A Guide to Online Colleges in Tennessee

| BestCollegeReviews.org Staff

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With the Mississippi River to the West and the Appalachian Mountains to the East, Tennessee is a State filled with endless exploration opportunities. "See Rock City" is painted across barns throughout Tennessee directing travelers to Lookout Mountain where you can see the legendary view of these seven states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia all from one point in Tennessee. In between the rivers and the mountains and the 20 state parks lie some of America’s most historically musical cities: such as Nashville, the state capital known as “Music City, USA” home to the Grand Ole Opry and host to 365 days of live music. Or what about Memphis home to very distinct rhythm and blues. Though perhaps some of the best attractions in Tennessee are its people — hospitable and kind, this is the kind of place that once called “home", it stays home. While one of the largest perks of online education is being able to complete your schooling from anywhere, there are a number of reasons why students prefer (and rightfully so) to obtain online degrees from colleges in their own state.

In-state tuition is often applied to public schools offering online programs. Many online programs require some face-to-face time, or more numerous support services at their brick and mortar locations. Intensive study experiences–often on the weekends or in several week long bouts–enable many online students to accelerate their time until graduation. And students looking at online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees where degrees can be taken partially, or mostly online). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state.

Public School Offerings

Many of the top public schools in Tennessee offer online programs of study at the associates through doctoral level. East Tennessee State University offers 24 programs completely online including an impressive 8 doctoral degrees. Austin Peay State Universy, a top 79 regional ranked college according to US News, offers 23 online programs in a broad range of fields from the associate’s to the master’s level. And for those looking to save money or transfer into a state university, there are a number of online community colleges that offer associate’s degrees at an affordable price and in many instances completely free through the Tennessee Promise program.

Private School Offerings

There are also a number of private schools offering degrees online. Some of the private degree programs with the largest selection include schools like Lee University which offers 16 degrees online or Freed-Hardeman University that offers 10 degrees online in areas like business administration, or a master of education in curriculum and instruction. Bethel University — a small university with Christian origins offers associate’s and masters degrees in education, accounting, and information technology. Vanderbilt University, one of the highest ranking school in the country, offers one fully online degree-a master of science in nursing with an emphasis on Healthcare Leadership.

Featured Online Schools

In 2015-16 the average published tuition prices for Tennessee four-year universities was $5,822 for in-state tuition that’s over $3,500 below the national average for public schools. University of Memphis costs $8,619 per year still less than the national average — approximately $9,400 a year. A non-Tennesseean would pay $20,331 more than twice as much as those who are studying in-state. In addition, The University of Memphis offers 32 degrees fully online. Lee University, our top pick private university, costs $15,000 per year compared to $32,405 that is for average private institution’s tuitions and fees. Not to mention,saving on room and board means adding another $40,000 to your pocket. There’s something to be said of staying in-state.

The Grand Ole Opry, Honky Tonk Highway, and the Country Music Hall of Fame are just a few of reasons Nashville is known as “Music City, USA.” There’s a new wave of rap and rock music present in this vibrant city as well. This bustling city is thriving and growing with new restaurants and art galleries opening all the time. The food in Nashville is as vibrant as its music with world renowned Barbecue, as well as flavors from all over the world like top-notch ramen and tacos. Nashville is a city of overt excitement and hidden gems. Vanderbilt University, according to U.S. News is the15th best school in the nation and located in Nashville along with Lipscomb, Nashville State Community College and others. There’s no need to leave this vibrant city when pursuing your degree online.

Named after the ancient capital of Egypt, Memphis developed its trade and transportation via the Mississippi River and was the world’s largest cotton market and lumber market thanks to the Mississippi. Though Memphis underwent its fair share of turmoil and economic decline it is now reemerging as a culturally rich area holding on to some of its unique musical heritage — namely its blues and rock. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, Carl Perkins, B.B. King, and Aretha Franklin all made their mark on the music scene in Memphis. The number one school for online education is the University of Memphis — offering 32 degrees ranging from bachelor’s to doctoral.

What do the Renaissance period and Knoxville, Tennessee have in common? Well, if you answered a strong uprisal of arts, unique culture and opportunity for many you’re right! With remnants of the 1982 World’s Fair n the background and new city parks hosting artists, students and families in the foreground it’s safe to say that Knoxville is carving out its identity once again. This hilly downtown is home to the main campus of the University of Tennessee and the former home of some of America’s top creatives like Cormac McCarthy, James Agee, and Quentin Tarantino. Knoxville is the kind of city that accommodate all people of all ages and stages in life.

Chattanooga is now regularly recognized as one of the best towns for the out doors according to Outside magazine, and Blue Ridge Outdoors among others. This comes as no surprise as it is located between the ridge-and-valley portion of the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau. Whether whit water rafting or taking a hike you can do it all in Chattanooga. The downtown is newly rebuilt and stunning to see from the pedestrian river bridge (crossing over the Tennessee River). There are a number of restaurants, cafes and parks for those ready for city amenities. The University of Tennessee — Chattanooga offers degrees at the bachelor’s, master’, and doctoral levels!

Population: 644,014
Cost of Living: 89.4%
Top industries: Retail, Healthcare, Construction, Education
Local Online Degrees: 7

Population: 653,450
Cost of Living: 85.9%
Top industries: Manufacturing, Healthcare, transportatin, education
Local Online Degrees: 3

Population: 184,281
Cost of Living: 87.3%
Top industries: Retail, Healthcare, accommodation and food service, education
Local Online Degrees: 0

Population: 173,778
Cost of Living: 89.5%
Top industries: Manufacturing, Healthcare, retail, education
Local Online Degrees: 1

Population: 146,806
Cost of Living: 88.6%
Top industries: Manufacturing, healthcare, public administration, education
Local Online Degrees: 1

Population: 120,954
Cost of Living: 88.7%
Top industries: Retail, healthcare, manufacturing, education
Local Online Degrees: 1

Population: 70,612
Cost of Living: 90.7%
Top industries: Retail, Healthcare, Finance and Insurance, Education
Local Online Degrees: 0

Population: 67,319
Cost of Living: 86.8%
Top industries: Retail, Healthcare, manufacturing, education
Local Online Degrees: 1

1. University of Memphis

Online Programs: 32
Type: Public

The University of Memphis is a public research university located in Memphis, Tennessee — a town known for it’s own flavor of blues, gospel, and rock ’n’ roll. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredits over 250 programs to more than 20,000 students. The university is home to several colleges and schools like the Cecil C. Humphery’s School of Law, College of Arts and Science, and the College of Education among others. Online programs are offered through their Regents Online Degree Program where you can earn an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree. There are a total of 32 degrees you can take online including nursing, health administration, web technology and many others.

2. East Tennessee State University

Online Programs: 24
Type: Public

East Tennessee State University is a public university located in Johnson City, Tennessee bordered by Virginia and North Carolina. The campus is situated in the valley of the Buffalo and Cherokee Mountains and is home to 11 colleges, an observatory and an outdoor amphitheater. According to The Princeton Review East Tennessee State is listed as one of America’s Best Value Colleges. A few programs of note are the James H. Quillen College of Medicine — one of the top schools in America for rural medicine and the Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music accredited program along with the master’s degree in Storytelling and Appalachian Studies. Online, there are 24 degrees to choose from including a BS in criminal justice, an MA in early childhood education, a Ph. D in Nursing as well as several others.

3. Austin Peay State University

Online Programs: 23
Type: Public

Austin Peay State University is a four-year public university located in Clarksville,Tennessee with satellite campuses in Ft. Campbell and Springfield and ranked 79th in the region accruing to U.S. News. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredits APSU and is the fastest growing University in Tennessee. Originally created as a two-year junior college and teacher training facility, Austin Peay State University now boasts over 10,000 enrolled students and offers numerous degrees for a baccalaureate, master’s and education specialist. Online there are 23 degrees at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s level including an AS in liberal arts, BS in Nursing, and a Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources.

4. Jackson State Community College

Online Programs: 18
Type: Public

Jackson State Community College is located in Jackson, Tennessee and offers associate degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and education among others. Many courses are taught in conjunction with the University of Memphis particularly upper level and graduate level courses. JSCC is one of thirteen colleges enlisted in the Tennessee Promise program — a scholarship program providing two years of tuition-free education through one of these three partnering organizations: TNAchieves, The Ayers Foundation, or the Regional Economic Development Initiative (RedI). Online there are 18 degrees available including associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. A few samples include an A.S. in early childhood education, a Bachelor of Professional Studies in International Organizational Leadership, or an ME.d just to name a few. Jackson is located in West Tennessee between Memphis and Nashville.

5. Motlow State Community College

Online Programs: 18
Type: Public

Motlow State Community College (MSCC) is a public school with multiple campuses throughout the Motlow county area. MSCC is one of thirteen schools enrolled in the Tennessee Promise Program — a scholarship program providing two years of tuition-free education through one of these three partnering organizations: TNAchieves, The Ayers Foundation, or the Regional Economic Development Initiative (RedI). The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredits MSCC to award the associate degree in over 40 disciplines. The education program was recently named one of the top 50 education programs in the country. There are a total of 18 fully online degree programs offered through MSCC including an associate of applied science in criminal justice, a bachelor of professional studies in organizational leadership, and a master of professional studies in strategic leadership.

6. Northeast State Community College

Online Programs: 18
Type: Public

Northeast State Community College is a public and comprehensive community college offering more than 130 associate degrees and programs of study. Many programs are transferable to regional four-year colleges and universities and certain degrees (like criminal justice, business management, and nursing) prepare students for immediate transition into the workplace. All programs are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. There are a number of online offerings at Northeast State Community College available at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s level such as an M.S. in Nursing, a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Information Technology and an Associate degree in Early Childhood Education. Northeast State Community College boasts a 90% job placement rate for its graduates!

7. Roane State Community College

Online Programs: 18
Type: Public

Roane State Community College is a public two-year college that is located in eastern Tennessee and operated under the Tennessee Board of Regents. There is a main campus located in Harriman, TN. However there are additional campuses in Oak Ridge, LaFollette, Crossville, Jamestown, Knoxville, Lenoir City, Huntsville, Warburg and online. East Tennessee is home to the Appalachian Mountains where many students enjoy hiking, biking and camping. Roan State Community College boasts a 90% job placement rate for its students and a 20:1 student to faculty ratio. Cost of tuition is less than $4,000 per academic year and has 18 fully online courses that range from associate’s to master’s level.

8. The University of Tennessee-Martin

Online Programs: 16
Type: Public

The University of Tennessee, Martin (UT Martin) is located in west Tennessee and is one of the five campuses apart of the University of Tennessee system. More than 6,000 students from nearly 50 states and 34 countries attend class either on-campus or online — the majority are in undergraduate programming as there are 17 undergraduate degrees available here with over 100 areas of specialized concentration. Another valuable component to UT Martin’s program comes in its cost, that is less than $4,000 for tuition — a very similar price to many of the two-year community colleges in the state. The Princeton Review has listed UT Martin as one of the “Best Colleges in the Southeast” for 14 consecutive years. The online Master of Business Administration is ranked highly according to U.S. News. There are 16 quality programs available completely online — 5 bachelor’s and 11 master’s degrees. In addition to an MBA, students can earn a B.S. in nursing or an M.S. in early childhood education and others all completely online.

9. Lee University

Online Programs: 16
Type: Private

Lee University is a Christian university located between the foothills of Appalachia and Chattanooga, in a town called Cleveland, Tennessee. There are mountains for hiking and restaurants, cafe’s, and shops less than 30 minutes from this college campus. According to US News, Lee University is considered a “Top Tier” regional university and according to the Princeton Review Lee University is one of the “Best of the [colleges in the] Southeast”. The student-to-faculty ratio is 17:1 both on-campus and online. Speaking of online, the adult learning division, accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission, offers an array of degrees fully online including a B.S. in liberal studies and an M.A. in ministry studies. Undergraduate ministry students receive a discounted rate of $202 dollars per semester hour. Lee is Ranked 56th in the Region according to US News.

10. King University

Online Programs: 17
Type: Private

King University is a private university located in Bristol, Tennessee that offers comprehensive education through over 90 majors, minors, and pre-professional degrees in fields like law, education, and nursing. Bristol Tennesseeis known as the “Birthplace of Country Music” and has a sister city in Bristol, Virginia. Enjoy the amenities of the Smoky Mountains, and the scenery of the Bristol Caverns or visit the specialty shops and work on coursework in cafes along State Street in the downtown area. There are 17 degrees available online at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s level. You can take an Associate of Arts degree, a bachelor of science in healthcare administration, or an M.B.A. all completely online. For over 25 years U.S. News has ranked King University as one of the best colleges in the nation as well as a “Best Value” college for regional liberal arts in the South, yet another reason King University has made it to our top 15 picks for online education in Tennessee.

11. Freed-Hardeman University

Online Programs: 10
Type: Private

Freed-Hardemen University is a private university in Henderson, Tennessee affiliated with the Church of Christ and is ranked, according to U.S. News, as the 43rd best school in the region and 14th for Best Value Schools. Henderson is rural and enrolls just over 1,300 undergraduates at its brick-and mortar location and has a great student-to-faculty ration of 13:1. Graduate degrees are also available through their Memphis campus located about two hours southwest of Henderson as well as online. Some of the most popular degrees at Freed-Hardeman are Education, Business and Marketing. The online programming provides 8 bachelor’s degrees and 3 master’s degrees with several business emphases and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. When considering a private option with a ton of bang for your buck Freed-Hardemen is an excellent choice.

12. Nashville State Community College

Online Programs: 16
Type: Public

Nashville State Community College is a two-year college operated through the Tennessee Board of Regents and one of the thirteen community colleges across Tennessee that honors the Tennessee Promise program — a tuition free program available to high school graduates. It is also fully accredited by the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges. Nashville is a lively city made of music and an ideal setting for young adults attending college. Commuting through Nashville may not be the best fit for every schedule — Nashville State Community College offers 12 associate degrees online in areas like business management, marketing, computer accounting, art history, and psychology among others.

13. Tennessee Technological University

Online Programs: 8
Type: Public

Tennessee Technological University (Tennessee Tech) is a public university located in Cookeville, Tennessee, a rural town surrounded by state parks, lakes, mountains and rivers — one of the most ecologically diverse regions in the county. There are nearly 10,000 students enrolled in the undergraduate program that focuses heavily on engineering and technology. However, several other fields are taught as well — including agriculture, nursing, and education. The student-to-faculty ratio is 19:1 and there are hundreds of undergraduate degrees or concentrations to choose from. The graduate school offers masters, doctoral, education specialist and post-master’s certificates. If you decide to study online there are 8 degrees available 3 bachelor’s and 5 master’s degrees like a B.A. in Accounting or a M.A. in Exercise Studies. Tennessee Tech is accredited by the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges.

14. Tennessee State University

Online Programs: 14
Type: Public

Tennessee State University is a public university located in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the only state-funded historically black university in Tennessee. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredits over 30 bachelor’s and nearly 30 master’s and doctoral programs available in areas like engineering, business, liberal arts, education, agriculture, and public service. Tennessee State houses a National Association of African American Honors Program and a number of fantastic groups and clubs for minorities and people of color. There’s also a military and leadership program in aerospace studies. The student to faculty ratio is extremely low at 16:1 and the majority of classes contain fewer than 20 students. In addition to great classroom and out of classroom stats, the in-state tuition is low-listed at $7,234. Online offerings include a B.ps in Professional Leadership and a M.S. in Nursing.

15. Middle Tennessee State University

Online Programs: 11
Type: Public

Middle Tennessee State University is a comprehensive public university located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee a city that is part of the Nashville metropolitan area. MTSU is known for its recording industry, music, and aerospace programming. According to Forbes magazine MTSU is ranked among the nation’s top 100 public universities and additionally happens to have one of the largest undergraduate enrollment in the nation — with over 22,000 student enrolled. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredits over 140 academic programs. Undergraduates are not the only population served at MTSU, there are also graduate, veteran, active military, adult and distance learning programs such as the entirely online B.S. in psychology or the the M. Ed. in Advanced Studies in Curriculum and Instruction. According the G.I. Jobs magazine Middle Tennessee State has been named a “military-firendly institution” four years in a row. Famous alumni include Albert Gore Sr, and James M. Buchanan.

Monitoring the accreditation of a university you are interested in attending is incredibly important. Accreditation ensures your credits can transfer that you can receive Federal financial aid, and most importantly that certain standards of educational quality are during your schooling. The highest accreditation standard for most programs in the United States is provided by regional accreditation agencies. The regional accrediting agency for Tennessee is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Making sure that a University you're hoping to attend is regionally accredited — or accredited by a real and respected accrediting agency — is one of the most important choices you can make in ensuring the quality of your education.

Three Steps for Securing Financial Aid

  • Submit your FAFSA.
  • Check to see if additional forms are needed at your university of choice.
  • Search and apply for private scholarships.

Through the previous three steps most students find themselves offered some sort of federal grant, work study, private grant, scholarship, or stipend.

Great Tennessee Higher Education Resources

  • Having a hard time making your final decision? Niche helps with that including a quick look at several university quality metrics and personal quotes from current students. Check through the top schools in Tennessee here
  • For more in-depth information about the University of Tennessee system head here.
  • One of the most important factors into your acceptance in a university is the personal essay. Glimpse some valuable information from the top ranked school in Tennessee.
  • The Tennessee Student Assistant Corporation connects you with funds and programs like the Tennessee Hope Scholarship to help you pay for your education. For assistance in securing financial aid go here.
  • Tennessee Promise focuses on mentoring and providing financial aid to those attending one of the 13 community colleges, or 27 applied technology to eligible high school seniors. To check if your school is an eligible institution go here.
  • Roan State provides an online “t.v. channel” providing video tutorials for those looking to gain financial aide not only at Roan State but other schools throughout Tennessee. For a walk-through as a first time FAFSA filer, check out this informational video.
  • A number of scholarship databases have Tennessee-specific scholarships. Make sure to check at one of the following during your Tennessee financial aid process.
  • Outdoor Chattanooga is a fantastic resource for outdoor enthusiasts living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. For a comprehensive list of outdoor events go here.
  • Are you a Tennessee Vols fan? Head here for the inside scoop.
  • The Tennessee National Guard is a way in for military-personnel seeking work connections with military-friendly companies. You can find out more about who is hiring here.
  • If you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail, take a look at the trails history and gain insight into the 7-day Smoky Mountain portion here.
  • From an historical standpoint, Tennessee is fascinating. Learn through doing when selecting an historic vacation spot from this site.

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