Just three miles from UT's campus, Knoxville College sits atop its own hill.

Years ago, this historic black college was teeming with student life. Today, less than 100 students are enrolled, and the college's staff consists of six people.

Much of the campus is in disrepair.

In the library, there are bird feces on the stairs. Books strewn across the floor lie among discarded mops and overturned furniture. The ceiling is caving in.

Built in the late 1800s, many of the buildings were scheduled to begin renovation more than a decade ago.

Several are now out of commission, although one dorm on campus is still open.

However, despite lackluster facilities, the institution continues to operate.

"Knoxville College is not the place it used to be, and it's not likely to be again," said Robert Booker, Knoxville College historian and alumnus. "It's very sad for everybody that comes back."

Bucker, a class of 1962 alumnus, recalls his alma mater as a much nicer, larger school. Once alive with Greek life, sports, choir and other clubs, the campus is now quiet.

Still, in Bucker's opinion, Knoxville College makes higher education accessible to many who may not thrive at larger universities.

"You might come from a big city ghetto or from a high school that wasn't up to par with getting kids ready for college, and Knoxville College will find them where they are and put them in remedial courses and work with them diligently until they're up to par," Bucker said. "There's a need for that kind of school, and there always will be."

Knoxville College opened in 1875, 10 years after the abolishment of slavery, and graduated its first college class in 1883. Because many African-Americans were denied formal education, the school sought to prepare its students for college courses. The college also housed a primary school until 1921 and a high school until 1931.

Despite gaining accreditation in 1957, Knoxville College subsequently lost this title in 1997 due to financial instability.

As a result, the college lost all federal funding. Today, it operates solely on private donations. Although student tuition also funds the school, its program for debt-free graduation allows many students to hold on-campus jobs, thus lowering tuition costs.

A large portion of Knoxville College's students are from abroad, hailing from locations like Africa or island nations. Many do not see the school in person until arriving for classes.

Precious Hall, a junior communications major, and Tamar Carey, a sophomore majoring in computer science, both came to Knoxville College from the Caribbean.

"The first thing you think is, 'Oh my goodness, this place looks old,'" Hall said. "But I think the coolest part of it is to stand where other people have stood before and want to do your part and make your imprint on the school."

"Like every other place, it has the minor difficulties," Carey added. "But we work things out."

UT student Blake Roller was curious about the college after participating in the Big Day Out last year at Beardsley Farms. After seeing a cluster of buildings on the hill, Roller investigated.

"We don't know it's there, but they know we're here," Roller said. "It's like walking through a museum. It's just frozen in time."

Roller said he hopes to begin working to improve Knoxville College, but met frustration when working with the school.

Although Roller sees working more closely with donors as the school's most pressing concern, the administration insists on attending to grounds maintenance instead.

"Planting flowers, cutting grass, sure that's nice, but they need to look at the root of the problem," Roller said. "They're patching the leak and trying to make it look pretty, when really behind that patch it's still the same problem.

"I feel like it's not too late for them. I would love to see it a functioning college again."