University of Tennessee Offers Grants to Attract Black Students
Under pressure to increase minority enrollment, the University of Tennessee will begin a new scholarship program this fall to attract Black students.
“This program is meant to make more resources available to African American students,” says Richard Bayer, dean of admissions. “We think we can do better here, and this is one way to help it.”
Qualifying Black students will receive up to $2,500 a year for up to four years — a $10,000 maximum — toward an undergraduate degree at UT’s flagship campus in Knoxville.
UT-Knoxville’s tuition and fees, which have been rising at a double-digit rate in recent years, currently are $1,617 a semester, or $3,234 a year for in-state students.
The scholarship program stems from the out-of-court settlement last year in Rita Sanders Geier’s 1968 lawsuit accusing the state of perpetuating a dual higher education system for Black and White students. The lawsuit was sparked by a UT plan to expand a campus established in 1947 in downtown Nashville a few miles from historically Black Tennessee State University.
Black student enrollment accounted for only 6.4 percent of total enrollment at UT-Knoxville this fall, while Blacks make up more than 16 percent of the state’s population. Of 26,033 students registered at UT-Knoxville, 1,669 are Black.
Bayer estimates the new scholarship program could attract at least 80 more Black students to UT next fall. He says 106 candidates have been tentatively selected, but how many will accept the offer and enroll won’t be known until later.
Dewey Roberts, president of the Knoxville chapter of the NAACP, praised the scholarships as “desperately needed,” both for the university and the Black community.
“Anything that will help stimulate African American students to continue their education is a very positive thing for our community,” Roberts says.
But some Black students already attending UT are upset that the scholarship’s scholarly requirements seem too low.
“A lot of the other scholarships and grants offered by UT have higher minimum requirements,” says Kasim Barnes, a 20-year-old psychology major and member of the Black Cultural Programming Committee. “A lot of people feel insulted.”
Qualifying students must have a high school grade point average of at least 3.0, score at least 18 on the ACT college entrance exam and maintain at least a 2.3 GPA while attending UT.
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