University of Tennessee Creates Scholarship To Attract More Black Students

MEMPHIS, Tenn.

In an attempt to increase minority enrollment, the University of Tennessee is providing a new scholarship that will be available to students from 35 selected, majority Black high schools in the state. The scholarship, called Tennessee Promise, is available to students in the fall of 2007 and pays up to $5,800 a year for tuition.

Like the University of Memphis’ new scholarship geared toward students of “underrepresented ethnic populations” and first-generation college students, the UT scholarship also attempts to replace one that ended this year with the 38-year-old Geier desegregation lawsuit (see Diverse, Oct. 19).

“We’re not giving up on diversity because Geier went away,” said UT chancellor Loren Crabtree. “We’re trying to get out there now and continue what we started under Geier.”

The state-funded Geier scholarship was designed to help bring racial parity to Tennessee colleges after the 1968 lawsuit brought by Rita Geier charged segregation and discrimination.

The lawsuit officially ended last month, along with the scholarship. However, Geier scholarship students will continue to receive the funds until they graduate.While the University of Memphis created a scholarship that attracts minority students without discriminating exclusively by race, UT took a different approach, offering a scholarship to all students as long as they are enrolled in the target schools.

Richard Bayer, UT’s dean of enrollment, said few students from the 35 schools have enrolled at UT because of financial or other barriers.

Twenty-two of the schools are in the Memphis City School district, which has a Black enrollment of about 85 percent, a White enrollment of about 10 percent and a Hispanic enrollment of about 4 percent.

UT officials, who expect the scholarship to cost the university about $200,000 a year, recently kicked off their statewide recruitment tour in Memphis.

“We wanted to come here first because Memphis is key,” Crabtree said.

One of the stops was Kingsbury High School, which has a Black enrollment of about 53 percent, a Hispanic enrollment of about 16 percent and a White enrollment of nearly 28 percent.

“I’m not sure if kids see UT as one of their first options, because it’s so far away and seems so out of reach,” said Kingsbury principal Terrence Brown, who sends fewer than five students to UT each year.

Crabtree and Bayer said there also may be lingering negative stereotypes about the UT campus.

“The university suffers from older views,” said Crabtree, referring to a former era of racial tension on the college campus. “We’ve had parents express doubts about UT based on some of the pre-Geier stuff.”

Black student enrollment at UT is 10.4 percent, up from 6 percent five years ago.

Associated Press



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