An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Nashville

by Beau Johnson
An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Nashville

Nashville, Tennessee is known as "Music City" or the "Country Music Capital of the World" for fairly obvious reasons. But Nashville is also referred to as the "Athens of the South," not only for the city's appreciation and promotion of fine arts, but also for its renowned devotion to higher education. An emphasis on education is vital to the area as much for the sake of the economy as for maintaining Nashville's unique culture.

There is a rich array of options for students seeking higher education in Nashville. The city is home to fine private institutions, such as Belmont University and Vanderbilt, wide-reaching public institutions like Tennessee State, and several community colleges and vocational schools focusing on everything from cosmetology to computer technology.

"Among four-year colleges, the greater Nashville area is rich in opportunities, and the many technical colleges provide not only great opportunity for university transfers but also experience that leads to a good job," said Chancellor Charles Manning of the Tennessee Board of Regents.

"There are many programs unique to the area taught in the various schools," said Manning. "For example, Nashville is famous for its music, and there are excellent music industry programs at Middle Tennessee State University and Belmont University."

Aside from the many advantages of education in the area, students will benefit from the overall makeup of the city as well. Nashville features all the amenities of big-city America but maintains a small-town feel and an ease of familiarity. The city was first settled in 1779, becoming TN's permanent state capitol in 1843. It covers a total area of 533 square miles with a total city population of 569,891 (est.) and 1.2 million in the total metropolitan area. The population is currently increasing slightly, year by year. Nearby cities include Berry Hill, Oak Hill, Belle Meade, Forest Hills, Lakewood, Brentwood, Green Hill, and Goodlettsville. Major outlying areas include Murfreesboro (home of Middle TN State University, MTSU), Franklin, Gallatin, and Hendersonville. The Nashville area converges three interstate highways, I-24, I-40, and I-65, along with an inner beltway, I-440, and an outer beltway, I-840, that make navigation relatively simple.

Nashville's climate is very enjoyable, generally. Only a few days each year bring very warm or very cold temperatures. Most rainfall occurs in the spring, and each fall the area draws visitors desiring to observe the seasonal changing of the leaves.

The city offers abundant options for entertainment with the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, the Hermitage--home of 7th president Andrew Jackson, four area shopping malls with cinemas within and without, and the Opryland Hotel--the largest non-gaming hotel in the U.S., including extensive indoor botanical gardens, all serving as examples.

The Music City demonstrates its namesake trait through several popular destinations and draws like the Ryman Auditorium, The Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Symphony.

Possibilities for an active nightlife abound, with a great variety of restaurants for all tastes, bars, and live music venues (offering many more genres than just country). For sports fans, Nashville hosts the Sounds baseball team, Predators hockey, and, of course, Tennessee Titans football. Not to mention the college sports teams with game offerings year-round.

Major companies that call Nashville home with headquarters there include: Aladdin Industries, Genesco, HCA, Primus Automotive Financial, Willis, Cracker Barrel, Caterpillar Financial, Dollar General, CNA Insurance, Bridgestone/Firestone USA, and Gaylord Entertainment. Bellsouth, Dell Computer, Saturn, Nissan, Ingram Industries, and Lifeway Christian Resources also have major presence in the city.

For the population over age 25 in the greater Nashville area, the following numbers indicate educational attainment:

  • 81.1% went through high school or higher
  • 44.9% have one year or more of college education
  • 29.7% have received a bachelor's degree or higher
  • 10% have received graduate or professional degrees

Nashville boasts 21 four-year and postgraduate accredited institutions, six community colleges, and 11 vocational and technical schools.

Going to School in Nashville

Private Colleges & Universities

Public Colleges & Universities

Professional Schools

The most major degree programs offered by the various schools in these lists are biological and life sciences, English language and literature, liberal arts and science, humanities, personal services (cosmetology, massage therapy), social science, physical therapy, medicine, engineering, and computer and information sciences.


Following are examples of costs at different types of Nashville institutions:

Private Universities

  • Vanderbilt University - In-state: $25,190; Out-of-state: $25,190
  • Belmont University - In-state: $13,400; Out-of-state:$13,400

Public Universities

  • Tennesee State University - In-state:$2,959; Out-of-state:$9,431

Technical/Professional Schools

  • National College of Business and Technology - Nashville (Private) - In-state:$7,104; Out-of-state:$7,104
  • Nashville State Technical Institute (Public)- In-state:$1,613; Out-of-state:$6,071

Financial Aid

The availability of financial aid for Nashville students is at an all-time high. "There has never been more financial aid in more forms that now," said Richard Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. "Many options should be evaluated before a student should consider loans."

Perhaps the most important current factor of financial aid for Nashville higher education is the scholarship fund provided for students through state lottery monies. "Lottery funds are good at any public or private institutions for students who maintain a reasonable grade-point-average," said Rhoda. Those students do have to be Tennessee natives, however. Access to information on this scholarship and others offered through the state can be found at the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) website.

Alternately, financial needs vary widely from student to student, across schools, programs, and educational lengths. For independent searches, a student's best place to start is with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This step will enable a student to receive funds like federal Pell Grants and Merit scholarships.

Other excellent financial aid sources for Nashville include:

Often times, locally is the best place for students with plants to secure funding on their own to look for options.

"It's really at the institutional level that a package can be put together, but other sources can provide general guidance, said Chancellor Manning.

That perspective found consensus with Rhoda as well.

"Each campus has a financial aid office with programs unique to that campus," he said. "My advice would be to let the financial aid officer become your best friend."

Clearly, students who are considering Nashville for their university or college careers are fortunate enough to enjoy a time ripe with financial assistance possibilities.

"Aid for Nashville schools is certainly available in plentiful amount," advised Manning. "Don't just look at an education's sticker price; look at the net cost with a variety of aid sources."


Internships help companies (especially those that regularly hire their former interns) feel confident in new graduate employees. But beyond merely getting a job, internships help graduates assimilate and become more productive, faster, and intuitive in a business environment.

"Metropolitan internships give an excellent bridge into future jobs with excellent companies. The company gains a perspective while a student is an intern, and a student gets to experience an actual work environment. Plus, it adds rich references to a student's background," said Manning.

So an internship is a tremendous advantage to students upon workforce entry, making the transition much smoother, and often, help in securing that internship is a great gift from your choice institution. "Universities have a great interest in making their students employable," said Rhoda.

Schools typically go to great pains to help their students be comfortable in their learning environment and to help them achieve as much as they can through multiple avenues. "Counsel at the institution is not just helpful for financial aid purposes; students can consult placement officers who will help them evaluate their prospects at any school," said Manning.

Examples of large companies in Nashville providing internships include:

Smaller job and internship search sites:

Employment in Nashville

Major industries providing employment in the Nashville area include hospitality, health, education, publishing, arts, and entertainment, food services, finance, and recreation. The industry breakdown in the area is as follows:

  • Services - 33%
  • Trade - 24.4%
  • Manufacturing - 13.5%
  • Government - 12.6%
  • Construction - 5.2%
  • Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate - 6.1%
  • Transportation, Communication, and Public Utilities - 5.3%

Nashville was named one of the best 15 U.S. cities for work and family by Fortune magazine, and Forbes magazine counted it among the top 25 cities likely to have the highest job growth in the country over the next five years. Also, Expansion Management magazine ranked Nashville as the fifth most popular city for corporate relocations, so obviously Nashville holds major appeal to companies as well as students and workers.

The area consistently ranks among the lowest for cost-of-living next to comparable U.S. cities, with components like grocery, housing, and utility costs below national averages. The median Nashville house value was $113,300 in 2000, with median household incomes at $39,232. A young city, Nashville's median resident age is 34.

These factors combine to make the city very attractive to graduates who wish to stay, work, and perhaps begin a family. Continued job growth in interesting fields and vocations and a city that rewards education begs its graduates to stay. The amenities of Nashville life and culture are just icing on the cake to an area of great promise to students and graduates.


Nashville is truly a unique city with much to offer its citizens and especially, students. "People who live in Nashville are fortunate for the diversity of institutions, emphases, and degrees available to them," said Rhoda. "Every institution has a niche, programs that cater to particular interests."

The city offers ample educational opportunities, employment possibilities, and is an excellent place to live and raise a family. Overall Nashville is a truly unique city with many wonderful aspects to be enjoyed by its citizens, and especially its students.

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