Tennessee Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2016

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A Guide to Online Colleges in Tennessee

Whether your ideal educational provider is a public university, religious institution or an online school, the diverse assortment of establishments in Tennessee give students a variety of options. In 2013, Tennessee ranked 23rd for student volume and 13th for number of colleges, providing prospective students with 185 postsecondary institutions to consider attending. With a bounty of two-year colleges and four-year programs, it is no surprise that one in every 63 college students in the nation choose to study in the Volunteer State. The bustling city of Nashville provides a perfect glimpse of the higher educational landscape. The following two sections highlight online learning opportunities in Music City USA.

Nashville Colleges and Universities

While prospective students may think of country music and tourism when considering Nashville, the city’s largest employer is Vanderbilt University and Medical Center. Over 300 healthcare companies help make Nashville a hub of biotechnology and medical research. The city boasts 21 four-year and postgraduate colleges and universities, six community colleges, and 11 career schools. The Nashville Chamber of Commerce reports that 70,000 residents hold advanced degrees and more than 50 percent of residents age 25 or older hold a bachelor’s degree.

Founded in 1873, Vanderbilt University is internationally recognized for its programs in medicine, business and divinity. In 2014, U.S. News & World Report ranked Vanderbilt first in the nation for its graduate programs in education, 15th in law schools, and 17th among all universities nationwide. Vandy offers 136 programs leading to bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees. Distinguished alumni include two Vice Presidents, seven Nobel Prize laureates and 25 Rhodes Scholars.

Nashville’s Fisk University has the distinction of evolving from a school for freed slaves in 1866 to a historically significant institution offering students 25 majors and certificate programs today. Noted alumni include W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. U.S. News & World Report ranked Fisk fourth in the nation among historically black colleges and universities.

Nashville Online Schools and Courses

Students seeking accredited online degree and certificate programs can find a wealth of digital options in Nashville. Students aiming to complete an unfinished degree can attend Nashville State Community College, which provides a completion program through the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus. Tennessee State University offers fully accredited online programs for undergraduates in areas of health administration, information technology, and leadership. Online graduate degrees include holistic nursing, education, traditional nursing, human resources, and strategic leadership. Belmont University offers an extensive range of online degrees, with a special focus on health science programs offered though its Gordon E. Inman College of Health Sciences and Nursing.

Tuition & Cost of Living in Tennessee

When searching for online programs, students need to consider the cost of the degree they plan to pursue. Tuition is generally the primary financial obligation for students, and this figure varies among different schools and programs. In 2012, students in Tennessee paid an average of $13,306, placing it 34th in the nation for in-state tuition rates.

Cost of living (COL) is another factor prospective students should consider before making a final decision. The COL index considers numerous factors, including room and board, utilities, transportation, and food. The state’s COL index is almost 10 percent below the national average, which can spell out savings for Tennessee students. For the COL index of major cities in Tennessee compared to the national average, take a look at the following table:

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Cookeville -14.3% -28.6% -13.3% -17.1% -12.5% -12.9% –1.8%
Johnson City -13.3% -25.6% -7.7% -10.9% -8.3% -8.5% -7.4%
Murfreesboro-Smyrna -11.8% -23.8% -5.7% -19.0% -7.3% -4.2% -3.8%
Memphis -11.8% -23.8% -7.3% -13.1% -8.5% -1.4% -4.8%
Dyersburg -11.4% -26.2% -6.6% -4.8% -7.1% -13.7% -3.3%
Nashville-Franklin -11.1% -28.7% -8.3% -17.4% -7.5% -12.7% 4.5%
Knoxville -10.6% -18.0% -8.6% -4.9% -15.8% -11.6% -4.9%
Jackson-Madison County -9.8% -25.8% -8.9% -1.1% 0.0% -8.5% -1.9%
Morristown -9.1% -18.5% -8.4% -19.5% -6.1% -9.9% 1.4%
Chattanooga -8.9% -16.0% -2.6% -17.5% -3.6% -6.7% -4.3%
Clarksville -7.0% -14.0% -12.1% -13.5% -6.1% -1.3% 2.3%
Cleveland -6.6% -12.3% 1.6% 3.4% -8.1% -8.7% -7.1%

Accreditation Standards in Tennessee

As potential students in Tennessee research educational institutions, ensuring a school is properly accredited is a key step in the process. Accrediting organizations evaluate schools on criteria such as the quality of instructors, degree programs, and school facilities. Proper accreditation is a determining factor for institutions to qualify for federal aid. In Tennessee, the main regional accrediting agency is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In additional to regional accreditation, individual colleges, programs, or departments can also hold programmatic or specialized accreditation. The University of Tennessee’s College of Business Administration has maintained accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business since 1941.

Best Online Colleges in Tennessee for 2015-2016

Tennessee is a leader when it comes to online learning opportunities, providing an expansive range of subjects offered at every degree level and from a variety of institutions. Online programs in Tennessee offer higher levels of flexibility than traditional programs but also maintain many of the benefits of campus-based instruction, such as comparable tuition and identical coursework. Making a decision about education can be a daunting task and prospective students have many factors to evaluate. This guide contains a wealth of topics to consider, but a good place to start is our list of the Best Online Colleges in Tennessee for 2015-2016:

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCost MORE INFO
1 Tennessee State University 99.4015:198%

Tennessee State University has eighteen fully online degree programs for its undergraduate and graduate students, respectively. Distance learning options focus on professional studies, with concentrations in leadership, nursing, teaching, and more. A number of professional licensure programs are available, as well, making TSU one of the up-and-coming online colleges in Tennessee.

2 University of Memphis 93.6314:197%

The University of Memphis boasts an impressive list of online degree programs, making it one of the biggest online colleges in Tennessee. Degrees are offered through UM's schools of nursing, business, engineering, education and more. While many schools typically offer similar degrees through their online programs, UM gives student's access to more unique programs.

3 King University 93.2712:192%

The King University Online program has plenty of degree options for students looking for a bachelor's, and there are also two master's programs and one associate degree available. As one of the bigger online colleges in Tennessee, King allows students can take advantage of a number of different career paths.

4 Bethel University 92.4415:194%

Bethel University offers an online college choice in Tennessee, through their InMinistry Distance Learning Program, for those in the ministry that are seeking online work to attain their degree. Online courses are offered as a part of the curriculum for many master's and doctoral programs the university offers.

5 Lee University 91.6318:194%

Students looking for Christian online colleges in Tennessee will be interested in the great programs offered by Lee University. Their school of theology offers a variety of degrees based on Christian ministry and leadership, and a single master's in ministry studies is offered, as well.

6 Welch College 91.6310:1100%

Welch College offers an extensive online learning program for students who desire some biblical courses as well as courses that can lead to a continued education at another college. Students can take courses to earn an online associate degree in general core classes or in business. Because Welch College is religiously affiliated, some of these online programs include an emphasis on religious studies, such as online associate and bachelor's degree options for ministry-related subjects. Religion is an importantaspect of the culture and academics of Welch College. Online semesters are shorter, with two segments offered within each typical fall and spring and semester.

7 Trevecca Nazarene University 91.4315:199%

Trevecca Nazarene University offers both bachelor's and master's degrees in four different fields, allowing students to further their academic and professional careers at a pace which doesn't require them to have to come into a physical classroom. The private education that students receive at TNU is top-notch, making it one of the great online colleges in Tennessee.

8 East Tennessee State University 91.0620:194%

East Tennessee University offers students the opportunity to earn a graduate degree without having to commit their time to come to campus, so it's an awesome choice when looking into online colleges in Tennessee. The on-site teachers are the same ones who teach class online so that the virtual ETU experience is as close to the real one as possible.

9 Middle Tennessee State University 91.0519:199%

Middle Tennessee State allows you to create a graduate degree schedule that works around your life so that you can be as prepared for success as possible when furthering your education. The school offers a variety of online, hybrid and off-campus options for distance students, making it one of the more flexible online colleges in Tennessee.

10 Austin Peay State University 90.1318:199%

Austin Peay State University allows students to earn a degree online through the Austin Peay Online program or the Regents Online Degree Programs. By combining both systems, there are plenty of degree programs that a student can take advantage of through these online colleges in Tennessee. Students can work toward an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree at Austin Peay or the RODP.

11 Tennessee Technological University 89.5321:198%

Not only does Tennessee Tech University offer an impressive list of undergraduate and graduate degrees online, they also have many other online programs designed to further a student's education. This variety makes Tennessee Tech a clear choice for consideration out of all the online colleges in Tennessee.

12 The University of Tennessee-Martin 88.3017:196%

University of Tennessee Martin (UTM) offers online and distance learning education programs designed to fit your needs, at an affordable price. From undergraduate programs in Business Administration, Nursing, and Agriculture, to online graduate studies Banking / Financial Services, Education, and Consumer Science, UTM has online programs for almost every prospective student. Additional programs include Paralegal Studies, Teaching and Educational Leadership.

13 The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga 86.7818:196%

With plenty of resources to help out distance students and an already-stellar reputation, it's no wonder that the University of Tennessee is considered by many to be one of the better online colleges in Tennessee. A multitude of both graduate and undergraduate degrees can be obtained through UT's online school, so it's definitely worth a look.

Search Accredited Tennessee Online Colleges

Wading through the hundreds of available online programs presents a challenge. The search tool below helps prospective students filter Tennessee online colleges by key factors including cost of tuition, accreditation, and types of degree programs.

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Deans Talk: Inside Tennessee’s Online Colleges

While finding an affordable online program is an important consideration, it is not the only factor when choosing a school. Wanting to better understand online learning in Tennessee, we spoke with Trevecca Nazarene University about their online offerings. Here’s what they had to say:

Online Departments in Tennessee

Trevecca Nazarene University

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

We are committed to taking a learner-centric approach to online learning. We understand that this is not about the technology. It’s all about our learners. We continually evaluate our programs for ways that we might improve the learning experience. We seek to support the unique learning styles and personality preferences of each learner. Our faculty are closely engaged with the courses and our advisors are in frequent contact with each learner. This level of support and commitment is a huge value to learners progressing through our programs.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Our students often tell us how pleased they are with the level of support they receive from our faculty and staff. Clearly the learning and the skill development in our courses are the ultimate outcomes. We pride ourselves on those things. However, if a learner cannot get to the support they need or cannot find the resources they need, then they will never achieve their learning goals. Our level of student care sets us above many of the other programs in our market today.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

Trevecca Nazarene University is committed to becoming a leader in online education in Middle Tennessee over the next five years. Our president and board are firmly behind this goal and we are bringing in the best talent to make this happen. Our faculty are very creative in their classroom innovations. This creates a fantastic experience for our learners. As we move forward, our goal is to maximize the potential of the technology while simultaneously allowing it to recede into the background. We do not want the technology to be the centerpiece. The center belongs always to our valued learners.

Great Resources for Online Schools in Tennessee

In order to properly research schools and funding options, Tennessee students need key state resources at their fingertips. Below are links to free sites providing valuable insight into topics such as financial resources, veteran’s education benefits, and continuing education.