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The 10 Best and Most Prestigious Universities in Tennessee

Masha Bashmakova - September 01, 2022

The best universities in Tennessee attract incoming students with quality education programs and widespread economic and professional opportunities. In 2020, over 360,000 students across higher institutions in Tennessee enrolled in undergraduate studies or were on track to get graduate degrees and other advanced degrees.

This guide outlines our top 10 universities in Tennessee and explores how these Tennessee universities ranked nationally. You will also learn more about the benefits of opting for these institutions and how these most prestigious universities in Tennessee combine academics and extracurricular activities to give students an all-encompassing experience, no matter their major. So what are the best universities in Tennessee? Let’s dive in to find out.

How We Defined Tennessee University Rankings

To help you on your school search, we ranked these universities by evaluating school rankings, programs of study, financial data, undergraduate enrollment, and graduation rates. We also considered student life statistics, reviews from student organizations and alumni networks, and data from US News & World Report to determine the school rankings below.

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Tennessee Universities Ranked: Top 10 Universities in Tennessee

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

The Best Colleges and Universities in Tennessee, Explained

A group of undergraduate students excited about their group task Best Universities in Tennessee
These universities offer an opportunity for high-quality education for students to obtain honors degrees in the field of their choice.

Tennessee is undoubtedly one of the best places to undertake a degree or an honors program. Universities in this state provide an excellent academic experience with high-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 during your school search.

1. Vanderbilt University

  • US News National Ranking: #14
  • Campus Location(s): Nashville, TN
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 7,057
  • Graduation Rate: 88%

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

It is comprised of 10 schools and colleges and offers academic opportunities in undergraduate studies and graduate programs in humanities, engineering, and music. Its renowned Blair School of Music offers amazing programs for incoming students and music enthusiasts.

2. University of Tennessee

  • US News National Ranking: #103
  • Campus Location(s): Knoxville, TN
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 24,254
  • Graduation Rate: 51%

The University of Tennessee is one of the best regional universities. It offers bachelor’s degrees and graduate degrees in programs such as Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Africana studies. It also manages the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where incoming students carry out research projects.

3. Belmont University

  • US News National Ranking: #162
  • Campus Location(s): Nashville, TN
  • Undergraduate 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 of the students here focus their studies and activities on the entertainment industry. Belmont University is part of the NCAA I and commits to promoting sportsmanship in its student community through athletic programs.

4. Union University

  • US News National Ranking: #187
  • Campus Location(s): Jackson, TN
  • Undergraduate 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 opt to stay off campus while obtaining their bachelor’s degrees. The average amount of institutional scholarships granted at Union University is $7,775, and 88 percent of full-time undergraduates receive this financial aid.

5. Lipscomb University

  • US News National Ranking: #213
  • Campus Location(s): Nashville, TN
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,997
  • Graduation Rate: 59%

Lipscomb provides a variety of degrees and student services such as non-remedial tutoring, placement service, and health services. It also has a strong network of alumni ready to offer alumni mentoring programs to improve students’ leadership potential. Its admission process is selective, with an acceptance rate of first-year students of 62 percent.

6. Lincoln Memorial University

  • US News National Ranking: #249
  • Campus Location(s): Harrogate, TN
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,817
  • Graduation Rate: 42%

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

7. University of Memphis

  • US News National Ranking: #249
  • Campus Location(s): Memphis, TN
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 17,383
  • Graduation Rate: 28%

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

8. Tennessee Tech University

  • US News National Ranking: #277
  • Campus Location(s): Cookeville, TN
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 8,778
  • Graduation Rate: 35%

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

9. East Tennessee State University

  • US News National Ranking: #288
  • Campus Location(s): Johnson City, TN
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 10,705
  • Graduation Rate: 32%

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

10. Middle Tennessee State University

  • US News National Ranking: #288
  • Campus Location(s): Murfreesboro, TN
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 19,188
  • Graduation Rate: 30%

Standing since 1911, this public state university has a city setting and a campus size of 550 acres. Its programs of study include subjects like psychology, music, business administration, biology, and criminal justice administration. Middle Tennessee State University spends about $20 million on annual scholarships and student sponsorship.

Is a University in Tennessee Right for You?

Yes. Universities in Tennessee provide prospective students access to unlimited academic programs and extracurricular opportunities. With the offerings of faculty resources, events to build the community on campus, and options for both online programs and hybrid programs, these schools offer a rewarding experience for all.

These educational programs offer professional experience and career services that prepare students to maximize career opportunities. A vast range of well-paying careers in business spheres await Tennessee graduates and the state’s average annual salary was $47,530 in 2020. With the added benefit of a low cost of living, graduates can access numerous job opportunities and good career growth potential.

To take advantage of studying at one of these universities, make sure to meet the school’s admission requirements, and meet minimum entrance exam scores. Make sure you learn how to study for standardized tests like the ACT to get the best score possible. Requirements will vary by school type.

Best Universities in Tennessee FAQ

Are there good colleges in Tennessee?

Yes. The state capital, Nashville, has many of the top colleges that are located in Tennessee. Some other colleges to consider are 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 who hold a high school diploma.

Is Tennessee a good place for students?

Yes. Tennessee is an excellent place for prospective students whether they’re looking to pursue an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or doctoral degree. If you are looking for a liberal arts school, private school, or public school, Tennessee has an option for you. Online students or international students can also benefit from the low tuition rates.

Is the University of Tennessee affordable?

Yes, it’s affordable. Its in-state tuition and fees are $13,244, and the out-of-state tuition is $31,434. The availability of financial aid at national universities like this, 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?

Absolutely. Tennessee is famous for its low cost of living, career services, country music, and beautiful natural landscape. According to U.S. News & World Report, Tennessee ranks in the top 10 most affordable states . These benefits would make for a pleasant experience for anyone.

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Masha Bashmakova

About the author: Masha is a Montreal-based actor, writer, teacher, and freelancer. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Performance Creation from Concordia University as well as a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification. Masha’s work experience includes new media creation work, directing, grant writing, and teaching. As a freelancer, she knows the importance of career planning, and she hopes to use her storytelling skills to support students and career changers. Masha loves music, secondhand books, caffeine, and handwritten notes.

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