Tennessee State University is raising its admissions standards for next fall. The change has two goals, administrators say: limiting the number of students who will likely find college difficult, and attracting more high-performing students who will go on to graduate.
TSU has long struggled with academic success. Its freshman class has the lowest average ACT score of any public university in the state. The school also has the state's lowest graduation rate.
President Glenda Glover says TSU is trying to help students succeed after they're admitted, but part of the problem is the admissions process itself: It wasn't selective enough.
"The conversation was, how does the university become more competitive? And you become more competitive when you produce students at a higher level, that understand, that learn, that have the ability to graduate," she says.
Glover says her administration analyzed student data and found that those who had higher high school GPA were more likely to stay in the university and ultimately graduate.
Meanwhile, she says, they looked at the standards of peer institutions, including other historically black colleges and universities, and worried that some higher performing students weren't applying to TSU because its requirements seemed too low.
"We wanted to make sure we didn't lose students because of a 2.25 admissions standard, when other schools may have a 2.4 or 2.5 or 2.7," she says.
The school is raising the GPA standard for in-state applicants a quarter point, to 2.5. It's also requiring that students score a 19 on their ACT, which is a point higher than the average score from last year's freshman class.