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Tennessee’s Private Colleges and Universities Award More Than 20,000 Degrees


Nashville, TN— For the third year in a row, Tennessee’s private non-profit colleges and universities have awarded more than 20,000 degrees to students completing a wide range of academic and professional programs.  This represents a 37.4% increase over a ten-year period. The three campuses awarding the most degrees include Vanderbilt University, Belmont University and Lincoln Memorial University.

The degrees were conferred during the most recent 2017-2018 academic period. The largest increases were with associate, doctoral, and first professional degrees.  The increase in associate degrees is largely due to students using the Tennessee Promise Scholarship at eligible TICUA campuses.  Even though there was a slight decrease in bachelors and masters degrees, they remain the largest number of degrees awarded overall.

The most popular degrees continue to be in health care, business, criminal justice and biology.  More than 2,500 degrees were awarded in the STEM or technical fields as defined by the US Department of Homeland Security.  “Our goal is to produce graduates with portable skills that are relevant to a variety of careers and who are deeply engaged in serving society,” said TICUA President, Claude Pressnell.

TICUA member campuses represent just over a quarter of the higher education enrollment in Tennessee but award 34% of the degrees.  The University of Tennessee System awards 18% of the degrees, the public Locally Governed Universities (formerly the TN Board of Regents universities) award 31%, and the community colleges award the remaining 17%. 

Over 30% of the degrees were awarded to students who transferred into one of the TICUA member colleges and universities.  Pressnell stated, “Tennessee’s private colleges continue to be a popular high-quality option for students to complete their degrees after starting at another campus.  Once in-transfer students arrive, they tend to graduate at a similar rate as the students who began their studies on campus.”

Adult students also perform well at Tennessee’s private colleges.  Over 30% of this year’s degrees were awarded to students age 25 and over.  The most popular degrees awarded to adult learners included business, health related fields, and criminal justice.  It is anticipated that adult degrees will continue to increase with the advent of the state’s TN Reconnect program which provides student aid to adults seeking an associate degree.

Tennessee’s private colleges are committed to assisting the State in attaining Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 goal of having 55% of Tennesseans with a post-secondary credential by 2025.  To date, TICUA member campuses are awarding more degrees each year than predicted by the state.  “Our campuses have always played a key role in helping the state achieve its higher education and workforce goals,” commented Pressnell.  “We stand ready to assist the next Governor in making Tennessee one of the most attractive places for high quality corporations to locate and flourish.”


TICUA engages Tennessee's private, non-profit colleges and universities to work collaboratively in areas of public policy, cost containment, and professional development to serve better the State and its citizens.  TICUA membership includes 31 four-year colleges and universities and 3 professional colleges. In fall 2017, TICUA member colleges and universities throughout the State enrolled over 81,000 students and employed over 37,000 faculty and staff.  For more information about TICUA, please visit our website at www.ticua.org