Why This Matters


    According to College Navigator, there are 10 public universities, 35 private non-profits, and nine for-profit institutions in Tennessee.


    For the 2020-21 school year, the average in-state tuition at a Tennessee public university was $10,380, according to College Board.


    The average amount of financial aid in the United States for an undergraduate degree during the 2019-20 school year was $14,940.

Our Research

We based our list of the top colleges in Tennessee on what matters most to prospective students. These factors include the number of credits needed to graduate, the average cost of yearly tuition, and how the classes are offered (in-person or online). The institutions range in size from large universities to small liberal arts colleges.

All of the institutions on our list are accredited, which means they meet the high standards required for a quality education. Most are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), which is the most recognized regional body in the Southern states. The commission holds institutions to the six core values of integrity, continued quality improvement, peer review, accountability, student learning, and transparency.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 55 hours to write this article
  • 184 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 211 education programs we compared

The Top 34 Colleges in Tennessee

Best Colleges In Tennessee
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What You Should Know About Graduating From College in Tennessee

If you’re considering attending college in Tennessee, it’s important to know where you’ll find job opportunities. As of October 2020, the top industries in the state include professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, and retail trade.

For recent college graduates looking for a job, the fastest growing occupations in Tennessee are software developers, computer hardware engineers, operations research analysts, information security analysts, and geoscientists.

Once you graduate from college in Tennessee, you can begin your job search with some of the top employers in the state. This includes HCA Healthcare Inc., which employs over 35,000 people, and Federal Express, which employs 30,000. Other top employers in Tennessee include Knox County Schools, which employs around 8,500, Eastman Chemical Company, with around 8,000 employees, and Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, which has an employee base of more than 6,000.

What’s Next?

As a prospective student, learning how you’ll pay for college is a top priority. There are a variety of resources available to assist you in paying for an undergraduate degree in Tennessee. This includes loans, scholarships, and grants provided by both the federal and state governments.

  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC). The THEC is the coordinating board for higher education in Tennessee. It helps students locate available financial aid resources specific to the state, including contact information, how to apply, and comprehensive details.
  • Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid provides billions of dollars each year to individuals seeking higher education. Awards come from work-study programs, grants, scholarships, and loans. Learn whether you are eligible at FAFSA4caster, or apply using the online form at FAFSA.
  • CareerOneStop. Sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop has information on grants, scholarships, and available loan opportunities in each state. You can filter this information by degree and find out the monetary amount of each award as well as the qualifications, application deadlines, and contact information for each financial aid opportunity listed.