Best Colleges in Tennessee

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Tennessee is home to more than 60 higher education institutions, offering diverse two-year and four-year programs through two public university systems and numerous private colleges. Historically, the majority of the state’s university programs have been research-based. However, Tennessee’s many community colleges and private schools offer specialties spanning technology and liberal arts. Tennessee’s colleges and universities are proud hosts of numerous champion sports teams; the state also houses a high concentration of theological seminaries, founded in the Christian tradition. With such variety, it may seem difficult to make a decision between renowned Tennessee institutions. Fortunately, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Tennessee, including the top four-year and two-year schools.

During the selection process, prospective college students in Tennessee compare location, affordability and the length of programs at postsecondary schools on their list.

All postsecondary schools in Tennessee are governed by one of two entities, the University of Tennessee System or the Tennessee Board of Regents. Among the state’s four-year flagship universities is the University of Tennessee, which operates a main campus in Knoxville, two additional campus locations and associated institutions specializing in health science and space science. The Tennessee Board of Regents is the governing body over large four-year institutions such as the University of Memphis, also a flagship university, as well as a large number of liberal arts schools and private colleges offering a variety of specializations. Four-year schools with the largest student enrollment tend to be concentrated in major city centers, including Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Tennesseans with a bachelor’s degree earn a higher salary than those without a college degree. Graduates’ salary after attending four-year institutions in Tennessee considerably exceeds the average national income, according to the U.S. Department of Education. A total of 68% of students who attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, for example, earned more than those in the state with only a high school diploma. To learn more about the potential career benefits of these and other four-year programs, browse our list of the top colleges in Tennessee.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1Vanderbilt University 5/592.86%Nashville, TN

Located in Nashville, Vanderbilt University is one of the top-ranked research and learning institutions in the entire country. With an enrollment of roughly 12,000 students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries, the school prides itself in fostering a community of scholarly research, innovative teaching platforms, and service to society at large.

With 10 different academic schools and departments, Vanderbilt is able to offer a wide variety of degree programs, majors, and learning opportunities. Among its 70-odd undergraduate majors are studies in computer science, engineering, nursing, medicine, business administration, law, education, and the humanities. Vanderbilt is also home to highly ranked Divinity School, and a graduate school with more than 50 master’s and doctoral programs. Graduates of Vanderbilt include members of Congress, professional athletes, and heads of leading corporations, as well as notable writers, researchers, and policy figures.

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2Milligan College 4/557.95%Milligan College, TN

Milligan College is most often regarded for its liberal arts curriculum, with more than 100 different majors and minors to choose from. The belief is that an interdisciplinary degree in the humanities helps to provide its more than 1,200 students with an educational foundation for the various historical, philosophical, literary, and artistic principles of modern society.

Milligan describes itself as a Christian college, and encourages students to “see God’s hand in all subjects -- whether studying accounting, history, or fine arts”. It touts a “distinctively different” approach to higher education through a focus on “scholarship, community, and faith”. With a history that spans nearly 150 years, Milligan College is viewed as preeminent learning institution in Tennessee.

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3Sewanee – University of the South 5/579.22%Sewanee, TN

With more than 50 different majors and minors spanning topics from biochemistry to Japanese, Sewanee offers a diverse spectrum of educational opportunities for undergraduates. Owned by the episcopal church, the university is registered as an official seminary. While Sewanee’s School of Theology is one of its stand-out features, students are free to pursue a secular liberal arts education.

More than 1,500 students are enrolled in Sewanee undergraduate programs, with an additional 200 enrolled in its graduate school. The curriculum is often divided into three components: general education, major courses, and electives. Overall, undergraduate students are expected to take a minimum of of 32 courses over four years.

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4Johnson University 3/566.95%Knoxville, TN

Johnson University is a private Christian college located just outside of Knoxville. The school offers a blend of campus and online degree programs and certificates, with additional campuses in Indiana, Phoenix, and Florida. As a faith-based institution, students can expect to receive an education that blends the humanities (arts & sciences), Bible and theology, and professional studies.

The primary Tennessee campus offers a variety of academic majors, with a heavy emphasis on ministerial and Bible studies. Graduate and PhD programs in education, family therapy, school counseling, and ministry leadership can also be found. Students may also pursue online certificate and degree programs in business administration, intercultural studies, biblical studies, and spiritual leadership. In general, Johnson University stresses the primacy of faith and Christ-centered education in its degree offerings.

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5Christian Brothers University 4/555.3%Memphis, TN

With a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1, Christian Brothers University in Memphis prides itself in offering a learning experience that is both personal and comprehensive. With nearly 100 majors and and minors, students are provided educational opportunities in the arts, business, education, engineering, and sciences, among others. The university describes itself as cultivating a community of “faith and service.”

With an enrollment of more than 1,800, CBU is a relatively small school, and is able to offer financial aid to 96% of its full-time undergraduate students. Ten percent of the student body is comprised of international students, while 42% of the total may be considered minorities. CBU also offers graduate degree programs in business, Catholic studies, education, engineering, and health programs.

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6Southern Adventist University 3/552.09%Collegedale, TN

Southern Adventist University in Collegedale promotes an environment of academic excellence and the pursuit of truth and public service, with a particular focus on the values of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The college advocates a Christ-centered experience in every aspect of campus life, with professors often providing Christian perspectives to secular subject matter.

Founded in 1892, Southern Adventist offers dozens of academic majors in a wide variety of subjects, including biology, business, music, technology, journalism, physics, and religion. Students are given the opportunity to study abroad through year-long learning programs in France, Austria, Italy, Argentina, Spain, and Germany. SAU also offers summer language programs in Greece, Austria, France, Italy, Ukraine, Mexico, Spain, and Brazil.

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7Rhodes College 5/580.21%Memphis, TN

Located in Memphis, Rhodes College stresses the importance of a liberal arts education, as well as intellectual engagement, service to others, and honor to others. It is ranked highly by U.S. News and World Report and Forbes.

The school offers more than 50 majors across 18 academic departments and 13 interdisciplinary programs. Students are permitted to design their own majors, and may benefit from professional counseling in the fields of health, law, engineering, ministry, and education. Rhodes enjoys an enrollment of more than 2,000, with an average class size of 14 and a low student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1. The Gothic-inspired 110-acre campus, founded in 1848, is located in the heart of historic Midtown Memphis.

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8Bryan College – Dayton 4/552.58%Dayton, TN

Bryan College is located on a 128-acre hilltop in Dayton. The school, whose motto is “Christ Above All”, offers 25 undergraduate majors across 49 fields of study. Bryan also offers three graduate programs: a master’s in business administration (MBA), a master of arts (MA) in Christian ministry, and a master of education (ME). The school enrolls nearly 1,500 students from 38 states and 12 countries, making for a student-to-teacher ratio of 14:1. The school asserts that all of its philosophies and policies are founded on the goal of creating an atmosphere that engenders a personal, individual commitment to Christ.

In addition to maintaining a commitment to faith, Bryan fosters an environment of academic and professional integrity. Students may benefit from a host of educational resources, including an academic support center, career services, debate team, an intercollegiate state legislature, music education, and entrepreneurial organizations.

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9Lipscomb University 4/561.89%Nashville, TN

Lipscomb’s stated mission is to “integrate Christian faith and practice with academic excellence”. While it is primarily an undergraduate institution focused on the liberal arts and sciences, it does offer a number of graduate, pre-professional, and doctorate programs. With an enrollment of more than 4,000, undergraduate students are free to choose from eight kinds of bachelor’s degrees in 78 different majors. For added flexibility, Lipscomb offers several pre-professional programs, as well as evening and online adult learning programs. The graduate school offers 25 master’s degrees, three doctorate degrees, and four education specialist degrees.

Above all, Lipscomb stresses the importance of the Christian faith in academic performance. The school holds that faith-based education works best when it fosters a student who knows the right way to put their education to use.

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10The University of Tennessee – Knoxville 3/569.31%Knoxville, TN

As one of the top public universities in the country, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville is also one of its oldest. Founded in 1794, UT is the largest research institution in Tennessee, and leads the state in number of degrees awarded annually. It has enrollment of over 20,000 and a total endowment of more than $1 billion. Admitted students will enter one of the university’s 11 colleges to choose among some 300 undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. The school also offers online learning degrees in education, information sciences, and engineering, among others.

UT offers a number of academic resources to help students achieve their degree. These include a writing center, tech support service, a media production lab, summer school, leadership and volunteer programs, as well as a robust study abroad program that allows students to work toward their degrees in foreign countries.

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11Lincoln Memorial University 3/546.88%Harrogate, TN

With the namesake of the country’s 16th president, Lincoln Memorial University strives to uphold the legacy and virtues of Abraham Lincoln. Located 55 miles north of Knoxville, LMU offers more than 30 varying and diverse academic majors. Incoming students can expect an average class size of 14, and may enroll at 10 LMU locations in eastern Kentucky and east Tennessee. The school operates a number of extended learning sites, online courses, and interactive television classrooms for a broader range of learning options.

LMU offers four baccalaureate degree types with a general focus on the humanities. Students may also pursue associate degrees in nursing or veterinary science. The graduate school offers master’s degrees in business administration, business analytics, education, nursing, medical sciences, public administration, and criminal justice. The school also has doctoral degree offerings in education, business administration, nursing practice, and veterinary science, among others.

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12Union University 4/566.19%Jackson, TN

Union University is a top-ranked Christian college located in Jackson. It offers a variety of undergraduate, graduate, online, and adult learning programs. Nearly 200 years old, the institution is primarily a liberal arts school, offering more than 100 programs of study at an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1. The university boasts an enrollment of more than 4,000 students representing 44 different states and 33 countries. One-hundred percent of incoming students receive financial aid.

Union’s graduate school offers master’s and doctoral degrees in business administration, education, intercultural studies, nursing pharmacy, social work, theology, and pre-professional biology. Busy adults may appreciate Union’s online degree programs, which include blended campus/online learning opportunities. Online students may pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees in business, education, Christian studies, and nursing.

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13Belmont University 4/569.72%Nashville, TN

Belmont University in Nashville, is one of the fastest growing Christian colleges in the country. With more than 7,400 students from every state as well as some 25 countries, the university maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1. Students may choose from more than 80 areas of undergraduate study, 22 master’s programs, and five doctoral degrees. Belmont also offers adult degree programs specifically tailored for continuing education and professional services.

At the heart of the university’s academic platform is its 11 colleges: Business, Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, Entertainment & Music Business, Pharmacy, Health Sciences & Nursing, Sciences & Mathematics, Interdisciplinary Studies & Global Education, Theology & Christian Ministry, Law, Visual & Performing Arts, and Adult Degree Programs. Collectively, these institutions aim to foster an academic environment that blends the values of a liberal arts education with the rigor of workplace professionalism -- all within a Christian community of learning and service.

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14University of Memphis 2/544%Memphis, TN

Founded more than 100 years ago, the University of Memphis boasts an enrollment of more than 20,000 students. Located in a residential area of Memphis, the school prides itself in promoting innovative academic programs and research within an urban environment. With 13 schools and colleges, the UofM offers 17 different degree types, as well as master’s degrees in 54 subjects and doctoral degrees in 25 subjects.

The school also features 30 graduate certificate programs, a specialist degree in education, and a juris doctor (law degree). In all, that makes for some 254 areas of study for students to explore. When combined with UofM’s FedEx Institute of Technology, the Helen Hardin Honors Program, online learning platforms, and ROTC programs, students can easily find an academic path that suits their needs.

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15Trevecca Nazarene University 4/551.38%Nashville, TN

Trevecca Nazarene University is a private university located in Nashville. The school was designed to meet the higher educational needs of the Church of the Nazarene, and is the official university of that denomination. It emphasizes the authority of the Bible while promoting academic programs based on Christian values, scholarship, critical thinking, and meaningful worship.

Trevecca Nazarene’s five schools and colleges collectively offer nearly 70 different degree majors, ranging from music and worship arts to information technology and graphic design. The graduate school offers a similarly diverse spectrum of learning opportunities, including master’s degrees in business administration, mental health counseling, and religion. Trevecca Nazarene offers a full spectrum of degrees from its online learning program, allowing adults to pursue degrees while working.

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16Maryville College 5/554.21%Maryville, TN

Situated between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, Maryville College is the 12th oldest college in the South. As a Christian college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, Maryville maintains a modest enrollment of just 1,200 students. Its core mission is to “do good on the largest possible scale,” and it achieves this through community education, business and organizational partnerships, and connections with the American Presbyterian Church.

With more than 60 academic majors ranging from psychology and theatre studies to history and international business, Maryville College is primarily a liberal arts school. Integrated into the four-year undergraduate curriculum is Maryville College Works program -- a comprehensive academic roadmap designed to bridge the divide between the campus and the workplace. All students participate in the program, which may include professional advising, resume-building exercises, leadership opportunities, and a robust career center.

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17University of Tennessee – Martin 2/547.04%Martin, TN

The University of Tennessee at Martin is located about 125 miles northeast of Memphis. It enrolls more than 6,800 students representing 40 states and 19 countries, with 94% of those students pursuing undergraduate degrees. UTM students can get involved by joining any of the school’s 100 organizations, including invited honor societies, service groups, student government, fraternities and sororities, and special student associations.

The university has five colleges and departments in the following fields: Agriculture and Applied Sciences; Business and Global Affairs; Education, Health, and Behavioral Sciences; Engineering and Natural Sciences; and Humanities and Fine Arts. Among these, UTM offers students the choice of roughly 100 different academic majors. The graduate school offers master’s degrees in business administration, counseling, educational leadership, teaching, family and consumer sciences, and agricultural and natural resources. UTM also offers pre-professional learning programs in a variety of fields.

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18Middle Tennessee State University 2/546.2%Murfreesboro, TN

Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro boasts an enrollment of more than 23,000 students, and is the top producer of college graduates in the Greater Nashville economy. With eight different colleges, MTSU offers some 40 departments and more than 140 degree programs, as well as an additional 100 graduate degree programs. The school prides itself in graduating students from low-income regions, as it is the No. 1 producer of adult Pell Grant–eligible college graduates in the state. It is also a highly military-friendly institution, being home to the state’s largest academic support center for veterans and their families.

MTSU offers a host of academic resources for students, including a writing center, the state’s first public Honors College, and a recently built 250,000-square-foot, $147 million science building. The university also recently ramped up its academic advising and curriculum strategies, which helped significantly in boosting the university’s student retention and graduation rates.

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19King University 4/554.35%Bristol, TN

King University in Bristol was founded in 1867 and maintains covenant affiliations with the Presbyterian Church and Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The school promotes the diversity and spirit of the liberal arts education, and offers students a number of different research, travel, and off-campus learning opportunities. Above all else, King stress the importance of “Christian faith, scholarship, service, and career,” as a means of achieving success and doing good according to the values of the church.

With seven different academic schools of learning, King University offers more than 90 majors, minors, and pre-professional degrees, including subjects as diverse as nursing, law, health sciences, business, education, and the humanities. Graduate students may also pursue master’s degrees in business administration, nursing, and education, as well as a doctor of nursing practice. King University Online also offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in business administration, information technology, healthcare administration, and psychology, among others.

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20Carson-Newman University 4/547.97%Jefferson City, TN

Carson-Newman University is a 150-year-old research and learning institution in Jefferson City. It is highly ranked for its undergraduate programs and community service. Founded in 1851, CNU currently enrolls some 1,800 undergraduate students and 700 graduate students, making for an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1.

The undergraduate school offers associate and bachelor programs from a huge variety of academic subjects, including chemistry, business, fashion design, history, physics, political science, and theatre. In total, CNU offers nearly 100 academic majors. The graduate school is more focused on adult and professional education, with a blend of online and campus courses. Those subjects range from business administration and social entrepreneurship to nursing and education. Undergraduate students may also choose from more than 70 campus organizations.

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21Lee University 3/554.48%Cleveland, TN

As a faith-based liberal arts college, Lee University prides itself as one of the largest Christ-centered private institutions in the state. Located in Cleveland, Tennessee, the school is consistently ranked among the best colleges in the south. It seeks to provide education that integrates the study of the arts and sciences with biblical truths as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. In its mission statement, Lee notes that a “personal commitment to Jesus Christ” as the predominant perspective of its educational platform.

Students are free to choose from some 50 different majors with over 100 individual programs. In addition to Christian and theological studies, Lee is widely regarded for its communications, psychology, pre-medicine, business, elementary education, and music departments. Graduate students may also pursue degrees in business, counseling, education, music, religion, and ministry studies.

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22Cumberland University 4/537.11%Lebanon, TN

Cumberland University is located 30 miles east of Nashville in Lebanon. As a small liberal arts school, Cumberland aims to provide its students with a personalized educational experience that will prepare them for successful careers and endow them with intellectual and spiritual strength of character. The school was founded in 1842 by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Students may choose from an extensive list of majors and minors covering a diverse spectrum of academic subjects, although most may be considered as part of the larger humanities. Some of these include mathematics, psychology, special education, music, marketing, and healthcare administration. Student may also choose a minor or design a dual major degree. The graduate school at Cumberland offers master’s degrees in education, business administration, public service management, and sport and exercise science, among others.

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23Tennessee Wesleyan College 4/543.43%Athens, TN

Founded in 1857, Tennessee Wesleyan College is located in Athens. It is affiliated with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church, and has an enrollment of 1,100 students. The student-to-faculty ratio is 12:1, and the majority of classes have less than 30 students. The school offers more than 30 undergraduate majors as well as two online master’s degree programs (an MBA and an MS in curriculum leadership) for working adults. There is also an online RN to BSN program for graduate students. In addition to a comprehensive athletics program, TWC is home to more than 25 students clubs and organizations.

Undergraduate students may participate in one of three travel opportunities: study abroad programs, mission trips, and college-sponsored trips. TWC also offers a student writing center, a student success center, and access to the Kilbride Nature Sanctuary -- a 92-acre property in nearby Dayton used by students and faculty in the natural sciences department for research and learning purposes.

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24The University of Tennessee – Chattanooga 2/539.83%Chattanooga, TN

Founded in 1886, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga boasts an enrollment of more than 11,000. The school’s stated mission is to provide an excellent educational experience and to strengthen its community partnerships. UTC offers a truly diverse set of academic subjects, majors, and degree programs, but it is perhaps best known for its nationally ranked business school.

All of UTC’s academic programs are hosted by its four main colleges: the College of Business, College of Arts & Sciences, College of Engineering and Computer Science, and the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies. Among those schools are more than 140 undergraduate majors and some 100 graduate degree programs, a PhD in computational science, and dozens of post-baccalaureate certificates. To augment its a massive catalog of learning opportunities, UTC recently completed a $48 million state-of-the-art library, which opened in January 2015.

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25Freed-Hardeman University 4/551.6%Henderson, TN

Located in Henderson, Freed-Hardeman University was founded in 1869 and is affiliated with the Churches of Christ. The university strives to help students hone their “God-given talents” through an education that integrates Christian faith, scholarship, and service. With a number of study abroad programs and graduate studies, FHU and its affiliated campuses in Memphis and Dickson offer a broad-range of educational and spiritual opportunities. The school stresses the significance of a Christian perspective throughout its academic environment.

FHU consists of five colleges and departments, including an honors program. Among them are more than 40 undergraduate majors and academic programs, covering everything from music and photography to bible studies and mathematics. Students are also free to design their own majors. The graduate school offers a similarly diverse range of academic and professional programs, including master’s degrees in business administration, education, and divinity, as well as doctoral programs in education and behavioral health.

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Tennessee offers an abundance of two-year programs in specialties like business and technology. Governed by the Board of Regents system, the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology make up the largest community college network in the state, comprising 28 campus locations and providing professional skills for over 50 unique technical occupations. Additionally, community college programs offered at other state facilities incorporate healthcare services and liberal arts disciplines. Whatever the concentration, two-year schools in Tennessee can provide accelerated options for career-oriented freshmen and adult professionals, alike.

Tennesseans who have graduated from community college tend to earn a higher salary than those with only a high school diploma. Manufacturing, energy and healthcare are among the state’s most lucrative industries; two-year college programs focus on the skill sets needed to excel in these and other sectors of the local workforce. If you’re interested in learning more about how to pursue a two-year program here, start with our list of the top schools in Tennessee.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1William Moore College of Technology 2/589.29%Memphis, TN

William R. Moore College of Technology promises hands-on learning in small classes that provide students with the training and skills they need for success in business and industry.

Located in Memphis, this two-year college is one of the best colleges in Tennessee, with diploma and certificate programs available in welding; machining tooling/machine shop; air conditioning, refrigeration and heating; industrial electricity and plant maintenance; maintenance technology/property maintenance; and plumbing.

The school boasts high placement rates for program graduates. An option for night school that meets twice a week is also available, allowing students greater flexibility.

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2Roane State Community College 1/518.79%Harriman, TN

Across East Tennessee, Roane State offers affordable options to earn a degree and other credentials at any of its nine campuses. Students seeking to transfer to four-year institutions can affordably study the first two years of the humanities at Roane. Another option is to earn an associate degree or certificate in business management, office administration, health science, police science, among other subjects.

Continuing education courses are available for personal enrichment, business and industry credentialing and general education. Online options for those wanting to go at their own pace, evening programs and accelerated learning options make Roane a stand-out Tennessee college.

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3John A Gupton College 3/545.45%Nashville, TN

John A. Gupton College has offered funeral service education since 1946. Students can earn the 62-semester-hour Associate of Arts in Funeral Service degree and the Funeral Director’s Certificate, which requires 30 semester hours. Among the required general education coursework for the associate degree are math, english, marketing and accounting. Also required are Microbiology, Restorative Art, Counseling, Embalming and Directing.

Some courses included in the certificate are Introduction to Funeral Directing, Funeral Service Science, Funeral Service Management, Laws and Ethics and Funeral Service Counseling. Regular state training (continuing education) seminars are held.

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4Columbia State Community College 1/516.1%Columbia, TN

Established in 1966 as the state’s first community college, Columbia now has five campuses serving nine counties. As one of the best colleges in Tennessee, it offers certificate and associate degrees, including programming for students seeking to transfer to four-year institutions.
Technical certificates are available in areas such as Advanced Emergency Medical Technician, Computed Tomography and Paramedic.

The Health Services Division’s Associate of Applied Science degree prepares students for entry-level careers such as nursing, respiratory care, radiologic technology and veterinary technology. Associate degrees are also available in accounting, business, civil engineering and information technology. Learning support is there to ensure success.

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5Walters State Community College 1/519.74%Morristown, TN

A comprehensive community college, Walters provides affordable and high-quality postsecondary education to East Tennessee residents. Nineteen Associate of Arts degrees can be earned, including Theatre, Women’s Studies, General Studies and Mass Communication.

Walters offers dozens of Associate of Science degrees, including Pre-Med, Occupational therapy, Pre-Dental, Social Work and Secondary Education. Numerous Associate of Applied Science degree options are available in areas such as business, computer information technology, engineering technology, fire science and early childhood education. Technical certificates and a plethora of Tennessee Transfer Pathways Associate degree options can be earned affordably.

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6Motlow State Community College 1/521.85%Tullahoma, TN

Motlow is a multi-campus college in southern middle Tennessee with two-year degrees in more than 40 disciplines, certificate programs and flexible learning pathways. Its nursing, business and education programs are highly ranked. The institution has also partnered with in-state universities to give rural students an opportunity to earn four-year degrees close to home.

Of note is the Associate of Applied Science degree in Mechatronics, a mechanical, electrical and computerized technologies system used by many manufacturing, packaging and other modern operations. Motlow’s dual enrollment allows high school students to earn college credits.

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7Nashville State Community College 1/512.12%Nashville, TN

A progressive learning environment, Nashville State is a one-stop shop to earn two-year degrees and technical skills, take Web classes or get the foundation necessary to transfer to a four-year university. Nashville State’s more than 80 associate degree programs span multiple disciplines, including health care, law enforcement and information technology.

Those seeking to enter the job market can earn one-year technical certificates in areas such as accounting, computer-aided drafting, early childhood education and mechatronics. Online learning is also available. Tutorial services in general academics serve students at the Learning Center.

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8Remington College – Nashville Campus 3/555.8%Nashville, TN

Since 2003, Remington College has offered education and workforce development training opportunities to Davidson County residents. Associate degrees are available in criminal justice and dental hygiene. The Diploma in Dental Assisting can be earned in as little as eight months. Medical assisting and pharmacy technician diploma programs are also available.

Earn a bachelor’s degree online in Business Administration with concentrations in human resources, management, or marketing. Also online are bachelor’s degree programs in Health Information Management and Criminal Justice. Local businesses partner with the school to provide students with valuable career information.

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9Cleveland State Community College 1/515.97%Cleveland, TN

Situated in scenic Southeast Tennessee, Cleveland State offers one-year certificates and two-year degrees that prepare the next generation of skilled workers. Associate of Applied Science degrees can be earned in the fields of business, general technology, industrial technology, office administration, and public and government services. Associate of Science degrees can be earned in accounting, business administration and information systems.

Associate of Arts degrees are available in the humanities and social sciences. Many of its associate degrees are part of the Tennessee Transfer Pathways, an entryway into four-year colleges. Technical certificates in a number of fields offer job credentialing opportunities.

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10Chattanooga State Community College 1/511.46%Chattanooga, TN

At its five campus sites, Chattanooga State provides a range of programming from adult education such as the High School Equivalency Diploma, to two-year associate degrees in a number of disciplines and personal enrichment courses.

Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees earned at the college are part of Tennessee Transfer Pathways, in which students can transfer to a Tennessee public university. Disciplines include criminal justice, biology, economics and chemistry. Chattanooga State offers a wide range of online courses. Its Early College is designed for high school students to simultaneously earn college credits.

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11Northeast State Community College 1/517.9%Blountville, TN

Northeast State is one of the best colleges in Tennessee, awarding associate degrees in the fields of applied technology, arts, business, education, health sciences, humanities, social sciences and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Students must complete 60 college-level semester hours for each associate degree.

Aviation Maintenance Technology, Dental Assisting, Early Childhood Education, Industrial Operations and Machine Tool Operations certificates are awarded, among others. Also available are various continuing education and corporate training programs. Among the school’s accomplishments is a 90% placement rate for graduates from some programs, 100% in some areas.

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12Aquinas College – Nashville 4/525%Nashville, TN

A Roman Catholic liberal arts college in Tennessee, Aquinas awards associate, baccalaureate and master’s degrees. Students can earn associate of arts and bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts, theology, English, history and philosophy. It’s Degree in Three program affords students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in business in three years.

Students can earn Associate of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees from Aquinas College. Of note is the Master of Science in Nursing Education and the Post-Master’s Certificate Programs in Nursing Education, which prepare nurse educators for faculty positions in nursing schools and as clinical educators.

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13Volunteer State Community College 1/516%Gallatin, TN

With satellite campuses, degree-granting centers and evening class sites, Volunteer State Community College’s degree, certificate and noncredit program offerings are vast. Associate and certificate programs prepare students for careers in healthcare, business administration, math, engineering, science and other areas.

Continuing education programming includes the High School Equivalency exam preparation, personal enrichment courses, non-credit courses in which students can receive recognized Continuing Education Units, and workforce training and development programming for certification or recertification. Like other Tennessee colleges, online courses are also available. Students enrolled at the institution may apply for a scholarship through the school’s foundation.

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14Pellissippi State Community College 1/514.6%Knoxville, TN

Pellissippi’s students have many education and training opportunities to prepare them for a number of occupations. The school offers an Associate of Applied Science degree, requiring a minimum of 60 semester hours, in areas such as computer information technology, engineering, health science, nursing and media technologies.

Certificate programs are offered in a plethora of areas, such as web design, hospitality, surveying, videography and allied health. If an entry-level employee and graduate is deemed lacking in the technical job skills expected, additional courses can be taken at Pellissippi State at no charge. Like other Tennessee colleges, it offers the Tennessee Transfer Pathways program.

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15Hiwassee College 3/517.65%Madisonville, TN

Surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains, Hiwassee is a four-year liberal arts college with associate and baccalaureate degree programming offered with opportunities for adventure in the wild. Among its offerings is the Bachelor of Arts/Science in Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts or Christian Leadership; a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Dental Hygiene or Equine Science; and a B.S. in Equine Management and Training.

The Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business-Entrepreneurship and Criminal Justice-Homeland Security are both online. Associate degrees are also available in Forestry Technology and Dental Hygiene. Students planning to transfer to a university have a pathway, like many Tennessee colleges.

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16Remington College – Memphis Campus 3/558.91%Memphis, TN

Remington is one of the best colleges in Tennessee because of its spectrum of offerings, a number of campuses and online course options. At this campus students can earn diplomas, associate and bachelor’s degrees in programming taught by instructors with real-world industry experience.

Associate degree programming includes health care, criminal justice and business. Of note is the Paralegal Associate’s Degree Program, which can be studied online and finished in as few as 18 months. Baccalaureate offerings include the fields of human resources, general business and organizational management. Of note is the Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, which can be earned online.

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17Southwest Tennessee Community College 1/54.88%Memphis, TN

With an overall job placement rate of 97%, career training at Southwest Tennessee provides graduates with good job prospects right out of college. The institution has a wide breadth of course offerings, with dozens of associate degrees in the applied sciences, associate of science degrees in areas such as math, engineering, physics and dozens more.

Technical certificates can be earned in a number of areas ranging from Emergency Medical Technician and Pharmacy Technician to Tax Preparer or the Mechanical/Manufacturing CAD Technical Certificate. Various associate programs are offered online. Like other Tennessee colleges, it offers the Tennessee Transfer Pathways program.

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18Dyersburg State Community College 1/512.89%Dyersburg, TN

For those planning to earn a bachelor’s degree at a Tennessee public university, Dyersburg’s offerings are aligned to the Tennessee Transfer Pathways program. Associate degrees are offered in a number of focus areas, including business, general studies, science/technology/engineering/math (STEM), business and social/behavioral sciences.

Of note is a 12-month Paramedic-RN Nursing Program in which students can take classes while working as paramedics. Extensive continuing education and workforce development programming -- including Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma and Leadership training -- are also available. Dyersburg offers fully online, hybrid courses and the TN eCampus, which offers courses at other institutions.

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19Jackson State Community College 1/511.5%Jackson, TN

Serving 14 counties in Western Tennessee, Jackson State Community College (JSCC) offers associate degrees in applied technology, business, human interest, humanities, social sciences and science/technology/engineering/math (STEM).

Allied Health confers associate degrees in nursing and certifications such as Emergency Medical Technician/Paramedic and Occupational Therapy Assistant. Applied technology focuses on in-demand occupations in computer information technology and industrial technology. In STEM, associate degrees in physics, civil engineering, and mechanical engineering help make JSCC one of the best colleges in Tennessee. Of note is the Advanced Maintenance Technician Co-op, blending classroom instruction with manufacturing experience, culminating in an associate degree.

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If you’re thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in Tennessee, continuing reading to learn more about living in the Volunteer State.

Tennessee is the 17th most populous state in the nation, and growing: the state has seen an influx of migrants from both northern and southern states in recent years, due to the appeal of Tennessee’s low cost of living and booming industry jobs. Historically a hub for the development of popular American music as we know it today, cities like Memphis and Nashville are world-renowned for bringing Blues and Country to the masses. Legendary sites such as the Grand Ole Opry and Elvis’ Graceland are among numerous tourist attractions in the state, which also draws fans of the warm, southern climate and uniquely varied terrain. In addition to several mountain ranges and coastal plains, Tennessee is home to more caves than any other U.S. state.

Tennessee had a per-capita income of $24,811 per year as of 2014. In addition, 24.4% of Tennesseans 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher, slightly below the national average of 29.3%. 84.9% of residents age 25 and older had at least a high school diploma, also slightly under the national average of 86.3%.

Below, we’ve profiled two of Tennessee’s major regions:

Regional Spotlight: East Tennessee

  • Major Cities: Knoxville, Chattanooga, Johnson City
  • Attractions: Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, Knoxville Zoological Gardens, Dollywood
  • Cost of Living: Chattanooga’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: University of Tennessee, East Tennessee State University, Chattanooga State Community College
  • Population: Over 421,759
  • Unemployment: 5.3%

Regional Spotlight: Middle Tennessee

  • Major Cities: Memphis, Jackson, Collierville
  • Attractions: Graceland, Mississippi River Museum, National Civil Rights Museum
  • Cost of Living: Memphis’ Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: University of Memphis, National College of Business and Technology, Jackson State Community College
  • Population: Over 768,468
  • Unemployment: 6.4%


Tennesseans must prove residency to access in-state tuition prices at local public colleges. Students 18 or older must provide proof of state residency; minors must live in Tennessee with either a parent or legal guardian to qualify for reduced tuition.

For Minors:

If a student is a minor at the time they enroll, they must prove that their guardians live permanently in Tennessee to claim residency themselves. Furthermore, establish residency in Tennessee, a minor must live with a parent or guardian in a household within state borders. If the parents are divorced or separated, the minor must reside with the parent living in Tennessee. Minors must also prove that they lived with their parent in Tennessee before turning 18 and that they intend to continue living with that parent until the beginning of the school year.

For Adults:

Individuals age 18 and older who plan to claim residence must meet specific criteria, including:

  • You must physically reside in Tennessee for at least one year prior to declaring residence.
  • You must prove intent to make Tennessee your home.
  • You should be able to prove your financial independence. Adults under age 23 may have to formally claim emancipation from their guardian.

Additional Resources for Tennessee College Students

College Savings

Education Nonprofits

Higher Education News

Official State Links