Tennessee’s Best Colleges & Universities of 2021

Here are the best colleges and universities in Tennessee. Our list will help you find the right kind of school for you.

Tennessee’s Best Colleges & Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in Tennessee

About one third of the higher learning institutes in Tennessee are public schools. Students who attend these schools can expect to pay anywhere between $4,000 to $13,000 in tuition and have the option to pursue degrees in fields such as economics, history, nursing, literature, education, and criminal justice. Tennessee’s largest public school, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, boasts some impressive alumni, including Oprah Winfrey, Kurt Vonnegut, and Cormac McCarthy. The private school alumni are equally as notable. For example, author James Patterson and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus both attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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Tennessee also offers nearly 30 religiously affiliated schools, the largest being Belmont University in Nashville, located just blocks from the famous Music Row. Here, students can study a wide range of fields including Christian leadership, audio engineering technology, and biophysics. Additionally, Tennessee offers students several loan forgiveness programs. Math and science teachers, minority teachers, and registered nurses interested in becoming teachers or administrators who meet certain requirements may be eligible.

Tennessee is home to mouthwatering barbecues, electrified blues, and the sweeping majesty of the Smoky Mountains National Park. And with access to countless historic sites, unique museums, and lush green spaces, students attending one of the more than 60 colleges and universities in The Volunteer State will have plenty to do and see in their downtime.

Discover more about the top programs and higher education learning opportunities available in Tennessee.


What are Tennessee’s Colleges & Universities?

Tennessee’s Best Overall

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

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How do we determine Tennessee's best colleges and universities?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call “Concentrated Influence”. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.


Every fall, more than 2 million high-school graduates will enroll in colleges and universities across the United States. Finding the best college for your educational, personal, and professional goals may be challenging. The purpose of this ranking is to help you manage this challenge with an accurate, objective, and up-to-date ranking of the best colleges and universities in Tennessee for earning a bachelor’s degree.

We’ve identified a total of 36 colleges and universities in Tennessee, 28 of which satisfy our criteria. The list below of the best schools in the state focuses on those that offer four-year undergraduate degrees, includes both public and private colleges and universities, and also meet the following two conditions:

  1. It must be fully accredited.
  2. It must have a graduation rate of greater than 40%.

Best Colleges & Universities in Tennessee

  1. #2

    Rhodes College

    Memphis , TN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $51K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1325/29

    What is Rhodes College known for?

    Rhodes College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  2. #3

    University of Tennessee

    Knoxville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/27

    What is University of Tennessee known for?

    University of Tennessee’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • History
    • Education
    • Chemistry
    • Law
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  3. Tuition + fees

    $47K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1245/27

    What is Sewanee: The University of the South known for?

    Sewanee: The University of the South’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  4. #5

    Fisk University

    Nashville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $22K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/21

    What is Fisk University known for?

    Fisk University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Business
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  5. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Graduation

    26%

    Student body

    7K

    What is Tennessee State University known for?

    Tennessee State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  6. #7

    Bryan College

    Dayton , TN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Bryan College known for?

    Bryan College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Religious Studies
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Literature
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  7. Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Southern Adventist University known for?

    Southern Adventist University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Education
    • Nursing
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Business
    • Law
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    REQUEST INFO
  8. Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/23

    What is Middle Tennessee State University known for?

    Middle Tennessee State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • Economics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Education
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  9. #10

    University of Memphis

    Memphis , TN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    17K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/22

    What is University of Memphis known for?

    University of Memphis’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Law
    • Medical
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  10. Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/22

    What is Lincoln Memorial University known for?

    Lincoln Memorial University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Education
    • Business
    • Law
    • History
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Mathematics
    REQUEST INFO
  11. #12

    Maryville College

    Maryville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    62%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1141/24

    What is Maryville College known for?

    Maryville College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  12. #13

    Carson–Newman University

    Jefferson City , TN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/24

    What is Carson–Newman University known for?

    Carson–Newman University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Education
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies
    • Biology
    • Nursing
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  13. Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    6K

    What is University of Tennessee at Martin known for?

    University of Tennessee at Martin’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • History
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Earth Sciences
    • Communications
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  14. Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    What is University of Tennessee at Chattanooga known for?

    University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  15. #16

    King University

    Bristol , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1097/22

    What is King University known for?

    King University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Nursing
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  16. #17

    Tusculum University

    Greeneville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/20

    What is Tusculum University known for?

    Tusculum University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  17. #18

    Lipscomb University

    Nashville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    62%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/26

    What is Lipscomb University known for?

    Lipscomb University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Business
    • Religious Studies
    • Medical
    • Law
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  18. #19

    Lee University

    Cleveland , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $20K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/24

    What is Lee University known for?

    Lee University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    REQUEST INFO
  19. #20

    Cumberland University

    Lebanon , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $25K

    Acceptance

    54%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/20

    What is Cumberland University known for?

    Cumberland University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  20. #21

    Union University

    Jackson , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/26

    What is Union University known for?

    Union University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  21. Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Christian Brothers University known for?

    Christian Brothers University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    REQUEST INFO
  22. Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/24

    What is Tennessee Technological University known for?

    Tennessee Technological University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  23. Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    12K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/23

    What is East Tennessee State University known for?

    East Tennessee State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    REQUEST INFO
  24. Tuition + fees

    $27K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1179/23

    What is Trevecca Nazarene University known for?

    Trevecca Nazarene University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Business
    • Physics
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  25. Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/24

    What is Freed–Hardeman University known for?

    Freed–Hardeman University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  26. Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/22

    What is Tennessee Wesleyan University known for?

    Tennessee Wesleyan University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  27. #28

    Belmont University

    Nashville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1225/26

    What is Belmont University known for?

    Belmont University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    • History
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Communications
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    REQUEST INFO

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