Best Online Colleges in Tennessee

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleBest Collegesin Tennessee2017
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Tennessee is one of 16 states that make up the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), an organization that works with local policymakers and school administrators to improve education across the state. Members of the SREB have access to a variety of educational resources that are funded by annual appropriations and benefit teachers and students. Through the SREB’s Academic Common Market, students in Tennessee have the option to pursue a specialized field at an out-of-state college for that school’s in-state tuition rate. There are more than 1,900 undergraduate and graduate programs that students can choose from.

Distance learning students often have more resources at their fingertips than those who attend on-campus courses, and can take classes on their own schedule, when they’re ready to fully engage in the material. A report from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville found that 65 percent of institutions that offer online courses use core faculty members to do so, meaning the majority of online students are immersed in the same curriculum, with the same teachers, as classroom students.

In addition to flexible scheduling, online courses often have reduced tuition rates, making obtaining an affordable degree more possible than ever for Tennessee residents.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Johnson University 74.56 3/5 62% Knoxville, TN

Engraved on Johnson's campus walls is its guiding principle and the words of Founder Ashley Johnson: “Open day and night to the poor young man who desires above every other desire, to preach the Gospel of Christ”. Ranking as one of the best online colleges in Tennessee, Johnson offers bachelor's degrees in five areas, including business administration and ministry leadership, and an online minor in intercultural studies. Johnson is a private Christian university that integrates biblical values into its arts and science curricula. Tuition rates are charged per term and depend on program of study. Johnson uses the Sakai learning management system, and students have free access to Microsoft Office 365 software.

Student support services include 24/7 live chat for technology issues and online library services, including interlibrary loans. About 24% of Johnson's student population is off-campus, which represents students from 31 states and 17 countries.

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2 University of Memphis 72.79 3/5 40% Memphis, TN

UofM offers 19 bachelor's degree programs in the areas of business; the health professions; humanities; and social science. Ranked as one of the top Tennessee online colleges, UofM's global classrooms draws on the resources of a Tier II-ranked university. Students engage with peers and their instructors through the eCourseware learning system, which includes asynchronous courses and tools for creating an individual learning portfolio. Free online tutoring is available through Tutoring@ESP, and students can also take advantage of the ask-a-librarian and research consultation services.

UofM is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) and offers degrees to students living in other SARA-member states. Several university-sponsored scholarships, including an adult scholarship for continuing learners, are available to online UofM students. The school is home to several world-class institutes and centers, including the Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

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3 Tennessee Technological University 69.41 3/5 52% Cookeville, TN

Tennessee Tech is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents and is an NC-SARA member. One of the best online colleges in Tennessee, Tennessee Tech offers an online bachelor's degree in professional studies, with majors available in health administration, IT, or two other areas, as well as a degree in interdisciplinary studies, a self-designed major program. Programs are delivered in partnership with TN eCampus, which is designed specifically for working adults in the TN online college system.

Over 11,300 students are enrolled across Tennessee Tech's campuses and online, with about 10% from out-of-state and 7% of the student body living overseas. Asynchronous courses are accessed through D2L Brightspace, and some but not all require proctored online exams. Online support services include 24/7 technical support, online advisement, over 100 electronic research databases and resources through the virtual library, and more. In addition to a strong academic reputation, TN Tech's athletic teams are ranked in the NCAA Division I and belong to the prestigious Ohio Valley Conference.

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4 King University 68.38 3/5 49% Bristol, TN

King's online bachelor's degree programs include a bachelor of science (BS) in health informatics, a BS in religious studies, an RN-BSN, and several other options. Major coursework can be completed in as few as 16 months with a full-time course load, and most programs require that students transfer in 45 semester hours to start. Each program requires 124 semester hours for graduation, and King offers a competitive per-semester-hour tuition rate. All programs also require a passing score on a final general education assessment. Courses are accessed through King's eLearnPortal, and students have access to a virtual library and bookstore from a core dashboard.

One of the best Tennessee online colleges, King was named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013 for its dedication and high engagement in community service and learning initiatives. King has also consistently been recognized as a military-friendly institution by G.I. Jobs magazine. The university is associated with the Presbyterian church, founded in 1867.

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5 Austin Peay State University 61.32 3/5 36% Clarksville, TN

Austin Peay is one of a few online colleges in Tennessee to offer a dedicated distance education team, complete with coordinators, instructional designers, and technologists. Students can choose from a variety of bachelor's of arts/science degrees, including a nationally ranked BS in computer science & information systems, a bachelor of business administration (BBA), and a bachelor of professional studies (BPS). Several programs offer a variety of minors and allow students to hone their expertise in a specific area. Austin Peay provides tutorials for its D2L learning platform, including videos on how to use the newly added ePortfolio feature. Students have access to online advising, online proctoring services, and free peer tutoring. Courses are delivered in an asynchronous format but offer the same rigor and content as those on-campus.

Notable Austin Peay alumni include (among several others) CEO of Time Warner Wayne Pace; the Honorary Mary C. Noble, the first woman to serve as chief judge of the Fayette Court Circuit; and Bob Harper, the fitness trainer on NBC's The Biggest Loser.

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6 The University of Tennessee-Martin 61.32 2/5 49% Martin, TN

Originally established as a junior college in 1927, UT Martin has grown to a full-scale public university where over 70% of faculty hold the highest degree in their field. In a recent survey among Tennessee public institutions, UT Martin came in first for student satisfaction.

UT Martin Online delivers courses Canvas. As one of the best Tennessee online colleges, the school offers undergraduate programs in four professional areas: business management, agricultural business, interdisciplinary studies, and nursing. Qualifying students can also apply for the bachelor's completion program for veterinary technology and management, and additional online courses are available for students enrolled in legal studies or occupational licensure. Online students have access to a comprehensive set of student resources, including online tutors and access to the Math Lab and Writing Center, ask-a-librarian chat services, counseling services, and more. UT Martin's online programs are traditional four-year programs, though students may be eligible to apply non-college credit for military experience, qualifying exams, or a professional portfolio.

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7 Union University 61.32 4/5 67% Jackson, TN

Union University offers a Christian-based liberal arts curriculum in two fully-online bachelor's degrees -- organizational leadership (BSOL) or organizational management and IT. Students can also pursue an RN-BSN completion program. An accelerated format allows students to finish the BSOL degree and the general education requirements for the RN-BSN in 18 months. Online programs are asynchronous and designed to be flexible for working professionals. Tennessee residents are eligible for a state HOPE scholarship or non-traditional HOPE scholarship (for those age 25 and older). A virtual classroom is hosted through the Moodle learning platform.

As one of the best online colleges in Tennessee, Union is the longest-running affiliate of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. A 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio allows for small class sizes and the opportunity to form closer relationships with faculty members, all of whom are experts in their field.

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8 Trevecca Nazarene University 61.03 3/5 54% Nashville, TN

Trevecca Nazarene's three online bachelor's degree programs include Christian ministry, management and human relations, all healthcare administration. All programs allow working adults to complete their degree in between professional and familial obligations at one of the top-ranked online colleges in Tennessee. Admitted students are assigned to a small cohort with whom they complete their program through graduation. All online learning and interaction takes place in the Blackboard virtual classroom.

Located in the heart of Nashville and founded in 1901, Trevecca Nazarene is a private institution associated with the Church of Nazarene. Faculty serve as both teachers and mentors in Christian values. As a military-friendly and Yellows Ribbon-member school, Trevecca offers military scholarships for service family members and free tuition for service members will full Yellow Ribbon benefits. Online students have full access to online library services, tutoring through Smarthinking, and one-on-one career assistance services.

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9 Carson-Newman University 60.29 3/5 55% Jefferson City, TN

Carson-Newman, one of the best best online colleges in Tennessee, offers a BS in interdisciplinary study degree for working adults who have completed at least 48 hours of post-secondary institution coursework and are interested in completing a highly customized degree. Applicants can also choose the online RN-BSN program, with challenge courses available for those with at least three years of professional experience. Bachelor's completion programs are also available in business administration or organizational leadership. Programs can be completed in less than one year, depending on transfer credits and enrollment status. Out-of-state students are encouraged to apply to Carson-Newman's SACSCOC-accredited programs.

Distance learners can stay connected with the campus through its multiple social media channels, including Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. All students receive free access to Microsoft Office 365 software. Courses are accessed through the Edvance 360 learning management system, which is also accessible on mobile devices. Carson-Newman is a Christian institution representing students from 28 countries and almost all 50 states.

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10 Middle Tennessee State University 59.85 3/5 45% Murfreesboro, TN

MT State's five different bachelor degree programs offer students variety from one of the most reputable Tennessee online colleges. The BS in professional studies is available in four different concentrations -- including in health administration and organizational leadership. A BS in liberal studies from MT State offers a wide range of study areas, from agribusiness to women's studies. Online programs are suited for adults who have earned previous college credit and are looking to finish their degree.

Courses are structured in an asynchronous format and delivered via the D2L learning platform. MT State's June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students offers support services and scholarship opportunities for students who have major obligations outside of the classroom. Students have access to free peer and Smarthinking tutoring, as well as Lynda.com tutorials, full library services from a distance, and more. MT State was founded in 1911 and was originally a teacher's college before adding its first BS in degree in 1925 and eventually gaining status as a Tennessee Board of Regents institution.

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11 East Tennessee State University 58.09 3/5 41% Johnson City, TN

Located in Johnson City at the foot of the Buffalo and Cherokee Mountains and bordered by Virginia and North Carolina, ETSU continues to grow its online programs and its status as one of the top-ranked online colleges in Tennessee. ETSU offers a range of 100% online undergraduate degree programs in professional and medical fields, as well as a handful in partnership with the TN eCampus. A number of hybrid programs requiring minimal on-campus coursework or meetings are also available.

Unique online programs include a bachelor's in radiologic science and dental hygiene. Courses delivered through the D2L learning platform may be synchronous or asynchronous. ETSU offers scholarships for transfer, non-traditional, and out-of-state students. Students who do not receive a scholarship are eligible for a reduced tuition eRate, which is 50% of regular tuition. ETSU also participates in the Academic Common Market, which allows students from other participating institutions to enroll in an ETSU program not offered in their home state for in-state tuition rates.

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12 Lee University 57.21 3/5 49% Cleveland, TN

Lee's Division of Adult Learning offers three different bachelor's degrees focused in biblical studies and ministry, along with a bachelor's in liberal studies. Recognized as one of the best online colleges in Tennessee, Lee offers affordable tuition rates, with reduced tuition for ministry students. Accelerated seven-week courses are asynchronous but may include scheduled meetings with peers and instructors, and students typically dedicate 16 hours per week towards coursework, delivered through Moodle.

Livestream video is available for many events, including chapel and a concert series. Students can also request assistance from staff members through live chat. Lee places a high value on its students developing a global perspective, responsible citizenship, and service to community, and strives to incorporate these values into its curricula and learning opportunities beyond the classroom. Located in Cleveland, Tennessee, Lee is sponsored by the Church of God International Offices.

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13 The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga 56.91 3/5 38% Chattanooga, TN

UTC provides a choice of three hybrid undergraduate programs: a bachelor's of integrated studies; a BS in criminal justice or legal assistant studies (a completion program); or an RN-BSN degree. Students in UTC's integrated studies program combine two or three of the available online concentrations, such as education and contemporary social issues; this program is appropriate for both traditional first-time or adult students, and one of the most flexible of its kind amongst online colleges in Tennessee.

All bachelor's degree programs allow opportunities for students to choose coursework that aligns with their career objectives. Graduates of the BSN program are also prepared to take their national licensure exam. While coursework for programs is mostly online, some courses require minimal on-campus attendance, orientation, or proctored exams, and all courses include a synchronous component through the Blackboard-powered classroom. UTC currently enrolls about 11,000 students annually at its Chattanooga campus and online, with 19% of students age 25 or older.

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14 Bethel University 55.29 3/5 29% McKenzie, TN

Originally founded in McLemoresville, Tennessee in 1842, Bethel is now considered one of the best online colleges in Tennessee. Bethel's unique College Start program allows adults with minimal or no college experience to complete a SACSCOC-accredited bachelor's degree in two years or less.

Undergraduate programs are designed for adults aged 23 or older who are high school graduates and have at least three years of work experience. Students with at least 30 college credits can choose additional majors like emergency services management or organizational leadership. Credit hours can be earned for military and professional experience, as well as through qualifying exams. Additional features of this adult-friendly program include no-cost textbooks and required technology; no entrance exam requirements; and no exams through courses. All faculty hold at least a master's degree, and several have doctorates in their field of expertise. Students have access to personal advisory, 24/7 technical support, an online library, and more.

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15 Cumberland University 49.12 3/5 31% Lebanon, TN

Cumberland is one of the top-ranked Tennessee online colleges offering a fully online BSN degree, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Students can begin their program at anytime and finish within one year, although degree completion time depends on part- or full-time enrollment. Courses are taught by experts in their field via Cumberland's virtual classroom, THE NET.WORK, which is powered by the Canvas learning management system.

Tuition is competitive, and Cumberland offers both payment plans and accepts employer tuition reimbursement. Notable Cumberland alumni include U.S. Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Cordell Hull; more than 80 congressmen and two justices of the U.S. Supreme Court; and many others. All students receive discounts on Microsoft software packages and remote support from the on-campus IT Help Desk.

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More About Online Colleges in Tennessee

In 2012, a total of 21,875 students attended online programs exclusively in Tennessee. The state continues to expand its efforts to promote and better distance learning options. While tuition and fees at public, four-year Tennessee colleges have increased by 45% over the last five years, state funding for postsecondary education decreased by 6%. Such statistics have driven more college students in Tennessee to consider online programs, where tuition and fees can be less expensive.

Tennessee currently has several higher education initiatives in-progress, designed to help students of all ages complete their college education and pursue lucrative employment in the state. Through its Tennessee Transfer Pathway project, for example, the Tennessee Board of Regents helps community college students transfer credits to a participating local baccalaureate program of their choice. Additionally, the Governor’s Drive 55 initiative aims for 55% of Tennesseans to have a college degree or certificate by 2025. As the popularity of distance learning continues to grow, so will the number of programs and level of quality available in the state.

Browse our list of the best online colleges in Tennessee for more insight into distance learning programs in this state.

NCES Report

As of fall 2012 enrollment, NCES reports indicate that 4.9% (13,948) of students in Tennessee’s Title IV institutions enrolled in exclusively online programs. Additionally:

  • 3.5% of students at four-year institutions studied entirely online
  • 9% of students at two-year institutions studied entirely online
  • 83.9% were living in Tennessee
  • 15.6% were living elsewhere in the United States

The Regents Online Campus Collaborative (ROCC) provides a central networking system for statewide distance learning efforts. Through the ROCC, students ranging from pre- to post-college age can access degree programs, certificates and individual courses in either fully-online or hybrid format. As the largest online consortium in the state, the ROCC provides resources from more than 40 colleges, universities and training facilities in Tennessee.

Best Online Colleges in Tennessee of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Johnson University Knoxville, TN
2 Bryan College - Dayton Dayton, TN
3 University of Memphis Memphis, TN
4 Lipscomb University Nashville, TN
5 Tennessee Technological University Cookeville, TN
6 King University Bristol, TN
7 Lee University Cleveland, TN
8 Middle Tennessee State University Murfreesboro, TN
9 University of Tennessee - Martin Martin, TN
10 Cumberland University Lebanon, TN
11 Trevecca Nazarene University Nashville, TN
12 East Tennessee State University Johnson City, TN
13 Bethel University McKenzie, TN
14 Remington College - Memphis Campus Memphis, TN
15 Austin Peay State University Clarksville, TN
16 Tennessee State University Nashville, TN
17 Welch College Nashville, TN
18 Tusculum College Greeneville, TN
19 Martin Methodist College Pulaski, TN