The 10 Best and Most Prestigious Universities in Tennessee

The best universities in Tennessee attract incoming students with quality education programs and widespread economic and professional opportunities. In 2020, more than 360,000 college students in Tennessee enrolled in undergraduate studies or were on track to earn graduate degrees and other advanced degrees.

This guide outlines our top 10 universities in Tennessee and examines how these Tennessee universities are ranked nationally. You’ll also learn about the benefits of choosing these institutions and how these most prestigious universities in Tennessee combine academics and extracurricular activities to provide students with an all-encompassing experience, regardless of major. So what are the best universities in Tennessee? Let’s dive in to find out.

How We Defined the Tennessee University Ranking

To help you with your school search, we’ve ranked these universities by evaluating school rankings, curricula, financials, undergraduate enrollments, and graduation rates. We also took into account student life statistics, ratings of student organizations and alumni networks, and data from US News & World Report to determine the school rankings below.

Tennessee Universities Ranked: Top 10 Universities in Tennessee

  1. Vanderbilt University
  2. University of Tennessee
  3. University of Belmont
  4. University of the Union
  5. Lipscomb University
  6. Lincoln Memorial University
  7. University of Memphis
  8. Tennessee Tech University
  9. East Tennessee State University
  10. University of Middle Tennessee

The Best Colleges and Universities in Tennessee Explained

These universities provide the opportunity for quality education for students to earn honors degree in the field of their choice.

Tennessee is undoubtedly one of the best places to pursue a degree or honors program. Universities in this state offer an excellent academic experience with quality education and extracurricular activities that shape student life and help students see the power of human potential. Below are colleges in Tennessee that you should consider in your college search.

1. Vanderbilt University

  • US news national rankings: #14
  • Campus location(s): Nashville, Tennessee
  • Bachelor enrollment: 7,057
  • Graduation rate: 88%

Vanderbilt is a private institution committed to contributing to the development of society.

Consisting of 10 schools and colleges, it offers academic opportunities in undergraduate studies and graduate programs in humanities, engineering, and music. The renowned Blair School of Music offers great programs for incoming students and music lovers.

2. University of Tennessee

  • US news national rankings: #103
  • Campus location(s): Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Bachelor enrollment: 24,254
  • Graduation rate: 51%

The University of Tennessee is one of the best regional universities. It offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in programs such as Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Africana Studies. It also operates the Oak Ridge National Laboratory at the United States Department of Energy, where incoming students conduct research projects.

3. Belmont University

  • US news national rankings:#162
  • Campus location(s): Nashville, Tennessee
  • Bachelor enrollment: 6.626
  • Graduation rate: 59%

Belmont University is a private Christian school that offers international studies and theological studies in its on-campus programs. Most students here focus their studies and activities on the entertainment industry. Part of the NCAA I, Belmont University is committed to promoting athleticism in its student community through athletic programs.

4. University of the Union

  • US news national rankings:#187
  • Campus location(s): Jackson, Tennessee
  • Bachelor enrollment: 2.096
  • Graduation rate: 57%

Union University is a private institution with a religious affiliation with the Southern Baptist Church. Campus housing is available, although students can also choose to stay off-campus while completing their undergraduate degree. The average amount of institutional scholarships awarded at Union University is $7,775, and 88 percent of full-time students receive this financial aid.

5. Lipscomb University

  • US news national rankings:#213
  • Campus location(s): Nashville, Tennessee
  • Bachelor enrollment: 2,997
  • Graduation rate: 59%

Lipscomb offers a variety of degrees and services for students, such as non-remedial tutoring, placement services, and health services. It also has a strong network of alumni ready to offer alumni mentoring programs to enhance student leadership potential. The admissions process is selective, with a freshman acceptance rate of 62 percent.

6. Lincoln Memorial University

  • US news national rankings:#249
  • Campus location(s): Harrogate, Tennessee
  • Bachelor enrollment: 1,817
  • Graduation rate: 42%

One of the best liberal arts colleges, Lincoln Memorial was born out of love for the legend of Abraham Lincoln. LMU has a close-knit campus community that prioritizes personalized attention for students with an average class size of 14. About 91 percent of full-time students receive academic, leadership, and talent-based scholarships. LMU is part of the NCAA II.

7. University of Memphis

  • US news national rankings:#249
  • Campus location(s): Memphis, Tennessee
  • Bachelor enrollment: 17,383
  • Graduation rate: 28%

The University of Memphis is a research-intensive public university that combines academics and adventure. It is the second largest public university in Tennessee. The institution created the Access Memphis program to fill the gap in financial need. The program offers student loans and an academic merit scholarship to the brightest students in undergraduate programs.

8. Tennessee Tech University

  • US news national rankings: #277
  • Campus location(s): Cookeville, Tennessee
  • Bachelor enrollment: 8.778
  • Graduation rate: 35%

Tennessee Tech is a public institution founded in 1915 with a campus size of 267 acres. The student-faculty ratio is 18 to one, and 52 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students. Tennessee Tech assures prospective students of on-campus safety and security services, such as nighttime escort service, lighted pathways, and controlled access to dormitories.

9. East Tennessee State University

  • US news national rankings:#288
  • Campus location(s): Johnson City, Tennessee
  • Bachelor enrollment: 10.705
  • Graduation rate: 32%

East Tennessee State University is a public institution that provides inclusive learning services to students with disabilities. It offers more than 160 academic options, including associate degree programs, and is made up of more than 250 student organizations where you can work with fellow students to build a solid community on campus. Its accounting programs are in the top five percent worldwide.

10. Middle Tennessee State University

  • US news national rankings:#288
  • Campus location(s): Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  • Bachelor enrollment: 19.188
  • Graduation rate: 30%

This public state university has been in existence since 1911 and has an urban setting and a campus size of 550 acres. The programs of study include subjects such as psychology, music, business, biology, and criminal justice administration. Middle Tennessee State University spends approximately $20 million in annual scholarships and student sponsorship.

Is a University in Tennessee Right for You?

Yes. Universities in Tennessee provide prospective students with access to unlimited academic programs and extracurricular opportunities. Offering faculty resources, community-building events on campus, and options for both online and hybrid programs, these schools provide a rewarding experience for everyone.

These educational programs provide professional experience and career services that prepare students to maximize their career opportunities. A wide variety of high paying careers in business await Tennessee graduates, and the state’s median annual salary was $47,530 in 2020. With the added benefit of a low cost of living, graduates have access to numerous job opportunities and good career growth potential.

To take advantage of studying at any of these universities, make sure you meet the school’s entry requirements and meet the minimum entrance exam scores. Make sure you learn to study for standardized tests like the ACT to get the best score possible. The requirements differ per school type.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Universities in Tennessee

Are There Good Colleges in Tennessee?

Yes. The state capital, Nashville, has many of the best colleges in Tennessee. Some other colleges to consider include Rhodes College, Christian Brothers University, Tennessee Wesleyan University, Trevecca Nazarene University, and Bryan College. These offer good study programs, some have an intimate campus experience, and all offer financial aid to students with high school diplomas.

Is Tennessee a Good Place for Students?

Yes. Tennessee is an excellent place for prospective students, whether seeking an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or doctorate. If you are looking for a free art school, private school, or public school, Tennessee has an option for you. Online students or international students can also take advantage of the low tuition rates.

Is the University of Tennessee Affordable?

Yes, it is affordable. The in-state tuition and fees are $13,244, and the out-of-state tuition is $31,434. The availability of financial aid to national universities such as these, including loans and grants, also helps to reduce the financial burden. You can see what type of financial aid you qualify for before you even set foot on campus by checking the school’s website.

Is Tennessee a Good Place to Live?

Absolute. Tennessee is known for its low cost of living, career services, country music, and beautiful natural scenery. According to US News & World Report, Tennessee is in the top 10 most affordable states. These benefits ensure a pleasant experience for everyone.

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