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 respect to student achievement consistent with its mission “to provide leadership and outstanding programs…that benefit the people of Tennessee and the nation.” [1] The university assesses student achievement through a variety of performance indicators, including enrollment data, retention and graduation rates, performance on senior exit exams, licensure examinations and major field tests, job placement rates, employer surveys, and alumni surveys. The University, academic units and student service and support units use this information in ongoing planning and assessment activities that guide improvement efforts, as directed by the University's Strategic Plan – Flight Plan [2]. Evidence of these performance indicators is briefly presented below.

Flight Plan features four major themes as initial key focus areas, they are:

  • Improve Undergraduate Student Experience
  • Transform Technology
  • Create Distinctive Programs and Invigorate Faculty
  • Expand Financial Resources and Modernize Infrastructure

Each focus area contains several goals that will support TTU’s Commitment to develop students who are hard-working, critical thinkers prepared for a global environment. The goals in Focus Area One articulate the institutional commitment to student success.

Focus Area 1: Improve Undergraduate Student Experience

Goal 1.1 Enhance quality of undergraduate student experience
Goal 1.2 Improve academic advising
Goal 1.3 Increase degrees awarded and retention; reduce time-to-degree
Goal 1.4 Focus on incoming student quality and diversity
Goal 1.5 Improve student recruitment and use of scholarships

Accomplishment of these goals is measured through chosen metrics that directly relate to student achievement. The measureable metrics are:

  • 5% increase over five years in 1st to 2nd year retention
  • 2% increase over five years in 2nd to 3rd year retention
  • 5% increase over five years in six-year graduation rate

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

Student Enrollment Data

Tennessee Tech's enrollment has increased ~8% during the last 11 years – from 9,733 in Fall 2006 to 10,504 in Fall 2017 [3]. Total Fall 2017 includes 9,365 students enrolled in undergraduate programs and 1,139 students enrolled in graduate programs. Details of individual unit enrollment are also available on Tennessee Tech’s Institutional Research (IR) website. Celebrating its centennial year of operation in 2015, Tennessee Tech University is expected to continue enrolling approximately 11,000 students.

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Student Retention Rate

Tennessee Tech’s retention data are reported in the TTU Institutional Research website. The development of Flight Plan started in Fall 2012, and the 1st to 2nd year retention of 72.8% in Fall 2011 was taken as the baseline retention rate. As described in Focus Area One matrix, the target retention rate was set as a 5% increase over five years in 1st to 2nd year retention. As indicated in the data reported for 1st to 2nd year retention rates of first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students (see Table 1 below), Tennessee Tech has made solid progress toward its target for the last two years. The full report of the 1st to 2nd year retention in the past 10 years can be found on the TTU IR website [4].

Table 1: 1st to 2nd Year Retention Rates

Baseline (Fall 2010 to Fall 2011) Fall 2012 to Fall 2013 Fall 2013 to Fall 2014 Fall 2014 to Fall 2015 Fall 2015 to Fall 2016 Fall 2016 to Fall 2017
72.8% 74.6% 75.7% 74.6% 79.0% 78.6%

The full report of TTU’s 2nd to 3rd year student retention data can be found on the TTU IR website [5] . The 2nd to 3rd year retention rate of 85% in Fall 2011 was taken as the baseline, and the target retention rate was set as a 2% increase in the 2nd to 3rd year retention. As shown on Table 2 below, TTU has maintained very promising 2nd to 3rd year retention rates.

Table 2: 2nd to 3rd Year Retention Rates

Baseline (Fall 2009 to Fall 2011) Fall 2010 to Fall 2012 Fall 2011 to Fall 2013 Fall 2012 to Fall 2014 Fall 2013 to Fall 2015 Fall 2014 to Fall 2016
85.0% 85.0% 85.1% 85.8% 85.0% 86.8%

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Student Graduation Rate

Graduation rates and degrees awarded are also included in the TTU Institutional Research Annual Report [6]. A six-year graduation rate of 50.0% in Academic Year 2011 was used as baseline and target rate was set as a 5% increase over five years in six-year graduation rate. As indicated in Table 3 below, TTU has maintained a very stable six-year graduation rate. The university is continually implementing the actions in Flight Plan to increase the student graduate rate.

Table 3: Six-Year Graduation Rates

Baseline (2010-2011) 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017
50.0 % 50.6% 49.4% 52.8% 51.1% 49.4%

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Degrees awarded

The number of undergraduate degrees awarded* at Tennessee Tech has continued to increase each year, from 1,270 in 2004-05 to 1,857 in 2014-15. The total degrees awarded have also increased, from 1,936 in 2004-05 to 2,270 in 2015-16. The information of degrees conferred at Tennessee Tech during last decade is available in the Institutional Research web site [7]. Information about the number of degrees conferred, levels of degrees, and the gender and ethnicity of degree recipients also is available in the IR web site. A comparison of the number of undergraduate degrees awarded (for first major program of study) in the past three years shows an increase from the baseline set in 2010-11 (see Table 4 below).

Table 4: Comparison of Undergraduate Degrees Awarded with Baseline*

Baseline (2010-2011) 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017
1,626 1,840 1,804 1,857 1,929 2,112
--- +13.2% +10.9% +14.2% +18.6% +29.8%

*Degrees awarded for first major program of study only; second bachelor's degrees during that year not included.

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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 measurable goal for this facet of student achievement is that the TTU average graduating senior score will be equal to, or greater than, the national average score. As shown on Table 5, TTU graduating seniors have consistently achieved an average score higher than the national average on the CCTST in the past five years, and we have met this objective. The summary of TTU graduates’ CCTST exam results in past five years is also attached in Evidentiary Documents [8] .

Table 5: TTU Average CCTST Score Compared to the National Average

TTU Average 17.6 17.7 17.3 16.9 17.1
CCTST National Average ≈16.8 ≈17.1 ≈17.1 ≈16.2 ≈16.2

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Performance on Licensing Exams

Performance on professional licensure exams is a key indicator of the effectiveness of academic programs. Tennessee Tech submits an annual Performance Funding report on licensure exam results in three professional programs to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR). The benchmark for the licensure exams is that the institution’s pass rate is not less than the statewide pass rate or national average pass rate. These exams are also used in academic programs as direct measures of successful student learning outcomes.


Teacher candidates in all licensure programs must complete a series of exams that evaluate professional knowledge and content. Praxis exams are both a Tennessee state licensure requirement and a TTU program requirement. For admission to the TTU Teacher Education Program, candidates who score below a 21 on the ACT must pass the Praxis Core Academic Skills exam, with subtests in reading, writing, and math. After candidates are admitted to the Program, they are required to attempt and pass a series of two to four Praxis II exams, depending on the licensure area. In 2011-2012, 435 teacher candidates attempted the exam, with 427 passing for a 98% pass rate (compared to 99% state average pass rate). In 2016-2017, 230 candidates attempted the exam, with a 95.6% average pass rate.
Tables 6-10 present the TTU PRAXIS II Exam pass rates and comparison to the statewide pass rates.

Table 6: PRAXIS II Exam - Child & Family Studies

Year 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016* 2016-2017*
No. of Tested 29 30 20 13 16
No. of Passed 29 30 19 13 15
TTU Pass Rate 100% 100% 95% 100% 94%
Statewide Pass Rate 100% 100% 99% 100% 100%

*Name of Exam Changed to Early Childhood Education in 2015-16

Table 7. PRAXIS II Exam - Special Education

Year 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017
No. of Tested 8 16 17 11 4
No. of Passed 8 16 17 11 4
TTU Pass Rate 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Statewide Pass Rate 99.0% 100% 100% 100% 98%

Table 8. PRAXIS II Exam - Secondary Education

Year 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017
No. of Tested 103 89 48 37 46
No. of Passed 101 89 47 37 45
TTU Pass Rate 98% 100% 98% 100% 98%
Statewide Pass Rate 99% 86.6% 99% 99% 100%

Table 9. PRAXIS II Exam - Multidisciplinary Studies

Year 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017
No. of Tested 280 278 237 210 156
No. of Passed 280 278 234 208 148
TTU Pass Rate 100% 100% 98% 99% 95%
Statewide Pass Rate 100% 100% 100% 99% 100%

Table 10. PRAXIS II Exam - Exercise Science, Physical Education & Wellness

Year 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017
No. of Tested 26 23 14 6 8
No. of Passed 25 23 13 6 8
TTU Pass Rate 96% 100% 93% 100% 100%
Statewide Pass Rate 98% 100% 94% 95% 97%


In the College of Engineering, graduates in Civil Engineering program are required to take NCEES Fundamental Engineering Exam before their graduation. The benchmark is to surpass the national pass rate. Graduates in other engineering majors are encouraged to take the FE exam. Table 11 shows the Civil Engineering FE exam results and comparison with the national pass rate. The graduates scored higher than the benchmark from 2010 to 2014.

Table 11. NCEES Fundamental Engineering Exam (FE) – Civil Engineering

Year 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017
No. of Tested 50 51 37 40 66
No. of Passed 41 41 25 25 23
TTU CEE Pass Rate 82% 78% 68% 63% 35%
National CEE Pass Rate 74% 74% 70% 69% 69%


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. In the state of Tennessee, nursing programs must maintain annual pass rates on the NCLEX-RN above 85%. The Whitson-Hester School of Nursing sets two annual benchmarks: a pass rate above 90% and consistent scoring above the national average for first attempt on the exam. Performance on the NCLEX-RN continues to be strong with an annual average pass rate of 96% for the past four years and an average of 97% for the past three graduating classes. The program consistently exceeds both state and national benchmarks on the NCLEX-RN. Table 12 shows the TTU Nursing graduates NCLEX-RN pass rates and comparison to the national average in the past four years. The 2006-2013 TTU nursing graduates NCLEX-RN results and comparison with national norm is also attached


Table 12. Nursing NCLEX-RN Exam

Year 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017
No. of Tested 73 93 87 57 108
No. of Passed 73 90 83 56 103
TTU WH-SON BSN Graduates Pass Rate 100% 96.8% 95.4% 98.2% 95.4%
National Average Pass Rate (First Attempt, U.S. Educated, BSN) 90.3% 86.6% 87.4% 84.5% 84.6%

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Major Field Assessment

Graduating seniors at Tennessee Tech take Major Field Exams in their disciplines if licensure exams are not required. The benchmark for major field exams is that the institutional average score from TTU graduates exceeds the national average. As scheduled in 2011-2015 THEC Performance Funding plan, each program has to report its major field exam once during the 5-year cycle to THEC as part of the performance funding requirements. The results of major field exams in 17 programs reported to THEC are shown in Table 13. Of the 17 programs, nine programs achieved the scores at or exceeding the respective national average (% Inst. to Comp. Score >100%) and seven of the other eight programs achieved the scores higher than 93% of the respective national average (% Inst. to Comp. Score >93%). [9] .

Table 13. Program Major Field Tests

Academic Program Degree Test Year Test Code No. of Tested TTU Inst. Score Comp. Score % Inst. to Comp. Score
Wildlife & Fisheries Science BS 2015-16 ACAT 38 488.2 500.0 98%
Biology BS 2015-16 ACAT 70 462.6 500.0 93%
Mathematics BS 2015-16 ETS 11 173.0 156.3 100%
Chemistry BS 2015-16 ETS 29 150.2 148.2 100%
Engineering Technology BSET 2016-17 ATMAE 47 106.0 99.0 107%
Political Science BS 2011-12 ETS 25 149.2 149.9 100%
History BA, BS 2016-17 ACAT 16 496.0 500.0 99%
Communication BS 2016-17 ACAT 42 562.2 500.0 112%
Computer Science BS 2016-17 ETS 31 158.4 147.4 107%
Sociology BS 2012-13 ETS 79 144.4 147.8 98%
English BA 2013-14 ETS 12 147.7 154.1 96%
Business Management BSBA 2013-14 ETS 56 144.9 151.3 96%
Accounting BSBA 2013-14 ETS 61 155.7 151.3 103%
Finance BSBA 2013-14 ETS 28 151.9 151.3 100%
Marketing BSBA 2013-14 ETS 23 143.6 151.3 95%
Agriculture BSAG 2014-15 ACAT 65 519.3 500.0 104%
Human Ecology BSHE 2014-15 Local 61 62.6 67.7 92%
Psychology BS 2014-15 ETS 39 153.6 154.5 99%

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Job Placement Rate – “First Destination” after Graduation

The Office of Career Services is responsible for collecting and reporting first destination information for the university. The national trend across university career services organizations is to move away from the term “job placement” and use the term “first destination” when reporting where graduates go after they leave the university. First destination includes attending graduate school, enrolling in the military, starting a business, and choosing other after-graduation destinations that may not include a full-time position in a career field. For the purposes of this report, the term “first destination” will be used to describe this collection and reporting process.

A challenge faced by career service organizations across the U.S. is a lack of response from graduating students. TTU Career Services faces the same challenge in the data collection process. The methodology employed by TTU Career Services to capture first destination data is multi-fold as students do not automatically provide information on their after-graduation career plans. Moving from a paper and pencil data collection method in 2011, data collection methods currently implemented by TTU Career Services include the following:

  1. An email survey of graduating seniors who are registered with Career Services and using the on-line job search database
  2. An online survey embedded on the Career Services website
  3. An email survey of all graduating students
  4. Surveys of graduating seniors in classroom presentations
  5. A face-to-face survey at the Senior Salute pre-graduation cap and gown event
  6. A follow-up email campaign to all Senior Salute respondents who did not have first destination plans at the time of the event

In a recent effort to improve response rates, a survey was emailed to employers who recruit our students asking them to provide us with the names of any TTU students they have just hired. Additionally, our TechWorks career management software, which was launched Fall 2014, allows students and employers to self-report hiring status. First destination response rates from 2012 through 2017 are shown in Table 14.

Table 14. Tennessee Tech First Destination Response Rates

Academic Year First Destination Response Rate*
2016-2017 98.0%
2015-2016 99.0%
2014-2015 92.0%
2013-2014 98.5%
2012-2013 85.5%

* First Destination Response Rates from 2012 – 2013 are taken from a representative sample of graduating students. Response Rates from 2014 – 2017 represent data reported by all graduating students

In Spring 2017, 98% of TTU graduates provided first destination responses. The destination results from the respondents are shown in Table 15. The results were also included in the 2016-2017 Career Services Annual report [10]. Follow-up split surveys were then developed to target respondents still in need of job search assistance. These surveys will be deployed within 90 days, 6 months, and 12 months after graduation. All surveys include the exact verbiage used by U.S. News and World Report to collect student data.

Table 15. Tennessee Tech First Destination Results

Destination Percentage
Plan to Attend Graduate School 21.0%
Employed Full-time including Joining Military35.0%
Still Seeking Employment In My Career Field 41.0%
Other 3.0%

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Employer Satisfaction Survey

The Office of University Assessment surveys employers every four to five years regarding the preparedness of Tennessee Tech graduates. The most recent employer survey was conducted in Spring 2013 and was administered to a database of employers registered with TTU Career Services. The survey solicited the employers’ opinions of TTU graduates’ competence in a number of specific performance areas such as teamwork, life-long learning, critical thinking, problem solving, oral and written communication, ethical awareness and behavior, etc. The survey also asks general questions concerning a graduate's overall performance on "Work Ethic" and "Meeting Job Expectations.” A total of 119 employers responded and completed the surveys. The survey results show that most employers (78% to 93%) rated TTU graduates as "Good" or "Excellent" in the surveyed skills. Ninety-two percent (92%) of employers responded that TTU graduates possess good to excellent overall performance on work ethic and meeting job expectation. The majority of employers (84%) indicated that TTU graduates have good or excellent preparation for the workforce. All of the employers responding to the survey answered “Yes” to the question "Will you hire a TTU graduate again?". The full report of 2013 Employer Survey is available at the University Assessment website [11].

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Alumni Satisfaction Survey

The Office of University Assessment administers alumni surveys periodically. Both baccalaureate alumni and master’s alumni are asked to report on various experiences, including satisfaction with their degree program, perceptions of Tennessee Tech University, their graduate/professional education, employment, professional activities, and overall satisfaction with Tennessee Tech University. As shown in the 2012 Alumni Survey results, 95% of respondents rated their satisfaction with their education experience at TTU as"Satisfied" or "Very Satisfied.” More than 88% of them would have attended TTU if they had to start over again, and 93% of them would recommend TTU to a friend or family member considering college. The most recent Alumni Survey report [12] for undergraduate responses also indicates that 86% of the respondents reported they were satisfactorily employed, with the majority employed in the area of their Tennessee Tech major or a related major. Results show that 85% of respondents rated their preparation for further study at another college or university as "Good" or "Excellent.” Results also show that 78% of respondents rated their preparation for employment in their respective field as "Good" or "Excellent.” According to the most recent graduate survey report (Spring 2012), 86% of respondents are currently, satisfactorily employed, and 65% are employed full-time. Respondents with full-time employment since graduating from Tennessee Tech University were asked how effective their graduate education was in preparing them for employment or improving their job performance. Seventy-eight percent (78%) indicated their graduate education was "Good" or "Excellent.”

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Continuous Improvement

Tennessee Tech’s Flight Plan is an enhanced university strategic plan that serves as a blueprint guiding Tennessee Tech’s path forward. The development of Flight Plan was a fact-driven review process using assessment data in a peer comparative analysis, also called "Gap Analysis". Faculty, staff and students were engaged in the Flight Plan process through multiple focus groups and committees. Flight Plan identified specific actions to advance the University through continued success in the future, including four priority actions to Improve Undergraduate Student Experience (Focus Area 1).

  1. Freshmen Flight Path
  2. Academic Advising
  3. High-Demand Course Capacity
  4. Technology Service to Students

The Commitments and Priority Actions for undergraduate education are shown in the attached Evidential Documents [13]. Table 16 outlines the actions and objectives of the above four priorities.

Table 16. Priority Actions for Undergraduate Student Experience

Priority Action Objective
Freshmen Flight Path Implement an early intervention first-year retention program for freshmen focusing on class attendance Improve retention through early, proactive intervention
Academic Advising Establish a consistent approach to academic advising that expands the number of professional advisors and enhances the faculty-student mentorship role Increase retention and graduation rates by ensuring consistency and focusing on success in the freshmen year
High-Demand Course Capacity Identify high-demand courses and add additional capacity through hiring faculty and effectively using classroom space Increase graduation rates by providing students access to courses needed to graduate on time
Technology Service to Students Improve technology service to students by meeting student need for connectivity and support Support a technology-forward student experience

The priority action implementation plan that includes the objective, success metrics, context for action, action steps, milestones, resources, and accountability for each of the four priority actions are described in details in the Flight Path [14]. The implementation began in July 2013, and actions have continued following the short-term and long-term action plan.

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The University, the Colleges, and the various academic units continue to assess student achievement. The thresholds adopted by the institution and academic programs, either internal benchmarks or national norms, 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 Flight Plan 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 achieve the University Vision “Tennessee Tech will be nationally recognized as a leading technological university in the South, providing academic, economic and cultural leadership in the region and producing practical, ready-to-work graduates from a broad range of academic disciplines prepared to compete in a technologically driven world.”

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