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Tech graduates have both lowest debt and highest starting salary of any Tennessee public university

Tennessee Tech president Phil Oldham gives his report during Tech's Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday afternoon.According to data recently released by U.S. News & World Report and PayScale, Tech graduates have a unique combination of both a high starting salary and a low amount of debt. In comparing Tech to other public universities in Tennessee, Tech graduates have the highest starting salary and the lowest amount of student debt.

In its annual publication about colleges and universities, U.S. News reported that the typical debt of Tech graduates is $16,532, the lowest among all Tennessee public universities.

At the same time, the starting salary for Tech graduates is $55,200, the highest among all Tennessee public universities, according to data provided to U.S. News by PayScale. 

Among all universities in Tennessee, both public and private, Tech is second in both categories to Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Tech President Phil Oldham reported these numbers, along with other updates on the university, to the Board of Trustees.

In his report, he announced that the university’s first-to-second year retention rate has increased to 77%, a 2-point jump over last year. Tech has also seen a more than 2% increase in each of its 4- and 5-year graduation rates, 37.2% and 52.1% respectively. The 6-year graduation rate is 54.4%. 

Oldham shared the fact that a student graduating early has a $70,000-$80,000 impact on their finances, through a combination of saving on college costs and entering the workforce earlier.

“This is Tennessee Tech’s story,” Oldham said. “We help more students graduate on time, saving money, so they have the least amount of debt, and it pays off with higher salaries.”

Financial Update

The trustees received word the fact that fall enrollment bested projections used in budget preparations resulted in nearly $1 million in additional revenue.

“We have successfully met the financial challenges we faced,” said President Oldham. “But we did it not by hunkering down, but by continuing to invest in appropriate ways, whether it is marketing for future students or by hiring faculty in emerging, in-demand disciplines.” 

“I want to thank all of the Tech faculty and staff for their hard work in improving the university’s financial position,” said Trudy Harper, chair of the Board of Trustees. 

The board also received the final numbers for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which saw Tech able to reinstate both its operating fund balance and the university’s investment fund balance, which allows the university to proactively react to opportunities (such as the increasing interest in studying computer science that led to the university’s cluster hire of five additional computer science faculty). 

Donors and community history honored

Three entities, two buildings and a center, on campus were given new names:

Stonecipher Lecture Hall

In recognition of the recent gift of $1 million from Harry Stonecipher, the retired vice chairman and former president and chief executive officer of the Boeing Company. Stonecipher’s career in aerospace spans more than 40 years. A Tennessee Tech alumnus who studied physics, he started his career at General Electric Company as a senior lab technician. By the early 1980s he was heading the company's entire aircraft engine product operations.

In 1987 he left GE for Sunstrand Corp. where he quickly progressed to lead the company as president, CEO, and eventually chairman of the Board of Directors. By 1994 he was elected president and CEO of McDonnell Douglas Corporation. While there, he initiated and led the company's merger with the Boeing Company.

Beyond his personal achievements as an industry leader, Stonecipher kept a personal commitment to Tennessee Tech. In the early 1990s he took an active fundraising role at Tech, chairing its first major capital campaign. By 1997 his leadership helped raise more than

$23 million for Tech. He also served the university as chair of the first Foundation Board of Directors and National Board of Advisors.

Horace M. Jeffers Learning Resources Center

The College of Education Learning Resources Center, located in Bartoo Hall, will be named the Horace M. Jeffers Learning Resources Center in honor of Scott County educator Horace M. "Jake" Jeffers, who served as an educator, guidance counselor, administrator and coach in Scott County for more than 40 years. Jeffers was motivated by a desire for education, a love for students, and an awareness of the value of people creating choices for themselves through education. He went to school literally not knowing how he would pay for it because he believed in value of learning.

Through his daughter, Jeffers-Davis, and her late husband, Jerry W. Davis, his legacy is memorialized in several ways at Tennessee Tech University, including the Horace M. Jeffers Memorial Scholarship that has been awarded annually to a graduate of Oneida City Schools. The Horace M. Jeffers Scholars Fund established in 2000 provides 20 four-year scholarships of $4,000 annually to Oneida graduates.

The Davises have also supported the College of Education through $1.5 million to fund what was then known as 21st Century Classrooms.

Varsity Building

The Alumni Building will be renamed the Varsity Building, in honor of the historic connection of that building and the university. Opened in 1969 by Leon DeLozier as a movie theater, the building provided the Tech community with many fond memories. In 2014, the university purchased the building and it is now the home of the Crawford Alumni Center and University Advancement.

In other matters brought before the board:

  • Associate Professor Janet Isbell, along with Tech students, provided the board with information about Tech’s Freedom School, a summer literacy and cultural enrichment program that served 30 children, kindergarten through fourth grade, from the community at Jere Whitson Elementary School.
  • The Academic and Student Affairs committee heard updates from Provost Lori Mann Bruce, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Career Placement Brandon Johnson, and Vice President of Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Marc Burnett.
  • The Audit and Business Committee heard updates from Associate Vice President for Human Resources Leslie Crickenberger, and Vice President of Planning and Finance Claire Stinson.

Materials from today’s meeting and the webcast of the full board meeting are available at the board’s website, www.tntech.edu/board. 

The board’s next meeting is Dec. 5, 2019.

• Associate Professor Janet Isbell, along with Tech students, provided the board with information about Tech’s Freedom School, a summer literacy and cultural enrichment program that served 30 children, kindergarten through fourth grade, from the community at Jere Whitson Elementary School.

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