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Sunday, June 18, 2000
Last modified at 5:58 p.m. on Friday, June 16, 2000
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photo: education

  The seal of Texas Tech welcomes visitors to the campus at its Broadway and University Avenue entrance.
A-J photo/Joe Don Buckner

Tech raises standards for incoming freshmen


For more than 60 years, Texas Tech was an every-man institution, accepting anyone who applied and then sending many of them packing their bags for home when they couldn't cut it.

But just over 10 years ago, the university began instituting entrance requirements, resulting in better and better students each year.

"Anyone who had a pulse and a diploma from a Texas high school could come to Tech," said Provost John Burns. "Our freshman retention rates were abysmal something like 50 percent. This fall, those data will probably be 80 percent or better.

"If we compare the last 10 years, every freshman class that comes in is better academically prepared than the previous class. Our retention rates are up. Our graduation rates are up. What we're seeing is a better prepared student coming to Tech so they perform better once they are here."

Tech Chancellor John Montford said since 1996, the average SAT score of incoming freshmen has risen from 1050 to between 1095 and 1100. The Board of Regents in 1997 set a five-year goal for the average to reach 1200.

Not only are the SAT scores of students who do apply to Texas Tech rising, the number of applications is rising by leaps and bounds, particularly in the Honors College.

For the first time, applications to Tech surpassed 10,000, with a 28 percent jump in applications for Fall 2000 over Fall 1999. The number of accepted students has grown by 18 percent for Fall 2000, pushing predictions that this fall will yield the biggest and brightest class ever.

One of the factors driving the bright part of that equation is the exploding numbers of applications to Tech's Honors College. About 650 students applied for 250 spots, despite an earlier deadline this year.

"I think the university is looked upon now as one of the major universities in the state," said President Donald Haragan. "What we hear from a lot of (top) students is that they were drawn in by the Honors College."

Haragan said the university may have as many as 125 presidential scholars large scholarships given only to the best and brightest applicants this fall.

"There's no doubt over the past several years there's been an image change due to what's happening at Tech," he said.

That's because people are starting to recognize that students can get a quality education for a very low price, Honors College Dean Gary Bell has said.

"Add that with the Honors College where you get personal attention, the best dorm on campus, grooming for (graduate) scholarships ... it's kind of like we've been discovered," he has said. "You get a great education here at a bargain-basement price."

Besides the improving reputation and the Honors College, the increase in the number of scholarships is also drawing better students to Tech. In the latter half of the 1990s, aggressive fund raising has increased the university's scholarship endowment 142 percent, from $38.6 million to $93.3 million, according to Jim Brunjes, chief financial officer.

During that same period, the number of merit scholarships rose from 150 to 1,600.

"We have to go head to head with (the University of Texas and Texas A&M) to offer scholarship opportunities," Chancellor John Montford said in an interview earlier this year. "I think it's crucial to being able to recruit and retain the top students. We're focusing ... more and more on top 10 and top 25 percent, and as we focus on Honors College and National Merits and the type of students we want to go after, you've just got to be competitive."

Montford said he never wants Tech to be perceived as elitist, but to instead be recognized for excellence.

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