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.

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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?

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.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

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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. #1

    Vanderbilt University

    #96 institution's historical influence
    #16 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $52K

    Acceptance

    12%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1510/34

    Nashville, TN

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    What is Vanderbilt University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

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  2. #2

    Rhodes College

    #1086 institution's historical influence
    #1162 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1325/29

    Memphis, TN

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    What is Rhodes College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  3. #3

    University of Tennessee

    #215 institution's historical influence
    #1285 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/27

    Knoxville, TN

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    What is University of Tennessee known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  4. #4

    Sewanee: The University of the South

    #1100 institution's historical influence
    #1056 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $45K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1245/27

    Sewanee, TN

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    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
    • Computer Science
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Fisk University

    #549 institution's historical influence
    #843 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $22K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/21

    Nashville, TN

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    What is Fisk University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Tennessee State University

    #1017 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Graduation

    26%

    Student body

    7K

    Nashville, TN

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    What is Tennessee State University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Bryan College

    #2350 institution's historical influence
    #159 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $28K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    1K

    Dayton, TN

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    What is Bryan College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    Southern Adventist University

    #4685 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    3K

    Collegedale, TN

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    What is Southern Adventist University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

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  9. #9

    Middle Tennessee State University

    #1003 institution's historical influence
    #1328 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/23

    Murfreesboro, TN

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    What is Middle Tennessee State University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    University of Memphis

    #505 institution's historical influence
    #787 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/22

    Memphis, TN

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    What is University of Memphis known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    Lincoln Memorial University

    #2515 institution's historical influence
    #1140 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/22

    Harrogate, TN

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    What is Lincoln Memorial University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Law
    • History
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Communications
  12. #12

    Maryville College

    #3000 institution's historical influence
    #1137 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    62%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1141/24

    Maryville, TN

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    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

  13. #13

    Carson–Newman University

    #4681 institution's historical influence
    #287 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $29K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/24

    Jefferson City, TN

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    What is Carson–Newman University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #14

    University of Tennessee at Martin

    #2163 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    6K

    Martin, TN

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    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
    • History
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Earth Sciences
    • Engineering
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #15

    University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

    #1131 institution's historical influence
    #1007 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    Chattanooga, TN

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    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
    • History
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #16

    King University

    #2735 institution's historical influence
    #1412 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1097/22

    Bristol, TN

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    What is King University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Nursing
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Medical
    • Philosophy
    • Criminal Justice
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #17

    Tusculum University

    #10166 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $25K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/20

    Greeneville, TN

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    What is Tusculum University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #18

    Lipscomb University

    #1791 institution's historical influence
    #1338 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    62%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/26

    Nashville, TN

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    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
    • Nursing
    REQUEST INFO
  19. #19

    Lee University

    #2427 institution's historical influence
    #1378 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/24

    Cleveland, TN

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    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
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  20. #20

    Cumberland University

    #1769 institution's historical influence
    #180 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $24K

    Acceptance

    54%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/20

    Lebanon, TN

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    What is Cumberland University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #21

    Union University

    #2420 institution's historical influence
    #1263 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $22K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/26

    Jackson, TN

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    What is Union University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  22. #22

    Christian Brothers University

    #2966 institution's historical influence
    #1298 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    2K

    Memphis, TN

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    What is Christian Brothers University known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Chemistry
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. #23

    Tennessee Technological University

    #1858 institution's historical influence
    #1420 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/24

    Cookeville, TN

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    What is Tennessee Technological University known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  24. #24

    East Tennessee State University

    #1185 institution's historical influence
    #564 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    12K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/23

    Johnson City, TN

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    What is East Tennessee State University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  25. #25

    Trevecca Nazarene University

    #3512 institution's historical influence
    #1267 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1179/23

    Nashville, TN

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    What is Trevecca Nazarene University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  26. #26

    Freed–Hardeman University

    #10489 institution's historical influence
    #1059 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/24

    Henderson, TN

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    What is Freed–Hardeman University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  27. #27

    Tennessee Wesleyan University

    #5216 institution's historical influence
    #1398 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $25K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/22

    Athens, TN

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    What is Tennessee Wesleyan University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Business
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Nursing
    • Biology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  28. #28

    Belmont University

    #1740 institution's historical influence
    #698 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1225/26

    Nashville, TN

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    What is Belmont University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO

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