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.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

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.

Moresee more

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

Tennessee's Best Colleges and Universities 2021 badge
Download Badge

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

The best colleges pound for pound!

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.

Moresee more

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. Vanderbilt University
    #1

    Vanderbilt University

    #98 institution's overall influence
    #16 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $52K

    Acceptance

    12%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1510/34

    Nashville, TN

    View profile

    What is Vanderbilt University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. Rhodes College
    #2

    Rhodes College

    #1065 institution's overall influence
    #1162 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1325/29

    Memphis, TN

    View profile

    What is Rhodes College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. University of Tennessee
    #3

    University of Tennessee

    #204 institution's overall influence
    #1285 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/27

    Knoxville, TN

    View profile

    What is University of Tennessee known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. Sewanee: The University of the South
    #4

    Sewanee: The University of the South

    #1058 institution's overall influence
    #1056 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $45K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1245/27

    Sewanee, TN

    View profile

    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
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Fisk University
    #5

    Fisk University

    #535 institution's overall influence
    #843 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $22K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/21

    Nashville, TN

    View profile

    What is Fisk University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Tennessee State University
    #6

    Tennessee State University

    #993 institution's overall influence

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Graduation

    29%

    Student body

    7K

    Nashville, TN

    View profile

    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. Bryan College
    #7

    Bryan College

    #2665 institution's overall influence
    #159 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $28K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    1K

    Dayton, TN

    View profile

    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

  8. Southern Adventist University
    #8

    Southern Adventist University

    #4564 institution's overall influence

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    42%

    Student body

    3K

    Collegedale, TN

    View profile

    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
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. Middle Tennessee State University
    #9

    Middle Tennessee State University

    #998 institution's overall influence
    #1328 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/23

    Murfreesboro, TN

    View profile

    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. University of Memphis
    #10

    University of Memphis

    #506 institution's overall influence
    #787 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/22

    Memphis, TN

    View profile

    What is University of Memphis known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. Lincoln Memorial University
    #11

    Lincoln Memorial University

    #2533 institution's overall influence
    #1140 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/22

    Harrogate, TN

    View profile

    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. Maryville College
    #12

    Maryville College

    #2959 institution's overall influence
    #1137 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    62%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1141/24

    Maryville, TN

    View profile

    What is Maryville College known for?

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

    • Education
    • History
    • Business
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Literature
  13. Carson–Newman University
    #13

    Carson–Newman University

    #4673 institution's overall influence
    #287 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $29K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/24

    Jefferson City, TN

    View profile

    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

    #2149 institution's overall influence

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    /23

    Martin, TN

    View profile

    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. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
    #15

    University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

    #1134 institution's overall influence
    #1007 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    Chattanooga, TN

    View profile

    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
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. King University
    #16

    King University

    #2538 institution's overall influence
    #1412 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1097/22

    Bristol, TN

    View profile

    What is King University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. Tusculum University
    #17

    Tusculum University

    #10041 institution's overall influence

    Tuition + fees

    $25K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    33%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/20

    Greeneville, TN

    View profile

    What is Tusculum University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. Lipscomb University
    #18

    Lipscomb University

    #1781 institution's overall influence
    #1338 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    62%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/26

    Nashville, TN

    View profile

    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
  19. Lee University
    #19

    Lee University

    #2415 institution's overall influence
    #1378 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/24

    Cleveland, TN

    View profile

    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

  20. Cumberland University
    #20

    Cumberland University

    #1763 institution's overall influence
    #180 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $24K

    Acceptance

    54%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/20

    Lebanon, TN

    View profile

    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. Union University
    #21

    Union University

    #2362 institution's overall influence
    #1263 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $22K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/26

    Jackson, TN

    View profile

    What is Union University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. Christian Brothers University
    #22

    Christian Brothers University

    #2943 institution's overall influence
    #1298 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    /24

    Memphis, TN

    View profile

    What is Christian Brothers University known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Chemistry
    • Business
  23. Tennessee Technological University
    #23

    Tennessee Technological University

    #1841 institution's overall influence
    #1420 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/24

    Cookeville, TN

    View profile

    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. East Tennessee State University
    #24

    East Tennessee State University

    #1163 institution's overall influence
    #564 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    41%

    Student body

    12K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/23

    Johnson City, TN

    View profile

    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. Trevecca Nazarene University
    #25

    Trevecca Nazarene University

    #3481 institution's overall influence
    #1267 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1179/23

    Nashville, TN

    View profile

    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

  26. Freed–Hardeman University
    #26

    Freed–Hardeman University

    #10399 institution's overall influence
    #1059 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/24

    Henderson, TN

    View profile

    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
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  27. #27

    Tennessee Wesleyan University

    #5270 institution's overall influence
    #1398 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $25K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    40%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/22

    Athens, TN

    View profile

    What is Tennessee Wesleyan University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  28. Belmont University
    #28

    Belmont University

    #1760 institution's overall influence
    #698 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1225/26

    Nashville, TN

    View profile

    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

Find the Best Schools in Tennessee for your Major

Anthropology

Biology

Business

Chemistry

Communications

Computer Science

Criminal Justice

Earth Sciences

Economics

Education

Engineering

History

Law

Literature

Mathematics

Medical

Nursing

Philosophy

Physics

Political Science

Psychology

Religious Studies

Social Work

Sociology

Resources for College-Bound Students

Photo By: Kinimod88 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Stay informed! Get the latest Academic Influence news, information, and rankings with our upcoming newsletter.