Tech also presented financial news to the Board of Trustees. Given that our fall enrollment bested the projections used to formulate the 2019-2020 budget, we shared with the board one possible plan: a 1% salary increase pool and a 1% one-time bonus pool. Details of the proposal are still being worked out. Pending board approval, any proposal would take effect Jan. 1, 2020. 

Something Trustee Trudy Harper said over the summer has stuck with me. She said that Tennessee Tech needs to always act like a major university. I, too, believe that, and I believe that we need to be proud of everything that we do and show it in everything that we do.

Last week, I had the opportunity to share some excellent news about the university with our Board of Trustees. I wanted to share some of these items with you in case you haven’t had the opportunity to read about or watch the meeting.

We’ve received some really good news in recent weeks. The U.S. News & World Report rankings were released for this year, and Tech is once again ranked among the top national universities. We are one of only three public universities in Tennessee that have a numerical national ranking, coming in at #135 among national public universities. It is a great category to be in, and we’re playing in the biggest field possible with the biggest players, and we are actually ranked among them. I am excited about that, and this again attests to the great work of the faculty and staff of this campus. I appreciate what you do.

But the thing that I was most excited to share with the board was the true Tennessee Tech story. It is our story and it all has to do with students. It’s all about how students benefit from what we do on this campus each and every day.

In looking at Tech’s graduation rate, we see that our 5-year rate continues to improve. In fact, there is not a big gap between our 5-year graduation right now and the 6-year. That means a big chunk of our students are finishing in five years. And the 4-year graduation rate is at an all-time record high, surpassing 37% this year.

Data published by U.S. News show that Tech graduates have the lowest typical debt of any public university in Tennessee. The typical debt of students that graduate is $16,532, by far the lowest by a pretty good margin. The value of a Tennessee Tech degree is substantial, with this news on top of the fact that about 47% of our students graduate debt-free, free of any debt at all.

And the data also show that Tech graduates have the highest median starting salaries among Tennessee public universities at more than $55,000. And, again, there is a pretty significant gap between us and others in the state.

So we’re graduating students on time, we’re saving them money in the cost of an education, they’re graduating with the least amount of debt in the state, and its paying off in terms of great starting salaries.

Why is this important? For every year that we reduce from the amount of time a student spends in school, there is potentially a more than $75,000 benefit to that student and their family. The average cost when you factor in living expenses along with tuition and fees is more than $20,000 a year. Not only does a reduced matriculation time save students and their families money, they are also entering the workforce a year earlier, with that average starting salary of a Tech graduate at more than $55,000 a year.

We talk a lot about metrics in board meetings. To me, these are the most important metrics we have. Because this tells our story, and it’s a great story to tell.