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

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

This site is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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    Avg Tuition per YearTuition is the price you pay to attend classes. Tuition varies by school, and does not include costs associated with room and board, books, school supplies, meal plans, or transportation.

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    #1

    Vanderbilt University

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    93%

    Enrollment

    13,537

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $52781

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $52781

    A top-ranked school, Vanderbilt University enrolls learners in programs from its campus in Nashville, Tennessee. The institution offers a variety of degree-granting programs. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help students meet their professional goals. Generally, it takes two years to complete an associate degree, four years to earn a bachelor's degree, 1-2 years for a master's degree, or 3-7 years for a doctoral degree. Applicants may qualify for test-optional admissions. This makes it easier to enroll. Admission advisors can help applicants complete the process. Learners at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. The school holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #2

    Rhodes College

    Memphis, TN

    Graduation Rate

    82%

    Enrollment

    1,875

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $50600

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $50600

    Rhodes College, located in Memphis, Tennessee, enrolls students as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps learners reach their professional goals. Students prepare to contribute to their field by completing courses. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores. Applicants may find it easier to enroll without a test score requirement. Learners benefit from support services, which include tutoring and career counseling. 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 received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #3

    Chattanooga College Medical Dental and Technical Careers

    Chattanooga, TN

    Graduation Rate

    66%

    Enrollment

    252

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $10665

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $10665

    A private institution located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Chattanooga College Medical Dental and Technical Careers offers a variety of programs. Students complete programs that prepare them for careers and professional advancement. Learners enroll in academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. The school boasts several programs that appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. Degree-seekers attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Learners choose from academic and technical programs. Based on their major, students take essential courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #4

    Johnson University

    Knoxville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    63%

    Enrollment

    1,039

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $16400

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $16400

    From its campus in Knoxville, Tennessee, Johnson University grants degrees as a top school. The institution enrolls students across a variety of programs. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help students meet their professional goals. Generally, it takes two years to complete an associate degree, four years to earn a bachelor's degree, 1-2 years for a master's degree, or 3-7 years for a doctoral degree. Many schools no longer require admissions tests such as ACT or SAT scores. The waiver makes it simpler to apply. The admissions department can help students complete the application process. Financial aid provides options for degree-seekers to pay for their education. Johnson University has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #5

    Williamson Christian College

    Franklin, TN

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    68

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $13500

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $13500

    Williamson Christian College, which operates a campus in Franklin, Tennessee, often ranks as a top school. Students learn from experts in multiple disciplines. The school's academic and technical tracks help students meet diverse career goals. Academic programs generally take anywhere from a few months to several years to complete depending on degree or certificate type. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores. Students may find it easier to apply without a test score requirement. The admissions department can provide additional resources on applying. Students at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. Williamson Christian College is accredited by the Association for Bibical Higher Educaiton.

    #6

    The University of the South

    Sewanee, TN

    Graduation Rate

    80%

    Enrollment

    1,800

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $46960

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $46960

    A private institution, The University of the South enrolls students on its campus in Sewanee, Tennessee. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps students reach their professional goals. Bachelor's programs incorporate lower-division and upper-division requirements. Students also take general education coursework during their bachelor's degree. Upper-division requirements emphasize advanced concepts in the major. The school supports learners with tutoring and career services. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #7

    Lipscomb University

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    69%

    Enrollment

    4,884

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $32080

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $32080

    A private institution located in Nashville, Tennessee, Lipscomb University grants degrees through multiple programs. Students earn an accredited degree that prepares them for the workforce. The institution offers an academically rigorous course of study at an affordable price. The school boasts several programs that appear in national rankings. The school's average cost per credit is unknown. As an accredited institution, degree-seekers qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Learners at the institution choose from academic and technical programs. Students complete fundamentals courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #8

    Visible Music College

    Memphis, TN

    Graduation Rate

    11%

    Enrollment

    209

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $20000

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $20000

    Visible Music College enrolls learners from its Memphis, Tennessee campus. The institution's faculty brings expertise in multiple fields. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help students meet their professional goals. Check the program website for specifics on the degree- or certificate-completion timeline. Some programs may no longer require standardized tests for admission. These policies make it easier to apply. The admissions department can provide additional resources on applying. Degree-seekers also use financial aid to cover their educational costs. Visible Music College has been accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.

    #9

    Union University

    Jackson, TN

    Graduation Rate

    66%

    Enrollment

    3,071

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $22080

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $22080

    Union University offers programs from its campus in Jackson, Tennessee. The institution provides a variety of programs and coursework. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help learners meet their professional goals. Learners 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. Test-optional policies make it easier to apply. Admission advisors can provide additional information on submitting an application. At the accredited institution, students also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. Union University has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #10

    Lincoln Memorial University

    Harrogate, TN

    Graduation Rate

    53%

    Enrollment

    4,885

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $23040

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $23040

    Lincoln Memorial University offers programs from its campus in Harrogate, Tennessee. The institution offers multiple degree-granting programs. The school's academic and technical tracks help students meet diverse career goals. Generally, it takes two years to complete an associate degree, four years to complete a bachelor's degree, 1-2 years for a master's degree, or 3-7 years for a doctoral degree. Depending on the program, applicants may need to submit test scores. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to enroll. The admissions department provides more information about the application process. Financial aid provides options for degree-seekers to pay for their education. Lincoln Memorial University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #11

    Nossi College of Art

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    71%

    Enrollment

    289

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $18900

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $18900

    Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Nossi College of Art enrolls students as a private institution. Students learn from experts in multiple disciplines. The school offers academic and technical programs for students planning to enter the workforce or pursue further studies. The school's average cost per credit is unknown. The accredited institution meets the requirements for federal financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant. A total of 97% of students receive financial aid and 79% take out loans at the institution. Learners graduate from the school at a rate of 71%. The admission rate for new students is 49%. Prospective applicants can contact the admissions office for more information about applying. Nossi College of Art is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

    #12

    John A Gupton College

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    10%

    Enrollment

    167

    Format

    In-State Tuition

    $10523

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $10523

    From its campus in Nashville, Tennessee, John A Gupton College enrolls students as a private institution. Students learn from experts in multiple disciplines. Students who complete an academic or technical program often enter the workforce right away. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. At the accredited institution, students qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. The institution reports that 64% of students receive aid, and 35% receive loans. Bachelor's students graduate from the school at a rate of 10%. The school reports that the rate of admission is 76%. Applicants can reach out to the admissions office to learn more about enrolling. John A Gupton College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #13

    Hussian College-Daymar College Nashville

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    50%

    Enrollment

    204

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $20724

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $20724

    Hussian College-Daymar College Nashville enrolls learners from its Nashville, Tennessee campus. Instructors draw on their expertise in diverse fields. The school offers academic and technical tracks to help learners meet a variety of professional goals. Depending on the degree or certificate type, enrollees can spend anywhere from a few months up to as many as seven years completing a program. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. These policies make it easier to enroll. Admission advisors can provide more information on the application process. Financial aid helps degree-seekers pay for their education. The school is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

    #14

    DeVry University-Tennessee

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    33%

    Enrollment

    26

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $14672

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $14672

    Located in Nashville, Tennessee, DeVry University-Tennessee attracts students with their well-regarded programs. Degree-seekers study with experts in many different fields. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help learners meet their career goals. Completing a program can take anywhere from a few months to seven years depending on degree or certificate type and whether the student chooses part-time or full-time enrollment. Applicants may qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. This makes it easier to enroll. The admissions department can provide additional resources on applying. Students also use financial aid to pay for their college degree or certificate. DeVry University-Tennessee has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #15

    Trevecca Nazarene University

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    56%

    Enrollment

    3,968

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $25998

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $25998

    From its campus in Nashville, Tennessee, Trevecca Nazarene University awards degrees as a top school. Learners choose from a variety of degree-granting programs. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help learners meet their professional goals. Generally, it takes two years to complete an associate degree, four years to complete a bachelor's degree, 1-2 years for a master's degree, or 3-7 years for a doctoral degree. Depending on the program, applicants may need to submit test scores. The waiver makes it simpler to apply. The admissions department can provide additional resources on applying. Enrollees at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. Trevecca Nazarene University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #16

    Southern Adventist University

    Collegedale, TN

    Graduation Rate

    53%

    Enrollment

    2,730

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $22060

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $22060

    Southern Adventist University, located in Collegedale, Tennessee, grants degrees as a private institution. Experts in diverse disciplines teach at the institution. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or a bachelor's degree. The school's average cost per credit is unknown. At the accredited school, learners qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. The institution reports that 100% of learners receive financial aid, while 53% take out loans. Learners graduate from the school at a rate of 53%. The admission rate is 74% for hopeful students. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements and start dates. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #17

    Christian Brothers University

    Memphis, TN

    Graduation Rate

    57%

    Enrollment

    1,918

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $33900

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $33900

    From its campus in Memphis, Tennessee, Christian Brothers University enrolls students as a private institution. Degree-seekers study with experts in many different fields. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The cost per credit is unknown. Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. A total of 100% of students receive financial aid and 43% take out loans at the school. Learners graduate from the school at a rate of 57%. The admission rate for prospective students is 50%. Admissions advisors can provide more information about application requirements and start dates. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #18

    Belmont University

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    71%

    Enrollment

    8,204

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $35310

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $35310

    Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Belmont University is a private institution that offers multiple programs. The school awards accredited degrees that prepare graduates for careers and professional advancement. Learners benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit on average is unknown. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. The institution offers both academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Belmont University has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #19

    Bryan College-Dayton

    Dayton, TN

    Graduation Rate

    47%

    Enrollment

    1,412

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $16900

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $16900

    From its Dayton, Tennessee campus, Bryan College-Dayton enrolls students in 49 programs. Degree-seekers enroll in rigorous, top-ranked programs at the school. The school holds a student-to-faculty ratio of 12-to-1. The institution reports that approximately 94% of enrollees receive financial aid. The school reports a graduation rate of 47%. The institution understands that real-world experience helps job seekers enter the workforce. The institution's admission rate is currently unknown. Some programs waive the test score requirement for qualified applicants. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements and start dates.

    #20

    Huntington University of Health Sciences

    Knoxville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    147

    Format

    Online

    In-State Tuition

    $6360

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $6360

    Located in Knoxville, Tennessee, Huntington University of Health Sciences awards degrees as a private institution. Instructors draw on their expertise in diverse fields. The school offers academic and technical programs for students planning to enter the workforce or pursue further studies degree. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. The accredited institution meets the requirements for federal financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant. A total of 100% of students receive financial aid and 25% take out loans at the institution. The graduation rate is unknown. The rate of admission for the school is unknown. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements and start dates. Huntington University of Health Sciences is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

    #21

    Pentecostal Theological Seminary

    Cleveland, TN

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    442

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $2400

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $2400

    A private institution located in Cleveland, Tennessee, Pentecostal Theological Seminary offers multiple programs. The school offers accredited programs that prepare learners for the workforce. The programs offer an academically rigorous course of study at an affordable price. Students can enroll in nationally ranked programs. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Degree-seekers attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Learners choose from academic and technical majors at the school. The school offers foundational courses, technical classes, and general education courses in multiple majors. Pentecostal Theological Seminary is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #22

    Baptist Health Sciences University

    Memphis, TN

    Graduation Rate

    44%

    Enrollment

    890

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11112

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $11112

    Baptist Health Sciences University, a private institution in Memphis, Tennessee, enrolls learners in multiple programs. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps learners reach their educational goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that allows students to strengthen their skills. Applicants may qualify for a standardized test score waiver. A waiver makes it easier to apply. Learners benefit from support services, which include tutoring and career counseling. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. Learners at the accredited school can pay for their educational costs with federal student aid programs. Baptist Health Sciences University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #23

    Welch College

    Gallatin, TN

    Graduation Rate

    72%

    Enrollment

    358

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $19582

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $19582

    Located in Gallatin, Tennessee, Welch College awards degrees and certificates as a private institution. Learners take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. Students who complete an academic or technical program often enter the workforce right away. The amount students pay per credit on average is unknown. The accredited institution meets the requirements for federal financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The institution reports that 88% of students receive aid, and 30% receive loans. The institution reports a 72% graduation rate. We do not currently have data on the school's admission rate. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements. Welch College has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #24

    Freed-Hardeman University

    Henderson, TN

    Graduation Rate

    66%

    Enrollment

    2,188

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $22950

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $22950

    A private institution located in Henderson, Tennessee, Freed-Hardeman University offers a variety of programs. The school grants accredited degrees that prepare learners for the workforce. Learners enroll in academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The institution's cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the school. Based on their major, students take foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Freed-Hardeman University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #25

    Hussian College-Daymar College Murfreesboro

    Murfreesboro, TN

    Graduation Rate

    55%

    Enrollment

    139

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $21004

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $21004

    Hussian College-Daymar College Murfreesboro, which offers programs from its Murfreesboro, Tennessee campus, often ranks among the top schools. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help students meet their professional goals. Check the program website for specifics on the degree- or certificate-completion timeline. Applicants may qualify for a standardized test score waiver. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to enroll. Admission advisors can help applicants complete the process. Financial aid helps enrollees cover their educational expenses. The school is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #26

    Lee University

    Cleveland, TN

    Graduation Rate

    63%

    Enrollment

    5,204

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $18840

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $18840

    From its campus in Cleveland, Tennessee, Lee University enrolls learners in 137 programs. Learners benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The school reports a 15-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The institution reports that approximately 98% of enrollees receive financial aid. Students earn their degree from the school at a rate of 63%. The institution's commitment to experiential learning helps graduates on the job market. Prospective enrollees can expect an 83% admission rate. Some programs let applicants apply without submitting test scores. Applicants can reach out to the admissions office to learn more about enrolling.

    #27

    King University

    Bristol, TN

    Graduation Rate

    50%

    Enrollment

    1,746

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $30106

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $30106

    From its campus in Bristol, Tennessee, King University grants degrees as a private institution. The school's academic and technical programs help students reach a variety of professional goals. During a bachelor's degree, enrollees take lower-division and upper-division coursework. Bachelor's programs also incorporate general education requirements. Upper-division courses emphasize advanced concepts in the major. The school supports students with tutoring and career services. Students pay a per-credit fee of around 538 at the school. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #28

    Fortis Institute-Cookeville

    Cookeville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    60%

    Enrollment

    302

    Format

    In-State Tuition

    $15225

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $15225

    Located in Cookeville, Tennessee, Fortis Institute-Cookeville operates as a private institution. Instructors draw on their expertise in diverse fields. The college offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce. The cost per credit is unknown. At the accredited institution, students qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. A total of 97% of students receive financial aid and 61% take out loans at the institution. Students earn their bachelor's degree from the school at a rate of 60%. The rate of admission for the school is unknown. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements. The institution's accreditation status is not available at this time.

    #29

    Maryville College

    Maryville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    45%

    Enrollment

    1,072

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $35448

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $35448

    Maryville College, which operates a campus in Maryville, Tennessee, often ranks as a top school. Experts in diverse disciplines teach at the institution. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help learners meet their professional goals. Visit the program's website to find information on the typical timeline for completion. Applicants may qualify for a test score waiver. These policies make it easier to enroll. The admissions department can help students complete the process. At the accredited institution, degree-seekers also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #30

    Milligan University

    Milligan, TN

    Graduation Rate

    65%

    Enrollment

    1,338

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $34150

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $34150

    Milligan University, located in Milligan, Tennessee, enrolls students as a private institution. The school's academic and technical programs help students reach a variety of professional goals. The institution's bachelor's programs incorporate lower-division and upper-division coursework. Undergraduates also complete general education courses. Upper-division credits typically focus on advanced concepts within a major. Learners receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. Learners at this accredited institution also qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Milligan University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    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

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

    Cons

    • X Circle
      Private schools are typically more expensive than public institutions.
    • X Circle
      They tend to offer fewer majors than public institutions.
    • X Circle
      Except for many research institutions, private schools typically provide fewer opportunities to gain research experience.
    • X Circle
      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.