Explaining Declining Black Enrollments at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has the highest percentage of black students of any branch in the University of Tennessee system. The most recent Department of Education figures show that blacks make up 16 percent of the students at the Chattanooga campus compared to just 9 percent at the flagship campus in Knoxville.

But in recent years black enrollments at the Chattanooga campus have been falling. Four years ago blacks made up 19 percent of the student body.

University officials state that a major reason for the decline in black students was the elimination of the Geier Scholarship program. These scholarships went exclusively to African Americans. But in 2006, when the courts lifted federal oversight of the state’s higher education desegregation plan, the state could no longer offer scholarships based solely on race.

The Geier Scholarships were replaced by a new program called YES scholarships. These scholarships are awarded to disadvantaged students of all races. This year only 46 of the 123 YES scholarships to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga went to black students. 

In addition to the dwindling number of scholarships for black students, admission requirements were raised in 2009. This year, students applying for admission needed an 18 on the American College Testing Program’s ACT college entrance examination. This requirement excludes more than one half of all black students who took the test.