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Student Achievement

Tennessee Tech University is proud of the accomplishments of its students in the classroom, in campus activities, and after graduation. The university evaluates success with respective to student achievement consistent with its mission “Tennessee Tech delivers enduring education, impactful research, and collaborative service.” One of core principles in the Strategic Plan – Tech Tomorrow is Student Success that explicitly indicates that “We empower students to realize their potential, craft individualized experiences, and discover their passion.” The student achievement is assessed on a variety of performance indicators, including enrollment data, retention and graduation rates, job placement rates, student portfolios, and performance on licensure examinations. The academic units and student service/support units at the university use this information in ongoing planning and assessment activities that guide improvement efforts, as directed by the university's strategic plan.

 

The data that demonstrated student achievement are presented in the following sections:

Student Enrollment Data

Tennessee Tech's enrollment has remained stable for the last decade – from 9,733 in Fall 2006 to 9,902 in Fall 2022. Total Fall 2022 includes 8,537 students enrolled in undergraduate programs and 1,365 students enrolled in graduate programs. Details of individual unit enrollment are also available on Tennessee Tech’s Office of Institutional Assessment, Research, and Effectiveness (IARE) website. Celebrating its centennial year of operation in 2015, Tennessee Tech University is expected to continue enrolling approximately 11,000 students.

Student Graduation Rates

Student graduation rates are common student success indicators. Successfully completing degree requirements is an important step for students in meeting academic and career goals. Tennessee Tech has set the threshold of acceptability at 50% and the targeted goal at 60% for six-year graduation rate. Additionally, for the four-year graduation rate, the University has set the threshold of acceptability at 35% and the targeted goal at 50%. Table 1 shows the longitudinal data of Tennessee Tech’s six-year graduation rates (cohorts 2012-2016) and Table 2 shows the longitudinal data of Tennessee Tech’s four-year graduation rates (cohorts 2013-2018).

Table 1.  Six-Year Graduation Rates for First-Time, Full-Time Freshmen

Cohort 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Tech 6-Year % 55.1% 54.4% 57.0% 59.9% 60.2%

Table 2.  Four-Year Graduation Rates for First-Time, Full-Time Freshmen

Cohort 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Tech 4-Year % 34.6% 37.2% 39.5% 35.4% 39.1%

The determination of the threshold of acceptability for graduation rates was based on a review of available data, the University’s continuous improvement initiatives on student success, as well as the mission and vision of the University. Noticeably, the targeted goal for a four-year graduation rate of 50% was also one of the University’s 2025 goals.

The six-year graduation rate for the 2016 cohort is 60.2%, which is higher than the 50% threshold of acceptability for six-year graduation rates. Similarly, the four-year graduation rate for the 2018 cohort is 39.1%, which is also higher than the threshold of acceptability of 35% for four-year graduation rates. The most recent three-year average of the six-year graduation rates, 58.9%, and the most recent three-year average of the four-year graduation rates, 38.0%, show that graduation rate measures remain above the respective threshold of acceptability. Graduation rates are also included in the Tennessee Tech Office of Institutional Assessment, Research, and Effectiveness (IARE) website.

Degrees Awarded

The number of degrees awarded* at Tennessee Tech has been consistent at about 2,500 degrees. The most recent three-year average is 2,462 degrees awarded. The information of degrees conferred at Tennessee Tech during last five years is available on the Office of Institutional Assessment, Research, and Effectiveness (IARE) website. Information about the number of degrees conferred, levels of degrees, and the gender and ethnicity of degree recipients also is available in the IARE web site. A comparison of the number of total degrees awarded (for first major program of study) in the past five years is shown in  Table 3.

Table 3.  Comparison of Degrees Awarded *

  2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 3-Year Average
Total 2,564 2,416 2,463 2,420 2,502 2,462
Bachelor's 2,173 1,967 1,992 1,904 1,970 1,955
Master's 333 360 365 391 389 382
Education Specialist 33 36 35 28 28 30
Doctorate 19 35 32 25 40 32
Certificates 6 28 39 72 75 62
 * Degrees awarded for first major program of study only; second bachelor's degrees during that year not included.

Student Retention Rate

Tennessee Tech has identified first-year retention rates for freshmen as a measure of student achievement. The threshold of acceptability for first-year retention rates for freshmen was set at 75% and the targeted goal was set at 82%. In addition, President Oldham shared his vision for what Tennessee Tech will accomplish by 2025. Goals related to enrollment, diversity, and graduation and the desire to see the University reach an 82% freshmen-to-sophomore retention rate (first-year retention rate) were announced in August 2019. The full report of the 1st to 2nd year retention in the past five years can be found on the Tennessee Tech IARE website.

Table 4. Retention Rates for First-Time, Full-Time Freshmen Cohort

Retention Cohort 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 3-Year Average
N % N % N % N % N % N %
Tennessee Tech 1,750 75% 1,872 77% 1,682 78% 1,711 73% 1,653 79% 1,682 76%

The University’s fall-to-fall retention rates for first-time, full-time freshmen ranged from 73% to 79% for the 2017 to 2021 cohorts, which are consistently at or higher than the threshold of acceptability. One exception can be noted in Table 4 is that the first-year retention rate for the 2020 first-time, full-time freshmen cohort fell below the threshold of acceptability, although the most recent three-year average of the first-year retention rates of 76% remains above the threshold of acceptability. The undesired drop was largely due to economic and social impacts of the pandemic. Noticeable decline of first-year retention rates were observed across the nation during the pandemic years. The University has made intentional efforts to improve the persistence of students and implemented various initiatives and programs pertaining to advising, maintaining freshman attendance, and mentoring minority students, etc. 

Senior Exit Exam

All graduating seniors are required to take the Senior Exit Exam during their senior year. The California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) is currently used as our senior exit exam. The exam is also a required component of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) Performance Funding Program. The threshold of acceptability is set at 90% of the ratio for Tennessee Tech CCTST average score/ national CCTST average score with the targeted goal set at 100%. As shown on Table 5, Tennessee Tech graduating seniors have consistently exceeded the threshold of acceptability and the targeted goal in comparison to the national average on the CCTST for the past five years. The summary of Tennessee Tech graduates’ CCTST exam results in past five years can be found on the Tennessee Tech IARE website.

Table 5: Tennessee Tech Average CCTST Score Compared to the National Average

CCTST Results 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Tennessee Tech # Takers 1,528 1,552 1,452 1,445 1,457
Average 17.2 16.8 16.2 74.4 75.2
CCTST National Average Average 16.2 16.4 15.4 74 73.3
Tech/National Score Ratio 106% 102% 105% 101% 103%

Performance on Licensing Exams

Performance on professional licensure exams is a key indicator of the effectiveness of academic programs. Tennessee Tech submits an annual Quality Assurance Funding report on licensure exam results in three professional programs to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC). The thresholds of acceptability and targeted goals are set and monitored by the appropriate unit in each college.

Education

Teacher education candidates in the College of Education are required to complete professional licensure exams for program completion at Tennessee Tech and for licensure by the State of Tennessee. During this report’s time frame, the State of Tennessee and Tech required either the Praxis Subject Assessments (2016-2018) or edTPA Teacher Performance Assessment (2019-2020) exams for all licensure areas. 

The ETS Praxis Subject Assessments measure general teaching and subject-specific professional skills and knowledge in a traditional testing format. Comparatively, the edTPA measures teaching skills and knowledge in a performance-based assessment portfolio based upon the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) standards.

All teacher education licensure programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), the national accreditor for teacher education programs. CAEP recommends an overall pass rate of 90%; however, the College of Education exceeds those expectations by establishing a threshold of acceptability of 92% for all licensure areas. The College also has targeted goal of 99% on the exams. Overall, Tennessee Tech students performed well on all licensure exams. The average program pass rates ranged from 94% to 100% in 2016-2021, and are consistently exceeding the threshold of acceptability and higher than the state pass rates.

Table 6.  Summary of College of Education Licensure Exam Results

Education Test Score ResultsClick here to see a larger version of the College of Education Licensure Exam Results above.

Engineering

In the College of Engineering, graduates of the Civil Engineering program are required to take the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FE) before graduation. Graduates in other engineering majors are encouraged to take the FE exam. The Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering has defined the threshold of acceptability as achieving a performance ratio of at least 80% between Tech’s Civil Engineering students and those of their national peers (Tennessee Tech CE Pass Rate/ National CE Pass rate). The target goal is 90%. Table 7 presents Tennessee Tech civil engineering students’ NCEES FE results.

Table 7.  NCEES Fundamental Engineering Exam (FE) - Civil Engineering

Fundamentals of Engineering Exam 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Tech CE Pass Rate # Takers 57 38 35 62 65
% Pass 67% 66% 66% 50% 68%
National CE Pass Rate % Pass 69% 69% 70% 70% 63%
Ratio of Tennessee Tech to National % Pass 96% 96% 94% 72% 108%

For academic years 2017-18 through 2019-20, the ratio was above the threshold and above target. However, in the 2020-21 academic year, the pass rate again declined to a level below the threshold of acceptability. The faculty studied the situation and concluded that the course changes in response to the pandemic were the cause of the FE Exam pass rates falling below threshold. In response, the faculty designed and implemented a revised class format as an improvement plan to increase student accountability for studying the material on the FE Exam. In 2021-22, the ratio returned to well above the 90% target with a ratio of 108% indicating significant improvement from the previous year. 

Nursing

Graduates from the baccalaureate degree in nursing program are eligible to apply for licensure as a Registered Nurse (RN) through the state board of nursing. Graduates must sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed as an RN. The threshold of acceptability for the NCLEX-RN exam pass rate is set at 85%, which is the same as the Tennessee Board of Nursing’s requirement for a pass rate. The Whitson-Hester School of Nursing faculty sets a targeted goal of a pass rate above 95%. Table 8 shows nursing graduates’ first-attempt NCLEX-RN pass rates in 2017-2021.

Table 8.  Nursing NCLEX-RN Exam

NCLEX-RN 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Tennessee Tech School of Nursing # Takers 108 115 126 139 130
% Pass 95% 99% 96% 99% 94%
National % Pass 87% 88% 88% 87% 84%

The program consistently exceeds both state and national benchmarks on the NCLEX-RN. Tennessee Tech nursing students performed well in licensure exams. The average program pass rates ranged from 95% to 99% in 2017-2021, and were consistently higher than national pass rates.

Major Field Assessment

Graduating seniors at Tennessee Tech take Major Field Exams in their disciplines if licensure exams are not required. The University uses standardized major field tests to assess the quality of academic programs as evaluated by the performance of graduates. The major field tests employed for this purpose are through the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and Area Concentration Achievement Test (ACAT). Students take major field tests during their final semester/year of study after they successfully complete most of their major's required courses. 

ETS and ACAT test results are compared by dividing the Tennessee Tech program score by the national comparison average. The threshold of acceptability is set at 90% of the ratio for the Tennessee Tech average score/ national comparison average with the targeted goal set at 100%. 

Table 9.  Major Field Tests - ETS

ETS Major Field Test Scores

Table 10.  Major Field Tests - ACAT

ACAT Major Field Test Data

Click here to see a larger view of the ETS and ACAT tables above.

As shown in Table 9, the average ratios of Tennessee Tech ETS test scores/national norms vary in the range of 99%-102%. All academic programs listed on the table have achieved the comparison ratios above the threshold of acceptability of 90%. Several programs have consistently attained results exceeding the targeted goals. Very similar to the ETS results, academic programs that use ACAT exams have achieved the comparison ratios exceeding the threshold of acceptability of 90%. The average ratios of Tennessee Tech program test scores/national norms vary in the range of 98%-101%, which are in range of the targeted goal of 100%, see Table 10.

Alumni Satisfaction Survey

The Office of Institutional Assessment, Research, and Effectiveness administers alumni surveys periodically. Baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral alumni are surveyed to report on various experiences, including satisfaction with their degree program, perceptions of Tennessee Tech University, their graduate/professional education, employment, professional activities, alumni services, and overall satisfaction with Tennessee Tech University. Data from the 2017 implementation of the Alumni Attitude Study© show that 70% of respondents (n=2,806) rate their attendance at Tennessee Tech as a “Great Decision”, and 60% promote Tennessee Tech to others “Regularly” or “All the Time”. Most notable is the percent of Alumni that responded “Good or Excellent” where Tennessee Tech had prepared them for their: Current Work Status (85%), Further Graduate Education (85%), a Commitment to Continuous Education (84%), Response to New Career Opportunities (81%), Contributions to Community (81%), Understanding and Commitment to Personal Development (84%), and Getting a Job or in to Graduate Program wanted after graduation (79%). Alumni also responded about the contributions that Tennessee Tech had on communication and thinking skills. Tennessee Tech reportedly “Significantly Contributed” to the acquisition of skills in Critical Thinking (60%), Ethical Reasoning and Action (46%), Effective Writing (48%), Effective Oral Communication (47%), Quantitative Reasoning (56%), Problem Solving (65%), and Creative and Innovative Thinking (49%). 

Student Success Improvement Initiatives and Programming

Tech Tomorrow, the University’s strategic plan, serves as a blueprint guiding Tennessee Tech’s path forward. The plan identifies strategic goals, priority actions, and specific tactics to advance the University through continued success in the future. The University’s core principles call for high academic achievement; empowerment of students to realize their potential, craft individualized experiences, and discover their passion; a supportive environment for a diverse and welcoming community; and a high return on investment from state, tuition, and donors. The student success improvement initiatives and programming described below exemplify the University’s actions to support and enhance student achievement.

  • New Tech Promise Scholarship  

    The Tech Promise is a four-year scholarship and covers tuition and mandatory fees at Tennessee Tech for eligible students. It is a last-dollar scholarship, meaning it covers the cost of tuition and mandatory fees not met by other financial aid. To be eligible, a student must be a full-time undergraduate, receive the Tennessee HOPE scholarship, receive any level of federal Pell grant, and have a family adjusted gross income under $40,000.

     Tennessee Tech is one of the top schools in the state with regard to social mobility, and President Oldham encourages the Board of Trustees to focus on alleviating some of the financial concerns faced by low-income students. Tech Promise ensures these talented students are not kept away from the promising future a Tech degree will open up to them. Often a high-achieving student from a low-income situation will assume that a Tennessee Tech education is unavailable to them, even though that is not the case for so many. As a result, they do not apply. The Tech Promise removes this barrier to make sure these students know they have access to a high-quality Tennessee Tech education that will help them change their lives.

  • New Flat-Rate Tuition Model 

    When the Tennessee Tech Board of Trustees approved a flat-rate tuition model in March 2020, the University could then offer a single price for full-time tuition, letting students take 12 credit hours or more per semester at the same flat rate. This is a key component of Tech’s desire to make college costs as transparent as possible, so students and families can better predict college costs and better prepare. Other parts of this simplified pricing initiative include two items approved by the Board last December: reduced and flat out-of-state tuition; and a simplified mandatory fee structure. Along with making it easier to budget for college, the change should help more students graduate on time.

    Students need to average 15 credit hours per semester to stay on track in their programs. However, the federal definition of full-time student is 12 credit hours per semester, which gives students an incentive to meet the minimum requirements. Many students need a fifth or even sixth year to graduate. Research has shown that students who take 15 credit hours or more tend to be more successful in their classes, and they also are more likely to graduate on time in four years. Tech has set a goal to increase four-year graduation rates to 50% by 2025, and sees this new tuition model as a new, powerful tool to help achieve this goal.

  • Diversity Scholarship Initiative

    The Tennessee Tech Diversity Scholarship Initiative is an effort to increase and enhance the overall diversity of the student population. The intent of the initiative was to establish diversity scholarships through fundraising. The initiative was launched in 2019 with a goal of earning $2 million. Currently, the largest minority group at Tennessee Tech is the African-American student population—a group that has made up less than 4% of the overall student population and has never reached 5%. The new scholarships will help recruit and retain minority students and improve the representation of minority students on campus. Currently the University has raised over $2 million, and two scholarships have been established under the Diversity Initiative/Endowment. In 2022-23, the University was able to award a total of 18 Diversity Scholarships: 4 Tennessee Tech African-American Endowed Scholarships and 14 Tennessee Tech Ethnic Diversity Scholarships.

     

  • R.A.C.E and R.A.C.E Plus Programs

    The R.A.C.E. Peer Mentoring Program began 10 years ago to support first-time minority students in their transition to life at Tennessee Tech and to increase their chances of succeeding through graduation. Developed by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, this peer mentoring program is designed to provide social and intellectual support for students in an effort to help them become positively involved academically, socially, and culturally as a part of the community. The program includes peer mentoring, group activities, study sessions, a freshman year experience course, professional and personal development workshops, and Sneak Peek Week. Sneak Peek Week is a five-day program that allows the first-time freshmen students to get acclimated to campus about a week prior to the first day of classes so they can meet their peer mentor as well as faculty and staff, move in early, and participate in various activities or workshops designed to help them have a healthy transition into college life at Tech.

    Built upon the current R.A.C.E program, the new R.A.C.E. Plus program was open to minority sophomores, juniors and seniors. The program emphasizes professionalism and leadership for undergraduate student success and assists students in streamlining their transition from freshman to sophomore and, then, to upperclassmen. The program includes workshops on professional development and graduate school preparation; an Advanced Connections Course on professional development; research and campus event planning with Admissions this year; and a stipend for all participants. The program began in 2020-21, and is sponsored by the Tennessee Board of Regents. Up to date (2022-23), a total of 450 students have participated in R.A.C.E. (394 Students) and R.A.C.E. Plus (56 Students) programs. Both programs have demonstrated that they are effective in assisting minority students and improving their retention and graduation rates.

  • Student Equity

    The 2020-25 THEC QAF program includes a new standard: Student Equity. The Student Equity standard is designed to incentivize institutions to qualitatively and quantitatively improve outcomes for populations historically underserved in higher education in alignment with the Tennessee Higher Education Master Plan. The standard directs institutions to enhance the quality of student services and institutional support to increase equity in student outcomes. THEC requires that each institution select a population of undergraduate students that has been historically underserved by higher education and that is important to their mission and then work to increase the equity of outcomes for these students. Tennessee Tech has selected Students of Color as the target population for student equity. As defined by THEC, Students of Color include students who self-identify as Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/American Indian, and two or more races.

    The University is committed to maintaining an inclusive community that recognizes and values the inherent worth of every person; fosters tolerance, sensitivity, understanding, and mutual respect; and encourages each individual to strive to reach his/her own potential. The University believes that diversity among its many members strengthens the institution, stimulates creativity, promotes the exchange of ideas, and enriches campus life. Tennessee Tech’s commitment to improving student diversity is demonstrated in one of five priority actions for Goal One: Education for Life, in the Tech Tomorrow strategic plan. The current population (2022-23) of Students of Color at Tennessee Tech is 12.4% in headcount and 12.7% in full-time FTE. Selecting Students of Color as the target population for the QAF student equity standard aligns with the University commitment to maintain an inclusive and diverse campus. During 2020-21, the University conducted a self-assessment of the students in the target population that evaluated the current state of target-student access and success, including baseline quantitative and qualitative measures. Based on the assessment results, the University has been developing strategies and action plans to enhance strengths and address areas needing improvement. The University continues to enhance the quality of student services and institutional support for Students of Color to ensure that they have a successful and enriched learning experience at Tennessee Tech. It is anticipated that Tech’s actions and initiatives will improve the graduation rate and retention rate of the target population.

  • Flight Path Freshman Attendance Initiative 

    The primary focus of the Flight Path is to encourage consistent class attendance and participation by freshmen. Regular class attendance and participation (in-person or online depending on course delivery) is a major factor in determining the academic success of freshmen. This initiative represents a collaborative effort between multiple offices within Academic Affairs, Enrollment Management, and student services including departmental faculty, Residential Life, academic support staff, and Student Success teams.

    First-year students with documented course absences or course participation concerns receive early intervention contacts from trained members of the Residential Life staff, as well as Student Success staff to ensure they are connected with faculty, staff, and services specifically allocated to facilitate their success.

  • Launchpad Student Success Center (Opened in June 2020)

    The Launchpad Student Success Center is student-focused and welcomes all first-year, General Curriculum, General Health Studies, and undecided transfer students. The Center fosters positive professional relationships between students, advisors, faculty, and staff; encourages academic exploration; and empowers students to take ownership of their educational experiences. Working collaboratively with all members of the campus community, the Center ensures each student has a smooth transition and the direction needed to meet his/her goals.

Summary

The University, the Colleges, and the various academic units continue to assess student achievement. The thresholds of acceptability and target goals adopted by the institution and academic programs, including national norms and internal benchmarks, are appropriate to demonstrate student achievement. Assessment data findings have been used in developing and planning new initiatives and priority actions to support and improve student achievement. Numerous committees, including strategic planning committees, are striving to achieve higher levels of accomplishments and to determine areas of weakness that need to be improved. The goal of the University is to accomplish the University Vision "Tennessee Tech will achieve national prominence and impact through its engaged students, dedicated faculty, and career-ready graduates known for their creativity, tenacity, and analytical approach to problem solving."