Best Private Colleges in Tennessee 2022

Private colleges, unlike large public institutions, can be a great option for students wanting a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Here is our list of the best private colleges in Tennessee.

Best Private 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.


What are Tennessee’s Colleges & Universities?

Tennessee’s Best Overall

What is the difference between public and private colleges?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models. Public colleges and universities are owned by the state and receive both state and federal funding to operate. Private colleges and universities are private companies with private funding. If you’re looking at the pros and cons of private vs. public colleges, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a bachelor’s degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. Attending a college in-state is usually the cheapest option. Private universities and colleges can be very competitive with their funding opportunities, so do not simply believe that private colleges are always going to be more expensive. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually. But in the end, the cost of college comes down to each student’s academic and financial situation.

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

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.

This list is composed entirely of private colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees. We’ve identified 26 private universities in Tennessee. To be included in the list below of the best private universities in Tennessee, schools must be fully accredited, private, non-profit institution, and must offer a broad range of bachelor’s degrees.

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Best Private Colleges in Tennessee

  1. #2

    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. #3

    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. #5

    Belmont University

    Nashville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    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
    • Nursing
    • History
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Law
    • Economics
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  5. #6

    Lincoln Memorial University

    Harrogate , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $24K

    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
    • Law
    • Earth Sciences
    • History
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #7

    Lipscomb University

    Nashville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    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
    • Social Work
    • Religious Studies
    • Nursing
    • Law
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  7. #8

    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

  8. #9

    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
  9. #10

    Union University

    Jackson , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    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:

    • Nursing
    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Physics
    • History
    • Business
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  10. #11

    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

  11. #12

    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

  12. 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
  13. #14

    Carson–Newman University

    Jefferson City , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    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:

    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Nursing
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #15

    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

  15. #16

    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
  16. 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

  17. #18

    Trevecca Nazarene University

    Nashville , TN

    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
    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Nursing
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  18. #19

    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

  19. #20

    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
  20. #21

    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

  21. #22

    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

  22. 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

  23. #24

    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

  24. #25

    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

  25. #26

    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 Private Colleges in Your Area Interest

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. Vanderbilt University
  2. Rhodes College
  3. Sewanee: The University of the South
  4. Fisk University
  5. Bryan College
  6. Southern Adventist University
  7. Lincoln Memorial University
  8. Maryville College
  9. Carson–Newman University
  10. King University
  11. Tusculum University
  12. Lipscomb University
  13. Lee University
  14. Cumberland University
  15. Union University
  16. Christian Brothers University
  17. Trevecca Nazarene University
  18. Freed–Hardeman University
  19. Tennessee Wesleyan University
  20. Belmont University