- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed March 2, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, accessed March 2, 2016, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed April 24, 2017: Mission and Values, Johnson University, http://www.johnsonu.edu/About/Mission-Statement.aspx; Online Degree Programs, Johnson University, http://www.johnsonu.edu/Online/Programs.aspx; Online Undergraduate Programs, East Tennessee State University, http://www.etsu.edu/online/undergraduate/; Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, University of Memphis, http://www.memphis.edu/law/index.php; Tennessee Promise, Austin Peay State University, http://www.apsu.edu/admissions/tennessee-promise; Quick Facts, The University of Tennessee at Martin, http://www.utm.edu/about/quickfacts.php; UTC offering regional tuition rate to freshman and sophomore students, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga, https://blog.utc.edu/news/2017/03/utc-offering-regional-tuition-rate-freshman-sophomore-students/; About Us, Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences, https://www.bchs.edu/about; Top 10 Things About MTSU, Middle Tennessee State University, http://www.mtsu.edu/about/index.php;
- University of Tennessee System, accessed April 24, 2017, http://tennessee.edu/
- Tennessee Board of Regents, accessed April 24, 2017: Our Institutions, https://www.tbr.edu/institutions/our-institutions; Tennessee Transfer Pathway, https://www.tbr.edu/initiatives/tennessee-transfer-pathway;
- Visit Johnson City, accessed April 24, 2017, http://visitjohnsoncitytn.com/
- University of Memphis, Best Graduate Schools, Top Law Schools, U.S. News and World Report, accessed April 24, 2017, https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/university-of-memphis-humphreys-03145
- Money For College, Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, accessed April 24, 2017, https://www.tn.gov/collegepays/section/money-for-college
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
Those who are thinking about going to college in Tennessee should be aware of the wide range of post-secondary options. In addition to two public university systems — the University of Tennessee system and the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) — there are also independent universities around the state. The TBR system is the larger of the two, comprising six universities, 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology. The UT system consists of a flagship campus in Knoxville, two satellite campuses in Martin and Chattanooga, a health science center in Memphis and statewide institutes of agriculture and public service.
If you're a Tennessee community college student hoping to finish your degree at a university campus, don't forget to look into the Tennessee Transfer Pathway (TTP) program. All TTP-eligible courses are guaranteed to transfer into degree plans at numerous universities in the state.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Tennessee
Figuring out which institutions are the best traditional and online universities in Tennessee is no easy task, but we gathered loads of statistics and analyzed them until the results were clear. We've listed each of the top ten schools below, with a short synopsis of the data picture for each one. Details on our methodology are available at the bottom of the page. Here are the best traditional and online colleges in Tennessee, starting with No. 1.
This small, private university in Knoxville took the No. 1 spot in our rankings thanks in part to its top-three distance education enrollment percentage among the schools on our list. Campus-based flexibility measures were also a bright spot for Johnson University, where course credit can be earned for applicable life experience and whole degree programs can be earned exclusively through weekend and evening classes.
Students interested in an online bachelor's degree program in Tennessee have five options to choose from at Johnson, including business administration, intercultural studies and nonprofit administration. Faith-based programs such as ministry leadership and pastoral care and counseling are also available, for students with a more religious focus to their education.
If you're looking for a school with strong financial aid possibilities, East Tennessee State University might be the place for you. This Johnson City school took the top spot among schools on our list for its average proportion of institutional grant aid per dollar of tuition and fees. It also placed at No. 5 in the state for the raw affordability of tuition and associated costs.
The size of the distance education catalog at ETSU gave it a place among the best online colleges in Tennessee. Its offering of nearly two dozen total degree programs available completely in the virtual classroom was enough to rank it No. 2 in the state in that category. The town of Johnson City has a lot to offer college students, from cycling and hiking trails to public art and craft breweries downtown.
Only one other school on our list offered as many or more on-campus degree programs as the University of Memphis, and no other school in the state could top its portfolio of 44 study plans that can be completed entirely online. Weekend/evening degree programs are also available, for campus-based students who need an extra measure of flexibility in their academic schedule.
U of M may merit extra attention for Tennessee students considering a move into law school after completing their bachelor's degree. The school's Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law was recognized as one of the top law schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report in 2017.
Austin Peay State University had the most affordable tuition and fees cost of any school on our list, and the financial upside to this Clarksville school doesn't stop there. Its average net price — an affordability measure that subtracts expected grant and scholarship awards from the total cost of attendance, including books, supplies and room and board — ranked No. 4 among our top 10 schools for both low- and middle-income students.
More than 51 percent of students at APSU were enrolled in at least some distance education courses in fall 2015, placing it at No. 4 statewide on that metric. Students who wish to make use of the Tennessee Promise Scholarship before moving into a bachelor's program have a few choices of associate degrees at APSU, including liberal arts and engineering technology.
This Cookeville school is one of the best online colleges in Tennessee by enrollment, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Recent data shows that more than 60 percent of students took at least some of their coursework in the virtual classroom, good for the No. 3 spot in the state.
Along with placing No. 2 among our top ten schools for its comparatively low cost of tuition and fees, Tennessee Tech featured an uncommon distinction for its students' ability to make good use of available financial aid. The median student debt burden held by graduates was just $15,587 in 2015, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). That figure ranks it No. 1 among schools on our list and places it among the top 5 percent of all schools we surveyed nationwide.
Affordability is at the top of the stat sheet for this University of Tennessee System school. Its average net price was the state's lowest for middle-income students and ranked No. 2 for low-income students in 2015-16. Both figures placed in the 96th percentile nationally in their respective categories. Raw tuition and fees costs were also affordable enough to rank No. 6 statewide.
Students in health care specialties tend to excel after graduating from UT Martin, according to the university's fact sheet. Graduates of its registered nursing programs had a 100-percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in 2016, and veterinary health technology students posted a similarly perfect record on their 2016 occupational exam.
The Chattanooga campus of the University of Tennessee ranked No. 7 in the state for its tuition and fees affordability. The average net price for low-income students was manageable also, placing at No. 5 in the state in that category. Middle-income students paid an average net price that ranked No. 6 among schools on our list.
An additional affordability measure in place at UT Chattanooga is their regional tuition rate, an initiative designed to help students from nearby out-of-state counties better afford tuition at the southern Tennessee school. Students from certain Georgia and Alabama counties in the greater Chattanooga area qualify for the program, which starts with the standard in-state tuition rate and adds just 25 percent of non-resident tuition. The discount is only extended to first- and second-year students.
Very few colleges in the country are more affordable than Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences. Low-income students paid the lowest average net price in the state at this faith-based Memphis institution. It also ranked among the top 20 schools for low-income net price affordability among all 1,647 institutions in our analysis, placing it in the 98th percentile nationwide.
Middle-income students paid a generally affordable net price at Baptist as well. The institution ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 88 in the country for its low cost to students with family incomes closer to average. Carrying through from enrollment to graduation was common at this small faith-based college; only one other school on our list posted a higher graduation rate in 2016.
Another affordable option for Tennessee residents can be found at this fairly large Murfreesboro institution. Only three other schools in the state charged a lower baseline rate for tuition and fees in 2015-16, and the average net price figures for middle- and low-income students came in at No. 5 and No. 6 statewide, respectively.
Middle Tennessee State University was founded over 100 years ago as a school for teachers and has grown into a research university that awards degrees from the bachelor's level all the way up to Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). It's also a Tennessee Board of Regents school and produces more graduates than any other campus in its state system.
The flagship location of the University of Tennessee system comes in at No. 10. The 253 academic programs available at the Knoxville campus in 2015-16 constituted the largest academic catalog in the state, and its array of distance education programs was large enough that only three other schools in the state placed higher in that category.
UT Knoxville also had the highest graduation rate and the second-highest freshman retention rate among our top ten schools. Students graduated with a median college debt burden under $20,000, also, earning it the No. 2 spot among schools on our list. If it weren't for a comparatively low distance education enrollment rate and an average net price that was higher than average for middle-income students, UT Knoxville would likely have placed a few spots higher.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Tennessee
Whether you want to see how the academic choices of your classmates stack up or you want to find out which majors give you the greatest number of potential study partners to choose from, here's a list of the top degree programs in Tennessee by enrollment.
In-demand Careers in Tennessee
Not everyone enters college with their sights set on a certain segment of the job market, but lining up your study plan with regional employment demand might just make it easier to transition into a career after graduation. Check out these hot jobs in Tennessee and see if one might be a good goal as your future career.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||56%||2,730||$56,870|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||52%||1,900||$60,710|
|Physical Therapist Aides||48.9%||1,690||$23,890|
|Home Health Aides||46.7%||5,950||$20,660|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians||45.8%||150||$23,080|
|Interpreters and Translators||45.1%||620||$41,350|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||44%||930||$60,360|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||42.9%||920||$68,290|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||40.4%||7,180||$61,290|
|Operations Research Analysts||39.8%||1,770||$69,420|
|Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors||38.8%||1,660||$39,370|
|Veterinary Technologists and Technicians||38.2%||1,280||$31,140|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||37.7%||5,220||$100,350|
|Personal Care Aides||36.5%||17,150||$19,540|
|Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders||36.5%||3,260||$38,760|
|Information Security Analysts||36.4%||1,240||$80,150|
|Insulation Workers, Mechanical||36.2%||440||$41,850|
|Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians||35.1%||1,100||$47,290|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Tennessee
Tennessee residents may qualify for these and other state-based financial aid programs:
- The Tennessee Student Assistance Award Program (TSAA) provides grant aid to in-state undergraduate students who meet financial need requirements.
- HOPE Scholarships and Access Grants award aid each semester to qualifying students who graduate from eligible high schools in Tennessee and certain surrounding out-of-state counties.
- The Helping Heroes Grant awards $1,000 per semester to qualifying military veterans and members or reserves of the Tennessee National Guard who were called into active service.
November 15 (Early Action admissions deadline)
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.25 GPA and full-time status.
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.6 GPA.
Based on continued positive academic performance
- Tennessee Board of Regents
- The University of Tennessee System
- Tennessee Transfer Pathways
- Tennessee Promise
- Tennessee Reconnect
- College for TN -
- Tennessee Higher Education Commission
- Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation Aid Programs