Tennessee began its existence as a part of North Carolina before becoming a part of the Southwest Territory and, in 1796, the 16th state. By that time, the state’s first college had already been operational for two years. Tusculum College established itself in 1794 as a private liberal arts school under the direction of the Presbyterian Church. Tusculum calls itself a pioneer in the inclusion of women and minorities and is home, today, to just under 1000 enrollees.
With 50 statewide, private non-profit schools have come to outnumber public colleges by a rate of more than two-to-one in Tennessee. Indeed, a number of the state’s best and most popular schools remain private, including the exceedingly well-regarded Vanderbilt University. The private research university opened its doors to Nashville in 1873, becoming a critical part of the city’s identity and growth. Today, its 12,000 students enjoy access to more than 70 majors and 400 students groups, as well as a city widely recognized as the world capital for country music and a mecca for rockabilly and rock ’n roll. Vanderbilt ranks #17 overall on U.S. News & World Report’s best U.S. universities and weighs in at a highly respectable #49 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
Another of Tennessee’s top-notch private schools, Rhodes College is located in Tennessee’s largest city and, like Nashville, is a world capital for music (the blues, in this case). The Memphis liberal arts college was established by Freemasons in 1848 and, with just under 2000 students enrolled, offers its students the benefits of small class sizes and accessible staff members. Listed as #47 on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the nation’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges, Rhodes works directly with other places of higher learning—state and nationwide—to help its students procure far higher-than-average access to the grad school programs and institutions of their choice.
Tennessee is also home to 22 public institutions. The first of these was, like the state’s first private school, founded just before statehood in 1794. Established as Blount College in Knoxville, the University of Tennessee holds the largest enrollment number in the state with roughly 30,000 students to its name.
On average, students pay about $7,472 per year for public, in-state tuition. This is slightly below the national average of $8,070.
- See who ranks as the best college and university in Tennessee today.
- Vanderbilt University ranks among The 100 Best Universities in the World.