 1992), with 54.8% of its first-year students enrolling in Fall 2017 graduating by June 2023.

That was announced by Dr. Philip Acree Cavalier, the UT Martin provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, at the UTM Advisory Board meeting held Sept. 8 in the Boling University Center. The meeting was the first for Dr. Yancy Freeman as chancellor of UT Martin.

Cavalier told the advisory board that the university’s information was just released earlier that day. The previous high came in 2020 at 53.3%. Last year’s six-year graduation rate was 52.6%.

Cavalier credited that success to UTM Director of Undergraduate Admissions Destin Tucker – this was her first recruiting class at UT Martin – as well as the university’s faculty and staff.

“I think it’s important to note that there has been work done now for six years that has been at the faculty level, the staff level, Destin’s work bringing those students in and helping to get them started,” Cavalier said. “It’s obviously a campus effort.

“All those kinds of things that everyone has done – people who aren’t here right now have done – led to our highest-ever six-year graduation rate.”

The enrollment for UT Martin for the Fall 2023 semester is 6,950 students. That is 1.12% more than last year’s undergraduate and graduate enrollment of 6,873 and 3.5% more than the Fall 2021 enrollment of 6,715.

Other enrollment numbers showed cause for celebration.

“Our first-time first-year class has rebounded very well from two years ago,” Cavalier said. “We are at 1,118. Our grad programs continue to be very strong; we’re at 707 students enrolled in that. That’s four years in a row where we’ve had 700-plus students.”

The first-year enrollment for Fall 2023 is the largest first-year class for UT Martin since Fall 2019 and the second-highest in the last five years.

Cavalier said the university’s Full-Time Equivalent – a number used to more equally compare colleges’ undergraduate enrollments by dividing the total number of students by 15 credit hours – has increased over last year, the highest since Fall 2020.

“Of course, that’s the driver for our revenue,” he said. “We are up about 35 FTE, which is obviously a good sign.

“Our retention has gone up about 2.5 points to 73.4%. We were down to 70% two years ago.”

Cavalier said that the university is recovering from the setback in enrollment brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Overall enrollment has increased each of the last two years since the sharp drop during COVID,” he said. “This fall, our new first-year student enrollment was the highest since the fall prior to COVID. Everything that’s happened since then has reinforced the idea that we are continuing to do really, really well.”

Petra McPhearson, the senior vice chancellor for finance and administration, spoke about the capital projects that had been completed, those that are still underway and those in the design stage.

In Fiscal Year 2023, which ended June 30, completed projects include the Latimer-Smith Engineering and Science Building, a $65 million project; Elam Center arena lighting upgrades at $760,000; Boling University Center Americans with Disabilities Act restroom updates at $172,000; and the University Center Sodexo Freshens update at $140,500.

Capital projects still under construction at the start of Fiscal Year 2024 include the Elam Center glass replacement, a $4.13 million project; the Blaylock outdoor classroom and fountain and kiosk project at $2.443 million; the indoor batting facility at $620,000; and the ROTC Building repairs at $500,000.

Projects that have not yet begun include the TEST Hub at $19.16 million; the Johnson EPS Building system upgrades at $9.87 million; the Hall-Moody Administration Building system upgrades at $7.5 million; the Clement Hall system upgrades (Phase 2) at $4.16 million; the Elam Center exterior wall repairs at $4 million; the athletics facilities improvements at $3.52 million; other Americans with Disabilities Act campus upgrades at $2.505 million; the South Chiller Plant chiller replacement at $1.76 million; and Elam Center improvements at $965,000.

Advisory Board Chair Art Sparks Jr. introduced Freeman to the board, as this was Freeman’s first advisory board meeting as chancellor. Freeman’s tenure at UT Martin began Aug. 9.

The next meeting of the UT Martin Advisory Board is scheduled for Jan. 26.

The Sept. 8 meeting can be viewed in its entirety at www.utm.edu/abmeeting.

PHOTO CAPTION: UTM Advisory Board Chair Art Sparks (in orange tie) and UTM Chancellor Dr. Yancy Freeman (far right) enjoy a smile as information is provided at the UTM Advisory Board meeting held Sept. 8 in the Boling University Center. Also pictured are Advisory Board members Johnny Woolfolk (far left) and Hal Bynum.

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