Best Online Colleges in Tennessee

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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.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Johnson University

 3/566.95%Knoxville, TN


Johnson University is lauded not only for its prestige, but also for its values and affordability. Built on Christian principles, JU strives to build strong and capable Christian missionaries who are also leaders -- the highlight of which is the university’s 60-credit-hour PhD in leadership studies.

Core to the college’s online programs are its seven bachelor’s degrees, four of which are centered on service to Christ. The college also offers master's degrees in new testament, intercultural studies, and a master of business administration (MBA), in addition to five certificate programs.

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Bryan College – Dayton

 4/552.58%Dayton, TN


Built in an atmosphere committed to serving Christ, students at Bryan College have access to over 25 majors in 49 unique fields of study, in addition to three graduate programs. All courses at Bryan are taught from a Christian worldview and are designed to foster growth and spiritual devotion to Christ.

Online degrees at the college can be attained at the associate, bachelor’s, or master’s level. Distance learners can choose from among six different programs -- depending on the level of education -- and two graduate certificates in either marketing or human resources.

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University of Memphis

 2/544%Memphis, TN


Degree programs at UMOnline are grouped into separate schools. Undergraduate distance learners can choose from a large selection of disciplines across UM’s four different colleges: arts and sciences, communications and fine arts, the UM Fogleman College of Business and Economics, and the Lowenberg School of Nursing.

For e-learners pursuing graduate education, UM features an impressive college of education, in which students can earn a doctor of education (EdD), a master’s degree, or one of several certificates. The college’s large catalogue of graduate programs spans 20 master’s degrees and 11 certificate programs.

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Lipscomb University

 4/561.89%Nashville, TN


Lipscomb University prides itself on offering the same excellent instruction experience online as it does in the traditional classroom setting. In addition to a prominent College of Business, Lipscomb’s course schedules span nine other colleges, from Bible and ministry to entertainment and the arts.

Dozens of bachelor’s and master’s degrees and certificates are offered through the university, and with more than 100 online classes offered each term, Limpscomb’s blackboard learning management system allows Internet learners to access course materials from anywhere on the device of their choice.

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Tennessee Technological University

 2/549.37%Cookeville, TN


Students enrolled at TTU can earn an online master’s degree in five different fields: business administration (MBA), exercise studies, professional studies, education (MEd), and nursing. Bachelor’s degrees are also available online in professional studies and interdisciplinary studies.

In partnership with the TN eCampus, the bulk of TTU’s online courses are asynchronous, meaning e-learners can access courses and materials at home, work, or on the road, at any time of day. The vast majority of U.S. states are approved to offer online degrees from TTU, though there are some exclusions.

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King University

 4/554.35%Bristol, TN

King University has over 15 different degree programs offered across their five schools. Degrees are available at the associate, bachelor’s, or master’s level. The school’s online bachelor’s degree has over 10 different majors, including English, business, communication, criminal justice, nursing, psychology, and religious studies, among other offerings.

Graduate students at KU Online can choose from master’s degree programs in business administration (MBA) and nursing (MSN). Designed to be completed in 20 months, the school’s associate of arts degree can, upon completion, be applied toward a KU bachelor’s degree program.

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Lee University

 3/554.48%Cleveland, TN

Online learning at Lee University is geared towards working professionals hoping to better equip themselves for workplace advancement. As such, LU offers two professional tracks, undergraduate and graduate, both with a strong emphasis in serving Christ. All classes are taught from a Christian worldview.

At the undergraduate level, distance and nontraditional learners can choose from five focuses: liberal studies, bible and theology, Christian studies, ministry leadership and Christian ministry. Graduate students can earn fully accredited online degrees in either ministry studies, marriage and family studies, or business administration (MBA).

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Middle Tennessee State University

 2/546.2%Murfreesboro, TN

Middle Tennessee State University offers many degree programs that may be finished either fully or nearly fully online (hybrid). At MTSU, there are six undergraduate degrees, including a bachelor’s degree in professional studies, which can be earned in one of four concentrations: healthcare administration, information technology, international organizational leadership, and organizational leadership.

Online graduate degrees at the school are grouped under five different master’s tracks: professional studies, education, library science, nursing, and aviation administration. Each master’s degree has several specific concentration offerings.

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University of Tennessee – Martin

 2/547.04%Martin, TN

Middle Tennessee State University offers many degree programs that may be finished either fully or nearly fully online (hybrid). At MTSU, there are six undergraduate degrees, including a bachelor’s degree in professional studies, which can be earned in one of four concentrations: healthcare administration, information technology, international organizational leadership, and organizational leadership.

Online graduate degrees at the school are grouped under five different master’s tracks: professional studies, education, library science, nursing, and aviation administration. Each master’s degree has several specific concentration offerings.

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Cumberland University

 4/537.11%Lebanon, TN

Using its own NET.WORK system, Cumberland University Online offers working adults and distance-learners the same accredited education it offers its traditional, in-classroom learners. Educational tracks at CU are quite straightforward, and students can earn one of three degrees: an RN-BSN, a master of arts in education, and a master of business administration.

In addition to offering more than 60% of its students financial aid, CU degrees are available part- or full-time, and course schedules can be completed in less than one year.

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Trevecca Nazarene University

 4/551.38%Nashville, TN

A Christian university based out of the center of Nashville, Trevecca Nazarene University has workshops in addition to its associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees -- all of which are attainable completely online.

With three associate degrees, three bachelor degrees, six master's degrees, one doctoral degree, and Christian-based disciplines at every level of education, options for distance learners are wide and varied, depending largely on a student’s academic and professional goals.

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East Tennessee State University

 2/543.17%Johnson City, TN

At ETSU, students will enjoy rigorous online courses taught by the very same faculty teaching in on-campus classrooms. The college’s online undergraduate population is made unique by its strong focus in health-related majors, such as allied health, dental hygiene, nursing, and public health fundamentals for field professionals.

Conversely, the online graduate programs have an exclusive focus in education. Using the Desire2Learn (D2L) learning system, distance learners have complete access to the school’s online library services, and can access online tutoring through ETSU’s Center for Academic Achievement.

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Bethel University

 3/535.82%McKenzie, TN

Designed to assist busy working professionals who have little or no previous higher education experience, Bethel University offers a unique College Start Program in which online learners may garner the core foundations of a college education.

Bethel e-learners can turn their associate degree into a bachelor’s in as little as 19 months. The college offers four undergraduate majors: organizational management, criminal justice, emergency services management, and general studies. Master’s degrees can be earned in education, criminal justice, or business (MBA).

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Remington College – Memphis Campus

 3/558.91%Memphis, TN

Remington College-Memphis Campus offers diplomas and degrees across the associate and bachelor’s level. Some of RC’s bachelor’s degrees are designed for students who are already equipped with an associate degree -- and these students can transfer up to 90 credits.

At Remington, courses at the undergraduate level are synchronous, meaning course schedules are completed in six regularly scheduled, 13-week quarters. Remington’s business degrees -- offered in four different concentrations -- can be earned in 36 months of full-time study.

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Austin Peay State University

 2/536.5%Clarksville, TN

With four different campuses and a distance education program, Austin Peay State University, offers interactive online courses through its easy-to-use Desire2Learn platform. APSU distance learners at both the undergraduate and graduate level can choose between eight unique courses of study.

In addition to its bachelor’s and master’s degrees, APSU offers working teachers several certificate options to help them continue their education. Tuition rates for Tennessee residents are affordable, and out-of-state online students are offered E-rates, or reduced tuition. Degrees are delivered through APSU Online and the Regents Online Degree Programs (RODP).

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Tennessee State University

 2/542.31%Nashville, TN

Distance education at TSU is available to both in- and out-of-state students through interactive video instruction and other online methods. The school offers seven bachelor of science degrees -- four of which are degrees in professional studies with different concentrations, including health administration, information technology, international organizational leadership, and organizational leadership.

Other bachelor’s degrees can be earned in interdisciplinary studies, sociology, and urban studies. As with bachelor degrees at TSU, three different master's degrees can be earned in professional studies with focuses in either strategic leadership, human resource leadership, or training & development. TSU also has four licensure programs.

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Welch College

 3/539.06%Nashville, TN

Online learning at Welch College allows adult learners to earn their degree from anywhere. For the amount of merit-based scholarships that Welch offers, the school is consistently ranked among the top online colleges in the state.

Welch offers four online degrees, three of which are at the associate level. Welch’s hybrid master of arts in theology and ministry degree can be attained through online and in-person courses. Welch offers over $4 million in student financial aid each year, and approximately 90% of students receive aid.

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Tusculum College

 4/536.19%Greeneville, TN

Tusculum College offers its general education core courses online each semester, and the school also has two fully online degree programs. E-learners can earn either a bachelor of science in management or a master of arts in education entirely online.

Most notable about Tusculum is its dual enrollment program geared toward motivated high school students. This opportunity is offered in the fall, spring, and summer semesters, and allows current high school students to take online courses remotely in U.S. history, composition and rhetoric, psychology, and statistics, among others.

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Martin Methodist College

 4/544.88%Pulaski, TN

Offering five online bachelor’s degrees, including majors in business (management or information systems), criminal justice, and behavioral sciences (general psychology or counseling), Martin Methodist College also has a fully online RN to BSN degree program for soon-to-be nurses.

Using an asynchronous timeline, students have access to courses in MMU’s fully online format. In addition to offering bachelor’s degrees, the college also has an online TESOL program, which, upon completing, may be used both domestically and internationally.

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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.