Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Tennessee 2022

Liberal arts colleges are a great option for students seeking a well-rounded education in an intimate campus setting. The best liberal arts colleges in Tennessee offer a diverse selection of degree programs with opportunities for a highly individualized educational experience.

Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Tennessee 2022

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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Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great! 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 in their fields of study.

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

To rank the influence of schools, we first determine the influence of scholars and professionals based on the number of citations and publications they have had over the past 10 years. In addition to publications and citations, we consider the web links to and from these sources, and the page views of those sources. We then match the influential people to their alma maters and institutions of employment, so that their influence is attributed to those schools. Our machine-learning Influence Ranking algorithm produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data. If you are interested in exploring how and why we rank by influence, explore our methodology in more depth.

A liberal arts college is a school that puts a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree. We’ve identified 21 liberal arts colleges in Tennessee. To be ranked among the 30 best liberal arts colleges in Tennessee, schools must fully accredited institutions.

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Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Tennessee 2022

  1. #1

    Fisk University

    Nashville , TN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #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
    • Computer Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Economics
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    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
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. 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:

    • Earth Sciences
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Communications
    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • History
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Bryan College

    Dayton , TN

    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:

    • Religious Studies
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Criminal Justice
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Austin Peay State University

    Clarksville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/21

    What is Austin Peay State University known for?

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

    • Criminal Justice
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Nursing
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Lee University

    Cleveland , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $21K

    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:

    • Nursing
    • Religious Studies
    • Anthropology
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Social Work
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  8. #8

    King University

    Bristol , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    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:

    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. 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
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Nursing
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  11. #11

    Maryville College

    Maryville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    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:

    • Chemistry
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Economics
    • Literature
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    Southern Adventist University

    Collegedale , TN

    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:

    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Social Work
    • Communications
    • History
    • Law
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  13. Tuition + fees

    $27K

    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:

    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Sociology
    • Nursing
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Education
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #14

    Lane College

    Jackson , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Graduation

    23%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Lane College known for?

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

    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Religious Studies
    • Sociology
    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #15

    Welch College

    Gallatin , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $20K

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Welch College known for?

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

    • Religious Studies
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Literature
  16. #16

    Bethel University

    McKenzie , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    35%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1024/18

    What is Bethel University known for?

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

    • Mathematics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Business
    • History
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #17

    LeMoyne–Owen College

    Memphis , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    15%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    825/16

    What is LeMoyne–Owen College known for?

    LeMoyne–Owen College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Social Work
    • Literature
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    98%

    Graduation

    32%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/19

    What is University of Tennessee Southern known for?

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

    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • Nursing
    • Education
    • Medical
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #19

    Freed–Hardeman University

    Henderson , TN

    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:

    • Sociology
    • Social Work
    • Religious Studies
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Nursing
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #20

    Tusculum University

    Greeneville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $27K

    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:

    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Nursing
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #21

    Daymar Institute

    Nashville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $22K

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Daymar Institute known for?

    Daymar Institute’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
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Tennessee’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Your Area of Interest

Frequently Asked Questions About Research Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Online Colleges

In pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you will need to choose between three kinds of schools: research universities, liberal arts colleges, and online colleges.

Research universities are colleges and universities whose faculty are active in research and publishing. These schools offer a wide array of doctoral programs, especially in the sciences. They tend to be big, with tens of thousands of students.

Do you prefer a larger university setting, such as largest public university in your state? Research universities are typically big, offering degrees in many different disciplines. Is a big high-powered research environment the thing for you. If not, you should think about a liberal arts college. In deciding on an undergraduate institution, ask yourself what sort of environment will best help you to be happy and excel.

  • Consider whether you are self motivated enough to be a face in the crowd for some classes and largely unknown on campus at a large university. Of course you can find clubs and friends at a large university, but often liberal arts colleges have a more personal quality to them. If you want the community feel, a research university may not fit you well.
  • Are you interested in STEM fields? Research universities have that name for a reason – real research is happening there. This can create an exciting atmosphere for students interested in STEM. Attending a research university can give you a better chance of getting into better programs for graduate degrees, although a lot of that depends on your performance.
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Often referred to as “teaching colleges” liberal arts colleges put a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree.

  • Do you want your professors to know you? Liberal arts colleges strive to cultivate campus cultures that encourage tight bonds between professors and students. Professors at these schools will typically conduct original research. Yet the best of these schools offer their faculty reduced teaching loads so that they can both be productive researchers and still have plenty of time for students (both in and outside the classroom).
  • Do you want to feel like you know everybody? One of the most enticing features of a liberal arts college is that in very little time, you can feel like you know who’s who, which can create strong friendships, but also more pleasurable walks across campus. While your sports teams may never be on ESPN, it’s more likely that you’ll know the athletes as your peers. Beyond student and faculty relationships, it’s not unusual for the school president and other administrators to learn who you are. When faced with problems with your student account or the need to switch classes, this can be comforting during a stressful moment.
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Online colleges are typically the same colleges and universities you could attend in-person, but for certain degree programs the college or unviersity has made the degree programs available to be completed online. For over 5 million students, online degree programs allow students to earn their degrees in the most flexible format available. Online degrees are as respected as the on-campus degress you could earn from the same schools. There’s usually no disctinction between the two degrees, and your degree and transcript will not say that the degree was earned online. Online degree programs are offered by a vast majority of colleges and universities, and the number of offering continues to grow. Whehter you are searching for an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, there’s a good chance you can earn your degree online from a respectable online college.

  • Are you a self-driven student? Perhaps the hardest aspect of obtaining an online degree is whether you will be disciplined enough to manage your time and course demands. Many online students report that online college made them more disciplined in all areas of their lives, but the flexible, self-paced learning that makes online colleges attractive can often be the same qualities that make it difficult. If you tend to be a procrastinator, you need to be honest with yourself. You can change your habits and propensities, or you can throw money down the drain.
  • Do you need the flexibility of an online degree program? Most online students study online because of time demands balancing work and life, or becuase the online colleges afford them the chance to attend a better school without moving. If you are serious about earning your degree for career advancement, online colleges make it possible. The most flexible options among online degrees are those that are aynchronous, meaning you don’t have scheduled times to meet with your class online. However, many students seek synchronous online degree programs so that they have some structure – set meeting times, scheduled exams, etc.
  • The good news is that attending an online college doesn’t mean you will miss out on getting to know your professors and classmates. In fact, many online students who have experienced both online and on-campus courses report having easier access to their professors. Since most communication with your professor is expected to be in text – via email or your class learning management system – it makes asking your questions easier. The same students also report that they got to better know the thoughts of their classmates. While in-person course conversations can be dominated by a few extroverts, online courses that require online discussions make it so that you see all of your classmates’ thoughts and questions.

If you interested in an online bachelor’s degree, check out what the best online colleges offer, or search our online degrees for the exact program that interests you. In either case, you will find well respected colleges and universities that offer online degrees.

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Resources for College-Bound Students

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utiulized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. Rhodes College
  2. Sewanee: The University of the South
  3. Fisk University
  4. Bryan College
  5. Southern Adventist University
  6. Maryville College
  7. University of Tennessee at Martin
  8. King University
  9. Tusculum University
  10. Lee University
  11. Cumberland University
  12. Christian Brothers University
  13. Freed–Hardeman University
  14. Tennessee Wesleyan University