Best Public Colleges in Tennessee 2022

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.

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.

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Best Public Colleges in Tennessee 2022

  1. #2

    University of Memphis

    Memphis , TN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    17K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/22

    University of Memphis’s Online Degrees

    BA in Liberal Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Accounting
    • Finance
    • Business Information and Technology
    • Management
    • Marketing Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Psychology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online (requires an in-person field placement with 460 contact hours)
    BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Political Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Sociology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in History
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Hospitality and Resort Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Professional Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Child Life Specialist
    • Legal Studies
    • Early Care and Learning
    • Early Intervention (ages 0-3)
    • Health Services
    • Organizational Leadership
    • Information Technology
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Public Relations
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Communication
    Degree Concentrations
    • Communication Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in English
    Degree Concentrations
    • African American Literature
    • Professional Writing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Sport and Leisure Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in African and African American Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Healthcare Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Healthcare Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Sciences
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Philosophy
    Degree Concentrations
    • Applied Ethics
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Anthropology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in African and African American Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Anthropology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Accounting
    • Business Information and Technology
    • Finance
    • Management
    • Marketing
    • Supply Chain Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Communication
    Degree Concentrations
    • Communication Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in English
    Degree Concentrations
    • African American Literature
    • Professional Writing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Finance
    Degree Concentrations
    • Real Estate
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Healthcare Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in History
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Hospitality and Resort Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in International and Global Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Liberal Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing: RN to BSN
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Philosophy
    Degree Concentrations
    • Applied Ethics
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Political Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Professional Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Health Services
    • Child Life Specialist
    • Child Development and Family Studies
    • Legal Studies
    • Early Care and Learning
    • Early Intervention
    • Organizational Leadership
    • Information Technology
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Psychology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Public Relations
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Sociology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  2. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Graduation

    26%

    Student body

    7K

    Tennessee State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Information Management
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (RN to BSN)
    Degree Concentrations
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Professional Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Health Administration
    • Information Technology
    • International Organizational Leadership
    • Organizational Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Psychology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Sociology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  3. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    12K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/23

    East Tennessee State University’s Online Degrees

    BSN in Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Human Services
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Marketing
    Degree Concentrations
    • Integrated Marketing Communications
    • Marketing Analytics
    • Marketing Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Sociology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Allied Health Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Dental Hygiene
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Radiologic Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Respiratory Therapy
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Allied Health Leadership
    Degree Concentrations
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Applied Science
    Degree Concentrations
    • Culinary Leadership
    • Industrial Leadership
    • Professional Development
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Dental Hygiene
    Degree Concentrations
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Human Services
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Interdisciplinary Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Liberal Studies
    • Professional Studies
    • Individual Track
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Marketing
    Degree Concentrations
    • Integrated Marketing Communications
    • Marketing Analytics
    • Marketing Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    Degree Concentrations
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Radiologic Science
    Degree Concentrations
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Respiratory Therapy
    Degree Concentrations
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  4. Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/24

    Tennessee Technological University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Accounting
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in General Engineering
    Degree Concentrations
    • General Engineering
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  5. Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    6K

    University of Tennessee at Martin’s Online Degrees

    BS in Agricultural Business
    Degree Concentrations
    • Agricultural Business
    • Farm and Ranch Management
    • Veterinary Technology and Management (Completion program)
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Management
    • Information Systems
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS/BA in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS/BA in History
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BIS in Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  6. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/21

    Austin Peay State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Computer Information Systems
    Degree Concentrations
    • General Information Systems
    • Information Assurance and Security
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Computer Information Technology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Web and Database
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Computer Science
    Degree Concentrations
    • General Computer Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    Degree Concentrations
    • Homeland Security
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in General Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Education (Non-Licensure)
    • Health
    • Humanities
    • Multi-Disciplinary
    • Organizational Administration and Supervision
    • Social and Behavioral Health Sciences
    • STEM
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health and Human Performance
    Degree Concentrations
    • Health Care Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Leadership and Organization Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Hospitality Administration
    • Leadership Science
    • Organizational Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Marketing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Medical Laboratory Science (MLT-to-MLS)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Political Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Professional Communication
    Degree Concentrations
    • Information Specialist
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Public Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
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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