published Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Counselors encourage students to keep up with college testing


UTC: Beginning fall 2012, the freshman admission standard will go up from a 2.75 high school grade point average to 2.85 with an 18 ACT composite score or an 890 SAT composite score, or 2.3 GPA and 21 ACT/990 SAT.

UT- Martin: 2.85 GPA and 18 ACT or 2.5 GPA and 21 ACT. Considering increasing it, but don't know to what yet.

Source: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the University of Tennessee at Martin.

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As more universities consider raising admission standards in an effort to increase graduation rates, high school counselors face the challenge of making sure their students can keep up.

Tennessee ranked 49th out of 50 states in high school students' average composite ACT score this year. The national average was 21.1 while Tennessee's was 19.5.

High school counselors say they have to encourage their students to do better on the exam.

"State schools are more flexible with financing higher education, but their standards are being increased at the same time," Brainerd High School counselor Melissa Brassel said Wednesday after the 2011 Conference for Counselors.

Representatives from the University of Tennessee system's three undergraduate campuses -- Chattanooga, Knoxville and Martin -- made their seventh and last stops of a statewide tour to visit with high school counselors.

Seventy five guidance counselors from 40 schools attended the session at the Hilton Garden Inn.

In 2010, then-Gov. Phil Bredesen signed the Complete College Tennessee Act to increase the number of Tennesseans who get associate's or bachelor's degrees.

About 28 percent of Tennesseans 25 or older hold an associate's or bachelor's degree. The national average is 34 percent.

Beginning in the fall of 2012, funding for Tennessee universities and colleges will be outcome-based. Schools are developing strategic plans to find out what makes students successful, said Yancy Freeman, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment services at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"A lot of schools are looking at admission requirements but we are looking at a lot of things as well," he said, such as what the school can do better retain students.

UTC raised its admission standards from a 2.75 high school grade point average to 2.85 with an 18 ACT composite score or an 890 SAT composite score.

Jill Ingalls, college access adviser at Ooltewah High School, said the new standard will cut off some of her students.

"We need to encourage our students to succeed in the test," she said. Ooltewah already focuses on ACT preparation, while acknowledging that the test is not the sole indicator of how well an applicant will do in college.

This year's freshman class at UT Knoxville had the highest average ACT score in the school's history, 26.7. About 46 percent of the students had a 4.0 GPA or better, according to school officials.

Richard Bayer, assistant provost for enrollment services, said the quality of students admitted is increasing.

This year, close to 14,000 students applied, and more than 9,000 were admitted. Nearly 4,200 enrolled.

In almost three hours, counselors heard about admission requirements and enrollment, as well as changes in financial aid and the new Tennessee Transfer Pathway for students who want to transition from a two-year to a four-year institution.

"A lot of times what keeps a kid out of college is the process of getting in," Ingalls said. About 89 percent of Ooltewah's 319 graduates in 2011 applied to go to college, and about 78 percent attended.

Brassel said high school counselors have to get creative in working with students, especially as the number of first-generation college attendees increases.

About 80 percent of the 2011 senior class at Brainerd High School planned to be enrolled in college this fall, she said. Many chose to stay in the region.

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about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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