The 10 Best College Towns In Tennessee For 2020

Editor's Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our time ranking the best college towns in Tennessee.
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Believe it or not, America has the best colleges in the world. It's been proven by data (and surveys) that the U.S. educational system is of the highest quality

It's actually not even close and Tennessee is home to a handful of them.

While we could debate which colleges within the are the 'best,' that's not the goal of this post.

Instead, ride along with us as we determine which college towns in Tennessee are the best.

You know, the type of places where there's energy and stimulation, but the type of place you can walk around at night. The happiest, chillest, most downright fun places where you can send your kids off to college where you won't break the bank, or worry about their well being.

Without further ado, here are the best college towns in Tennessee for 2020.

The 10 Best College Towns In Tennessee For 2020

  1. Knoxville, TN (Photos | Homes)
  2. Martin, TN (Photos | Homes)
  3. Collegedale, TN (Photos | Homes)
  4. Memphis, TN (Photos | Homes)
  5. Cookeville, TN (Photos | Homes)
  6. Murfreesboro, TN (Photos | Homes)
  7. Franklin, TN (Photos | Homes)
  8. Greeneville, TN (Photos | Homes)
  9. Chattanooga, TN (Photos | Homes)
  10. Pulaski, TN (Photos | Homes)

While some of these may not seem like a 'real' college town per se, when you look at the numbers, it's hard to argue against.

And for those who live in Knoxville, Martin and Collegedale - we tip our hats to you and we'll schedule a tour for next week. You can see where Knoxville ranks in terms of the best college town in America.

Read on to find out more or for more on Tennessee check out:

The 10 Best College Towns In Tennessee For 2020

Knoxville, TN
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 185,429
% Undergrad Pop.: 11.5% (6th best)
Median Rent: $815 (9th best)
Unemployment Rate: 592.8% (8th best)
Crime Rank: 16th best
More on Knoxville: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Knoxville is a city in the U.S. state of Tennessee, and the county seat of Knox County. The city had an estimated population of 186,239 in 2016 and a population of 178,874 as of the 2010 census, making it the state's third largest city after Nashville and Memphis. Knoxville is the principal city of the Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area, which, in 2016, was 868,546, up 0.9 percent, or 7,377 people, from to 2015. The KMSA is, in turn, the central component of the Knoxville-Sevierville-La Follette Combined Statistical Area, which, in 2013, had a population of 1,096,961.

Colleges: The University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Pellissippi State Community College, Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Knoxville

Martin, TN
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 10,721
% Undergrad Pop.: 51.0% (1st best)
Median Rent: $631 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 548.5% (7th best)
Crime Rank: 5th best
More on Martin: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Colleges: The University of Tennessee-Martin

Collegedale, TN
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 11,256
% Undergrad Pop.: 17.2% (4th best)
Median Rent: $954 (16th best)
Unemployment Rate: 389.2% (1st best)
Crime Rank: 2nd best
More on Collegedale: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Collegedale is a city in Hamilton County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 8,282 at the 2010 census and 10,729 in a 2014 estimate. Collegedale is a suburb of Chattanooga and is part of the Chattanooga, TN-GA Metropolitan Statistical Area. Collegedale is home to Southern Adventist University. The median household income is among one of the highest in Hamilton County. It has been ranked as one of the best and safest places to live in Tennessee.

Colleges: Southern Adventist University

Memphis, TN
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 653,248
% Undergrad Pop.: 3.2% (16th best)
Median Rent: $884 (14th best)
Unemployment Rate: 927.7% (17th best)
Crime Rank: 19th best
More on Memphis: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Memphis is a city in the southwestern corner of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the county seat of Shelby County. The city is located on the fourth Chickasaw Bluff, south of the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi rivers.

Colleges: University of Memphis, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Christian Brothers University

Cookeville, TN
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 32,894
% Undergrad Pop.: 20.9% (3rd best)
Median Rent: $700 (8th best)
Unemployment Rate: 830.8% (15th best)
Crime Rank: 15th best
More on Cookeville: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Cookeville is a city in Putnam County, Tennessee, United States. Its population at the 2010 census was 30,435. It is the county seat and largest city of Putnam County and home to Tennessee Technological University. It is recognized as one of the country's micropolitan areas, smaller cities which nevertheless function as significant economic hubs. Of the twenty micropolitan areas in Tennessee, Cookeville is the largest; the Cookeville micropolitan area's 2010 Census population was 106,042.

Colleges: Tennessee Technological University, Fortis Institute-Cookeville, Mr Wayne's School of Unisex Hair Design

Murfreesboro, TN
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 130,968
% Undergrad Pop.: 13.2% (5th best)
Median Rent: $997 (17th best)
Unemployment Rate: 546.8% (5th best)
Crime Rank: 9th best
More on Murfreesboro: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Murfreesboro is a city in, and the county seat of, Rutherford County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 108,755 according to the 2010 census, up from 68,816 residents certified in 2000. In 2016, census estimates showed a population of 131,947. The city is the center of population of Tennessee, located 34 miles southeast of downtown Nashville in the Nashville metropolitan area of Middle Tennessee. It is Tennessee's fastest growing major city and one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Murfreesboro is also home to Middle Tennessee State University, the second largest undergraduate university in the state of Tennessee, with 22,729 total students as of fall 2014.

Colleges: Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro, Paul Mitchell the School-Murfreesboro

Franklin, TN
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 75,366
% Undergrad Pop.: 0.2% (19th best)
Median Rent: $1,428 (19th best)
Unemployment Rate: 402.4% (2nd best)
Crime Rank: 1st best
More on Franklin: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Franklin is a city in, and the county seat of, Williamson County, Tennessee, United States. Located about 21 miles south of Nashville, it is one of the principal cities of the Nashville metropolitan area. Since 1980, its population has increased more than fivefold and, based on its 2013 estimated population of 68,886, it is ranked as the seventh-largest city in Tennessee.

Colleges: O'More College of Design, Williamson Christian College

Greeneville, TN
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 14,896
% Undergrad Pop.: 9.2% (7th best)
Median Rent: $557 (1st best)
Unemployment Rate: 714.9% (13th best)
Crime Rank: 11th best
More on Greeneville: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Greeneville is a town in, and the county seat of Greene County, Tennessee, United States. The population as of the 2010 census was 15,062. The town was named in honor of Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene. It is the only town with this spelling in the United States, although there are numerous U.S. towns named Greenville. The town was the capital of the short-lived State of Franklin in the 18th-century history of the Tennessee region.

Colleges: Tusculum College

Chattanooga, TN
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 177,365
% Undergrad Pop.: 3.9% (13th best)
Median Rent: $827 (11th best)
Unemployment Rate: 670.9% (11th best)
Crime Rank: 17th best
More on Chattanooga: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Chattanooga is a city in the U.S. state of Tennessee, with a population of 176,588 in 2015. The fourth-largest Tennessee city, it is the seat of Hamilton County. Located in southeastern Tennessee in East Tennessee, on the Tennessee River, served by multiple railroads and Interstate highways, Chattanooga is a transit hub. Chattanooga lies 120 miles northwest of Atlanta, Georgia, 120 miles southwest of Knoxville, Tennessee, 135 miles southeast of Nashville, Tennessee, 120 miles northeast of Huntsville, Alabama, and 148 miles northeast of Birmingham, Alabama.

Colleges: Chattanooga State Community College, The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Chattanooga College Medical Dental and Technical Careers

Pulaski, TN
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 7,652
% Undergrad Pop.: 7.6% (9th best)
Median Rent: $628 (2nd best)
Unemployment Rate: 596.0% (9th best)
Crime Rank: 13th best
More on Pulaski: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Pulaski is a city and county seat of Giles County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 7,870 at the 2010 census.It was named to honor the Polish-born American Revolutionary War hero Kazimierz Puaski. It is home to Martin Methodist College.

Colleges: Martin Methodist College, Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Pulaski

How'd we figure out the best college towns in Tennessee?

To crunch our data on Tennessee's best college towns, we had to first decide which qualities (or rankings) make sense to use in the data, and then crunch the numbers for our rankings.

First off, we firmly decided that only cities with a 4 year college should make the cut -- so there has to be at least one college granting bachelors degrees in town.

You might be surprised to hear that there are only 19 places in Tennessee with an institution of higher learning with that criteria.

Source of data include OpenStreetMaps, the College Scorecard, the U.S. Census, and FBI reporting data to include the following factors:

  • Students Make Up Large % of the Population
  • College-specific Factors
    • Graduation rate
    • Tuition Cost
    • Student Body Diversity
  • Town Characteristics
    • Safety
    • Affordability
    • Income and Employment Opportunities
  • Things to Do
    • Bars
    • Museums & Libraries
    • Population Density

We ranked each city across each of the criteria, with one being the best.

We rolled up the individual scores into the category and ranked them again based on the category.

Finally, we took the average rank across each category, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title "Best College Town In Tennessee For 2020".

And it looks like Knoxville placed Summa Cum Laude.

There You Have It -- The Best College Towns In The

If you're looking for the best college towns in Tennessee, you came to the right place.

These places all have great college sports programs, tons of stuff to do, and are great places to raise a family.

For more reading, check out:

19 Best College Towns In Tennessee

Rank City Population
1 Knoxville, TN 185429
2 Martin, TN 10721
3 Collegedale, TN 11256
4 Memphis, TN 653248
5 Cookeville, TN 32894
6 Murfreesboro, TN 130968
7 Franklin, TN 75366
8 Greeneville, TN 14896
9 Chattanooga, TN 177365
10 Pulaski, TN 7652
11 Maryville, TN 28520
12 Nashville, TN 660062
13 Henderson, TN 6247
14 Dayton, TN 7340
15 Clarksville, TN 150602
16 Jackson, TN 66878
17 Lebanon, TN 31592
18 Bristol, TN 26766
19 Athens, TN 13752

Best College Towns By State

Enjoy The Snack?