A college pipeline for high school students who might not have considered a four-year university education is the goal of a new partnership between Hamilton County Schools and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Debuting in fall 2023, University High is a Hamilton County Schools initiative headquartered on the UTC campus serving students and their families at no cost to them. An initial cohort of 50 high school juniors will enroll in college-level courses taught by UTC faculty and directly supported by high school courses taught by Hamilton County School teachers.
After two years in the program, University High students will earn 14 to 20 college credit hours. Courses will prepare students for future UTC classes while meeting high school graduation requirements.
The next class of high school juniors will arrive at UTC in fall 2024, with the campus supporting 100 students at that time.
Through shared collaborations between UTC and Hamilton County Schools, the program’s cost is supported financially through grants and pooled resources between both institutions.
Admission to University High is open to all Hamilton County Schools students. Applicants will be evaluated case-by-case to help recruit and support students seeking more in-depth learning. To be considered, students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) and provide two letters of recommendation.
“We are delighted University High is being launched,” said Dr. Jerold Hale, UTC provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. “This is an important partnership between Hamilton County Schools and UTC. It will help talented local students with college readiness as they complete high school while also reducing their time to college degree completion. I look forward to welcoming the students to campus and am confident they will flourish.”
University High students will have full access to all UTC student support services and engagement opportunities, including University Health Services, the UTC Library, the Center for Career and Leadership Development, the Aquatic and Recreation Center, and on-campus events.
At the same time, University High students will remain eligible to participate in extracurricular activities at their zoned high school.
University High program highlights will include:
- A daily advisory structure called the ACES Lab, dedicated to advisory, college prep, experiential learning and support.
- On-campus experiences via learning labs across UTC departments to build pathways toward continued higher education.
- Place-based learning and internship opportunities within the community.
“University High will help us provide increased opportunities and access to students across Hamilton County, including those who have not always had a clear pathway to a four-year degree,” said Dr. Justin Robertson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. “With an emphasis on a personalized educational experience, University High will allow every student to help design their own personal pathway through high school classes, UTC courses, their personal projects, and internships. This allows each student to thrive in a way that can lead to their own future without limits.”
University High will be staffed by one principal, one counselor, four certified teachers and one administrative assistant—all employed by Hamilton County Schools and housed on the UTC campus.
Hamilton County Schools Director of Innovation and Fine Arts Grant Knowles and Dr. Shewanee Howard-Baptiste, UTC vice provost for academic outreach, have collaborated for over a year to coordinate this program.
“What is intentional about University High is supporting students who wouldn’t necessarily see themselves as heading towards a four-year university and attending UTC,” Knowles said. “We have a lot of prospects that will become first-generation college students or students that financially would never be able to attend a four-year institution. In some cases, there are students who have not really loved high school in the traditional sense; now, they are really excited about this opportunity.
“This is a new pipeline in attracting new students who wouldn’t have seen themselves in this role before.”
Howard-Baptiste said University High creates an opportunity to support equity in action.
“We will take into account the totality of the student: Where they come from; where they currently are; what their interests and passions are; how we can create a school program that will help them thrive,” Howard-Baptiste said. “Both organizations are committed to changing the lives of students and their families. We believe that University High has the capacity to recruit more diverse students and their families to this campus so that they feel that UTC is their first choice for higher education.
“These students will be UTC students. They will have a UTC ID and access to all the resources on our campus that help support our students. We want our University High students to feel like UTC students in every sense of the word.”
UTC leadership is finalizing office space and academic classrooms to support University High.