Best Public Colleges in Tennessee 2022

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in Tennessee provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Best Public 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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This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees. We’ve identified 9 public universities in Tennessee. To be included in our list of the best public colleges in Tennessee, shcools must receive direct funding from the state, be fully accredited, and offer a broad range of bachelor’s degress.

How do we determine Tennessee's best public 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.

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Best Public Colleges in Tennessee 2022

  1. #1

    University of Tennessee

    Knoxville , TN
    Other Rankings

    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:

    • Social Work
    • Anthropology
    • Economics
    • Nursing
    • Earth Sciences
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    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:

    • Mathematics
    • Criminal Justice
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Law
    • Medical
    • Earth Sciences
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Middle Tennessee State University

    Murfreesboro , TN

    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:

    • Economics
    • Social Work
    • Anthropology
    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • Earth Sciences
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • History
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Tennessee State University

    Nashville , TN
    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:

    • Nursing
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    East Tennessee State University

    Johnson City , TN
    Other Rankings

    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:

    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Nursing
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Earth Sciences
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. 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:

    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Psychology
    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. 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
    • Chemistry
    • Earth Sciences
    • Physics
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. 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

  9. #9

    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

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Tennessee’s Best Public College in Your Area of Interest

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. University of Tennessee
  2. Tennessee State University
  3. Middle Tennessee State University
  4. University of Memphis
  5. University of Tennessee at Martin
  6. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  7. Tennessee Technological University
  8. East Tennessee State University
  9. Austin Peay State University

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