Best Colleges in Tennessee

Are you ready to find your fit?

From Memphis’ Beale Street to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s not hard to see why the state of Tennessee is one of the Top 10 tourist destinations in the United States.

Best Colleges in Tennessee Badge

Whether you’re looking for great music, delicious food, or stunning scenery, Tennessee is the place to be. Which is why you should consider the state in your college search. Of course, that’s not the only reason.

What kind of College in Tennessee should you attend?

The state has a number of top-flight colleges that would have no problem making it onto a list of the best schools—not only in the state, but in the country.

Whether they’re private universities or part of one of the two public college systems in Tennessee, you have a lot of options to choose from. And don’t immediately write off private colleges as too expensive. Take a look at our Top Online Colleges in Tennessee—one of those programs might just fit your schedule. Depending on the program, online schools might be able to give out more financial aid than public schools. You never know!

Top 10 Best Colleges in Tennessee

Rank School Location
1 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
2 Rhodes College Memphis, TN
3 The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Knoxville, TN
4 Lipscomb University Nashville, TN
5 University of Memphis Memphis, TN
6 Christian Brothers University Memphis, TN
7 Maryville College Maryville, TN
8 Union University Jackson, TN
9 Trevecca Nazarene University Nashville, TN
10 Le Moyne-Owen College Memphis, TN
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How much money can you earn with a degree from a College in Tennessee?

According to the 2016 census, the average person in Tennessee makes around $48,500 per year. But you’re not the average person, are you? By earning an advanced degree, you are separating yourself from the pack. Your bank account will be grateful for this!

The statistics at Payscale.com show that individuals from Tennessee who earn a Bachelor of Science degree make around $59k per year. That’s over $10,000 more than the Tennessee average! The numbers just keep increasing for folks who go on to earn a master’s degree. In that case, you’re looking at an annual salary of around $65k.

What can you do with a degree from a College in Tennessee?

If you’re from Tennessee, you already know that community matters. Networking and building connections with people is almost as important as the college degree that you earn, because job opportunities often come through personal relationships.

In that vein, Tennessee is home to numerous corporate headquarters, including FedEx, Regal Entertainment, and Hospital Corporation of America. Agriculture is also a big industry in the state, especially for beef. There are over 82,000 farms in the state, and over half of them raise cattle. You’ll find lots of business and science degrees on this list that would plug in perfectly in this sector. If that doesn’t strike a chord for you, health care is also a huge industry in Tennessee.

What are the Best Colleges in Tennessee?

Whether you’re a native Volunteer or looking to become one, the charming and idiosyncratic state of Tennessee awaits. If you’re overwhelmed at the task of choosing a school, not to worry—that’s where we come in!

Below, you’ll find the Best Colleges in Tennessee, hands down. Our methodology takes into account academic quality, so you know that you’re getting the best education possible, as well as return on investment, so you know that all of that tuition money will pay off in the job market. In addition, we factor in graduation rates, retention rates, and more.

Good luck in your search!

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Vanderbilt University
    Location

    Nashville, TN

    Tuition

    $22173

    OverviewVanderbilt University is a private, not-for-profit research university. It was named after the shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt and is located in Nashville, Tennessee. This school is a member of the Association of American Universities and the 568 Group. It is regionally accredited by the SACS COC.FeaturesThis university confers more than 125 degrees at all levels of education, including 70 alone at the undergraduate level, through 10 colleges and schools. Vanderbilt also operates its own law, medical, and nursing school, making it possible for students to move from undergraduate to graduate studies within the same university. Here are some highlight programs:

    • Master’s in Law and Legal Studies
    • B.S. in Child Studies
    • B.A. in Earth and Environmental Sciences
    NotablesVanderbilt is a world-renown research institution and is currently ranked among the top 20 research universities in the country. It houses the Institute for Space and Defense Electronics and includes the largest research facility in the world that is devoted to radiation effects.

  2. Rhodes College
    Location

    Memphis, TN

    Tuition

    $28615

    OverviewRhodes College is one of the best colleges in the country for undergraduates. The school is a private, not-for-profit, liberal arts institution that has a historical affiliation with the Presbyterian Church. It was founded in 1848 and is located in Memphis, Tennessee. This school holds regional accreditation by the SACS COC.FeaturesThis college confers undergraduate degrees in more than 50 majors; pre-professional degrees are also available. The school also offers the Master of Science in Accounting, the only graduate degree available at this school. It is interesting to note that students from Rhodes have an extremely high rate of success in applying to and entering graduate and professional programs. Some program highlights include:

    • B.A. in International Studies
    • B.S. in Psychology
    • M.A. in Urban Education
    NotablesRhodes is one of the best colleges in Tennessee for students who are interested in research. The school places an enormous amount of emphasis on research, writing, and service learning, believing that this is the single best way for students to get comfortable in their new profession. Most students contribute some research to a project prior to graduating.

  3. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville
    Location

    Knoxville, TN

    Tuition

    $17863

    OverviewThe University of Tennessee at Knoxville, known simply as Knoxville, is a public, land-grant, sun-grant university that serves as the flagship institution of the University of Tennessee system. It was established in 1794 and is a member of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. This school is located in Knoxville, Tennessee, and holds regional accreditation from the SACS COC.FeaturesThis school confers over 300 degrees at all levels of education, including doctoral and specialist programs. This school also has an incredible program for dual-degree students and those who would like to dual major at the undergraduate level. Students can also elect for study abroad or international internship opportunities through the school’s division of Global Engagement. You’ll find engaging degree programs such as:

    • B.S. in Aerospace Engineering
    • B.S./M.S. in Animal Science
    • B.S. in Forestry
    NotablesUT-Knoxville is known for its research efforts, and it is a very important part of this campus. The school houses the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is one of the federal government’s largest research centers in the world. Also available here is the Anthropological Research Facility that focuses on the forensic knowledge of human remains and its decomposition stages.

  4. Lipscomb University
    Location

    Nashville, TN

    Tuition

    $23176

    OverviewLipscomb University is a private, not-for-profit, liberal arts university that is affiliated with the Churches of Christ. It was established in 1891 and is located in Nashville, Tennessee. The school is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities as well as the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. This school is regionally accredited by the SACS COC.FeaturesLipscomb University confers more than 75 degrees in 140 areas of study at the undergraduate degree; there are also over 30 degrees at the graduate level as well. In addition, there are over two dozen certifications, licensures, and endorsements available at the graduate level alone. Online programs are also available for interested students. Here’s a quick glance into some of the degree options:

    • M.A. in Conflict Management
    • B.S. in Data Science
    • M.Div. in Divinity
    NotablesThe university believes in global learning, specifically when it comes to long-term study abroad programs. Lipscomb current offers programs for all students that range from 10 days to an entire academic year, with destinations that include Austria, Italy, England, and Chile.

  5. University of Memphis
    Location

    Memphis, TN

    Tuition

    $12369

    OverviewThe University of Memphis is a public research university that was established in 1912. It is located in Memphis, Tennessee, and is the home for the Center for Earthquake Research and Information. Students area also treated to a school that hosts five Centers of Excellence and 25 Chairs of Excellence, all within the flagship institution of the Tennessee Board of Regents System. This school is a member of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. It is regionally accredited by the SACS COC.FeaturesThe University of Memphis confers over 150 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels of education, including certifications and endorsements at the graduate level. Students are also available to take on an interdisciplinary major or earn a dual-degree pending approval from a faculty member. The vast array of programs at this school makes it one of the best universities in the country for both undergraduate and graduate students. Here’s a sampling of a few:

    • B.S. in Biology
    • B.S. in Civil Engineering
    • B.A. in History
    NotablesThe school has a vested interest in environmentalism. The Edward J. Meeman Biological Station, which is housed on campus, conducts research in environmental studies, allowing students to work on research subjects while continuing their education. The school is also hosting the Green Campus Initiative, which works to develop and implement green practices on school grounds. This is a growing highlight of this school, and students interested in an environmental major will find the campus useful in terms of research.

  6. Christian Brothers University
    Location

    Memphis, TN

    Tuition

    $15053

    OverviewChristian Brothers University is a private, Roman Catholic institution that is run by and affiliated with the Christian Brothers, an order that was founded by St. John Baptist de la Salle. It was established in 1871 and is a member of the Association of Christian Colleges and Universities as well as the Council of Independent Colleges. This school is located in Memphis, Tennessee, and is regionally accredited by the SACS COC.FeaturesThis is one of the best universities in Tennessee for students interested in learning in a Lasallian Tradition. The school currently confers over 30 undergraduate degrees and six graduate degrees, including the rare but popular Master of Catholic Studies. Dual degrees and some online courses are also available for students who are interested in expanding their horizons. You’ll find options such as:

    • B.A. in Cultural Studies
    • B.S. in Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics
    • B.A. in Early Childhood Development
    NotablesCBU is a member of the Lasallian International Programs Consortium; students at this school will have a special list of study abroad programs that they can participate in that are as short as one week or as long as one semester. The school offers the chance to travel to over a dozen countries, including Japan, South Africa, England, and China, all while earning college credit towards a degree.

  7. Maryville College
    Location

    Maryville, TN

    Tuition

    $16504

    OverviewMaryville College is a private, not-for-profit, Presbyterian liberal arts college that is located in Maryville, Tennessee. It was founded in 1819 by a minister named Isaac Anderson for the sole purpose of educating those in the West. The school is one of the oldest in the United States and holds an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church. This school holds regional accreditation by the SACS COC.FeaturesThis school offers over 30 degrees at the undergraduate level; other programs are also available for students that are interested in receiving their teacher licensure. All students must complete a senior comprehensive exam and a senior thesis prior to graduating from the school. The school has been ranked in the top five for “Best Comprehensive-Bachelor’s” for the Southern region by U.S. News and World Report. Here’s a sampling of a few degree programs:

    • American Sign Language and Deaf Studies
    • Biopharmaceutical Sciences
    • Human Resources Management
    NotablesAll students are Maryville do a Senior Study, a program that is meant to stretch a student’s imagination on their chosen field and utilize research to demonstrate their knowledge on their degree. The students design and complete their own research paper, which focuses on a topic that has been approved by their faculty advisor, and defended by the student as their senior thesis.

  8. Union University
    Location

    Jackson, TN

    Tuition

    $26286

    OverviewUnion University is a private, not-for-profit, evangelical Christian, liberal arts university that is affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. It was established in 1823 and is headquartered in Jackson, Tennessee, with satellite campuses around the state. This university is currently ranked as a top-tier institution by U.S. News and World Report. The school is regionally accredited by the SACS COC.FeaturesUnion confers over 125 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. Pre-professional programs, as well as certificates and endorsements, are also available at this school. The school also has a strong track record in terms of online degrees, most of which focus on business, education, or nursing. These can be completed fully online or in a blended format in order to fit a student’s needs. Some of the most popular degrees include:

    • B.S. in Biology (majors in Zoology, Botany, and more)
    • Master of Accountancy
    • B.A. in Christian Ministry and Missions
    NotablesThe university has a strong athletic history: the Bulldogs play at the NCAA Division II – Gulf South Conference as provisional members. The women’s basketball team won national championships in the NAIA conference five times, the most recent being in 2010, right before the school transitioned to the NCAA. The men’s teams have claimed national titles in the NCAA for soccer, softball, and volleyball.

  9. Trevecca Nazarene University
    Location

    Nashville, TN

    Tuition

    $17487

    OverviewTrevecca Nazarene University is a private, not-for-profit, Christian liberal arts institution that was founded in 1901 by a Presbyterian minister. The school is affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene. It is a member institution of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The school has a stated mission to provide students with an education taught from a Christian worldview. This school is located in Nashville, Tennessee, and holds regional accreditation from the SACS COC.FeaturesThis school confers undergraduate degrees in 86 areas of study, 20 graduate degrees, and two doctoral degrees. The school also offers associate’s degrees as well as certification programs for nurses and teachers. Online courses and degrees are available through the school’s online portal. The most popular degrees at Trevecca include:

    • Biomedical Services
    • Business
    • Management
    NotablesStudent life on this campus is filled with events, clubs, and programs that are both on campus and affiliated with other schools. Trevecca hosts a variety of events, including Friday Night Live, the Trojan Idol, and the Songwriter’s Challenge. The school also has a strong relationship with Vanderbilt, which has led to students being accepted into the ROTC program at Vanderbilt while completing their degree at the school.

  10. Le Moyne-Owen College
    Location

    Memphis, TN

    Tuition

    $12914

    OverviewLeMoyne-Owen College is a private, not-for-profit, historically black college that is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. It was established in 1968 after LeMoyne College and Owen College merged; it is located in Memphis, Tennessee. The school holds regional accreditation by the SACS COC.FeaturesThis is one of the best colleges in Tennessee for students interested in a world-class undergraduate education. Students will find over 20 areas of study available at the undergraduate level here, most of which focus on education, business, and science. Because the school has a narrow focus on the degrees that it confers, students are assured that they are receiving individualized attention by faculty and an education that will help them complete their goals. Some of the most popular programs include:

    • B.A. in Teacher Education English/Language Arts
    • B.S. in Information Technology
    • B.A. in Criminal Justice
    NotablesLeMoyne-Owen is also known for housing a Center for Cyber Defense, which is growing in popularity as more and more students understand how much of life is dealt with online. This center has a state-of-the-art simulation lab where students can study the changing viewpoints on cyber security by using the most recently available digital forensics tools.

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