2022 Top Private Colleges and Universities in Tennessee

Private colleges and universities frequently top the lists of the best schools in the U.S. These institutions offer rigorous academic programs for students looking for a personalized college experience.

Private institutions generally cost more than their public counterparts, but students often receive the benefits of smaller class sizes, strong alumni networks, and generous financial aid opportunities.

Unlike public colleges and universities, private institutions do not differentiate between in-state and out-of-state tuition. This means students from anywhere can enroll in Tennessee's private institutions without paying higher out-of-state rates.

2022 Best Private Colleges and Universities in Tennessee

  1. #1

    Vanderbilt University

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    93%

    Enrollment

    13,131

    Format

    Online, In person

    Vanderbilt University grants degrees as a private institution from its location in Nashville, Tennessee. Learners study with experts in many different fields. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The institution charges an average per-credit rate of 2050. Students can fund their education with financial aid such as federal loans, scholarships, and grants. A total of 68% of students receive financial aid and 13% take out loans at the institution. The private institution reports a graduation rate of 93%. The admission rate is 9%. Admissions advisors can provide more information about application requirements and start dates. Vanderbilt University has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  2. #2

    Williamson Christian College

    Franklin, TN

    Graduation Rate

    56%

    Enrollment

    60

    Format

    Online, In person

    A private institution in Franklin, Tennessee, Williamson Christian College offers a variety of degree and certificate programs. Learners study with experts in many different fields. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The institution's average cost per credit is unknown. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. At the institution, 33% of students receive financial aid and 23% take out loans. Degree-seekers graduate from the school at a rate of 56%. The rate of admission for the school is unknown. Prospective students can contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Association for Bibical Higher Educaiton.

  3. #3

    Rhodes College

    Memphis, TN

    Graduation Rate

    80%

    Enrollment

    2,010

    Format

    In person

    A private institution, Rhodes College enrolls students on its campus in Memphis, Tennessee. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps learners reach their career goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that allows students to strengthen their skills. Applicants may qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. A test score waiver makes it easier to enroll. The school supports learners with tutoring and career services. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. The accredited school qualifies for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Rhodes College has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  4. #4

    John A Gupton College

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    43%

    Enrollment

    164

    Format

    Online

    From its campus in Nashville, Tennessee, John A Gupton College grants college degrees as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps learners reach their educational goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that prepares students for advancement in their field. Applicants may qualify for a test score waiver. A test score waiver makes it easier to enroll. The school supports learners with academic help and career services. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Learners at the accredited school often fund their education with federal aid programs, including the Pell Grant. John A Gupton College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  5. #5

    The Salon Professional Academy-Nashville

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    100%

    Enrollment

    48

    Format

    In person

    Based in Tennessee, The Salon Professional Academy-Nashville is a private school that serves students of all backgrounds. Learners interested in a quicker course of study can select from 1 certificate programs at the school. Students receive specialized training and take core courses. The rigorous curricula prepare students for the workforce. After completing a certificate, graduates pursue careers in related fields. The institution awards 0% of students financial aid to help pay for school. As an accredited school, learners qualify for aid from the federal government. The school's admissions department can answer questions about the application process. The school is accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences.

  6. #6

    Huntington University of Health Sciences

    Knoxville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    140

    Format

    Online

    Huntington University of Health Sciences, which enrolls students in programs from its Knoxville, Tennessee campus. The institution enrolls students across a variety of programs. The school offers academic and technical tracks to help students meet a variety of professional goals. Students typically earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in two, and a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Applicants may qualify for test-optional admissions. A waiver makes it easier to enroll. The admissions department provides additional resources on submitting an application. Learners at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. The school is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

  7. #7

    Health-Tech Institute of Memphis

    Memphis, TN

    Graduation Rate

    76%

    Enrollment

    23

    Format

    In person

    Offering 4 certificate programs, Health-Tech Institute of Memphis ranks among the top schools in Tennessee. Learners complete rigorous curricula emphasizing theoretical and practical knowledge. Degree-seekers gain skills necessary to succeed in professional roles. Enrollees apply their knowledge in real-world contexts. Like students at other accredited schools, learners at this institution can qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. Data on the school's average cost per credit is unavailable. As an accredited institution, learners enrolled in the school qualify for federal financial aid. The school's website provides information about each program's requirements. Learners can rest assured that they receive a quality education given the institution's accreditation status.

  8. #8

    Image Maker Beauty Institute

    Hendersonville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    100%

    Enrollment

    47

    Format

    In person

    A top-ranked school in Tennessee, Image Maker Beauty Institute offers 1 certificate programs. Students can usually complete a credential program in a period of weeks or months. The credential programs at the school commonly attract students looking to advance their careers quickly. Students build specialized skills for specific career paths. The institution holds national accreditation from National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences. For additional information on the application process, students should contact Image Maker Beauty Institute's admissions office. After completing their program, students can purse their career.

  9. #9

    Richmont Graduate University

    Chattanooga, TN

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    267

    Format

    Online

    Richmont Graduate University offers programs from its campus in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Students study with experts in many different fields. Academic and technical programs help learners reach their unique professional goals. Academic programs can take as little as a few months or as many as seven years to complete, depending on the degree or certificate type and the student's enrollment status. Some programs may operate with a test-optional policy for admissions. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to apply. The admissions department provides more information about the application process. Enrollees at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. Richmont Graduate University has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  10. #10

    Tennessee School of Beauty of Knoxville Inc

    Knoxville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    80%

    Enrollment

    252

    Format

    In person

    Tennessee School of Beauty of Knoxville Inc offers a total of 4 certificate programs, and the school is a top choice for Tennessee students seeking professional education. Diploma and certificate programs graduate students faster than associate or bachelor's degrees, often taking just weeks or months to complete. These professional credential programs serve students looking to complete their education quickly and enter the workforce. The program develops specialized skills that can make students more marketable for new jobs. The institution holds national accreditation from National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences. For specific information about Tennessee School of Beauty of Knoxville Inc's application process, students can contact the school's admissions department. Graduates seek careers in their area of expertise after finishing their programs.

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Why Choose a Private College or University in Tennessee?

Private colleges and universities provide many benefits to students, including smaller class sizes that allow for more personal attention from professors. Enrollees in private schools also generally enjoy greater access to student services because these institutions serve fewer students. Private colleges and universities in Tennessee also tend to offer courses that promote rigor and academic excellence, giving learning a prominent place in the college experience.

Some students who value academics may still prefer public education. Public schools tend to charge lower tuition rates because they receive federal and state funding. Also, because public institutions usually enroll more students, they typically offer more majors and degree programs from which students can choose.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 45 private nonprofit four-year colleges exist in Tennessee, compared to 10 public four-year institutions. When comparing these figures, private colleges in Tennessee might offer prospective students more choices in higher education.

Some of the best private schools in Tennessee rank competitively with other colleges and universities nationwide. As a member of the Academic Common Market, Tennessee adheres to a reciprocity agreement with select southern states.

Pros and Cons of Attending a Private College or University in Tennessee

Pros

Private schools generally offer more generous financial aid.Students at many private schools can gain greater access to scholarships and grants.Lower student enrollments at many private colleges mean smaller class sizes and more individual attention and mentoring.Most four-year private colleges place considerable emphasis on learning, which often results in rigorous curricula.

Cons

Private schools are typically more expensive than public institutions.They tend to offer fewer majors than public institutions.Except for many research institutions, private schools typically provide fewer opportunities to gain research experience.The academic demands of many private schools can make working full- or part-time while studying difficult.

Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Colleges and Universities in Tennessee

All public colleges and universities are nonprofit. However, private schools can be either nonprofit or for-profit. Boards of trustees or directors manage nonprofit schools, which typically receive funding from their state and the federal government, driving down tuition costs.

For-profit colleges operate like businesses, primarily focusing on generating profits. At these schools, investors typically make decisions about academic offerings and other operations. Although a for-profit education can cost up to $8,500 more per year, they do not always provide the same academic rigor as nonprofits, and they do not always hold proper institutional accreditation.

For-profit colleges can offer certain advantages, such as scheduling flexibility, allowing working professionals to further their education. Students attending private for-profit institutions might also pay lower tuition rates than enrollees attending their nonprofit counterparts. According to NCES, Tennessee is home to 23 for-profit two- and four-year institutions that enroll over 14,000 students.

How Much Does It Cost to Attend a Private College or University in Tennessee?

According to NCES, students at four-year private colleges and universities in Tennessee paid more than $40,000 per year on average during the 2019-2020 academic year. This figure includes more than $29,000 in tuition and fees alone. The cost of room and board averaged almost $11,000 annually.

Tennessee's least and most expensive private colleges and universities vary in annual tuition, fees, and other expenses. For example, Vanderbilt University in Nashville charges the highest tuition in the state, $54,840 annually as of 2021-2022. In contrast, students at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis paid about $11,000 in tuition per year.

Prospective students with limited funds and dreams of private education can see if they qualify for tuition reimbursement or scholarships. Although student loans serve as a way to pay for college, other options exist, including work-study programs and federal grants that do not require repayment.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Private Colleges and Universities in Tennessee

How many private colleges and universities are there in Tennessee?

According to NCES, Tennessee is home to 45 private nonprofit four-year colleges and 10 public four-year institutions.

The best private schools in Tennessee depend on a student's needs. They vary by tuition and expenses, student body size, number of academic majors, and other characteristics.

Students looking for a more diverse student body or one with a more significant percentage of students of color might consider applying to historically Black colleges or universities (HBCUs) in the state.

What is the most expensive private college or university in Tennessee?

Students attending Vanderbilt University in Nashville paid the highest tuition at any private school in the state in 2021-2022. Tuition, housing, meals, books, and other fees added up to almost $80,000 per year.

The cost of higher education has increased more than 170% over the past 40 years for public and private school students. Some of the drivers of increasing higher education expenses include rising tuition rates, growing demand for student services, and increases in administrative costs.

What is the least expensive private college or university in Tennessee?

During the 2021-2022 school year, students at Lane College in Jackson paid $9,270 in tuition, the lowest annual tuition rate for a private, nonprofit school in Tennessee.

The least expensive for-profit private school in Tennessee is Victory University in Memphis, with students paying $4,000-$8,000 in tuition during the same academic year.

Is a private college or university right for me?

For many students, pursuing private higher education reflects a choice based on financial considerations, educational goals, and other factors.

Anyone considering the best private schools in Tennessee should prepare to pay the relatively high tuition either with their own funds or by obtaining scholarships or financial aid.

Students should also consider their need for individual attention and academic tutoring. The smaller class sizes at most private schools allow learners to get more personalized attention from professors who teach fewer students. Also, applicants who know the major they want to pursue might thrive in a private college that offers their chosen area of study.

Can I get more scholarship money at a private college or university?

Although private schools vary in thescholarship money they award, they generally offer more funding for qualifying students than public institutions because of private donations, investments, and endowments.

Some scholarships award money to students with outstanding GPAs or high entrance exam scores. Students can also obtain scholarship funding for meeting other criteria, such as demonstrating financial need or excellence in athletics.

College applicants should contact their prospective schools or go to their websites to find the types of scholarships they offer.