In 2013, Tennessee was ranked 13th in the nation for number of colleges and 23rd for student volume, with 185 colleges for prospective students to attend. From two-year institutions to four-year programs, students should have little trouble finding a school that fits their needs; it is no surprise that one of every 63 college students in the U.S. chose to study in the state. Whether the focus is a public university, religious institution or an online school, the diverse establishments in Tennessee give student hopefuls a variety of choices.
Ideal Tennessee Cities for Higher Education
Although found in various locales, many higher-learning institutions in Tennessee thrive in the state’s urban areas. Data for the major collegiate cities in Tennessee and their student populations is found here:
Most Popular Cities for College Students (Total)
- Memphis (61,100)
- Nashville (59,400)
- Knoxville (44,500)
- Chattanooga (28,900)
- Murfreesboro (28,700)
Tennessee Communities with the Most Colleges (Total)
- Nashville (33)
- Memphis (29)
- Knoxville (12)
- Chattanooga (10)
- Jackson 6)
Nashville Colleges and Universities
Today, the Nashville economic focus includes tourism and music, but the city’s largest employer is Vanderbilt University and Medical Center. Some 300 healthcare companies help make Nashville a hub of biotechnology and medical research. The city boasts of 21 four-year and postgraduate colleges and universities, six community colleges, and 11 career schools. According to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, some 70,000 residents hold advanced degrees and more than 50 percent of residents aged 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree.
Vanderbilt University, founded in 1873, is a private school known internationally for its programs in medicine, business and divinity. U.S. News and World Report (2014) ranked Vanderbilt first in the nation for graduate schools of education, 15th in law schools, and 17th among all national universities. Vandy offers 136 programs leading to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Distinguished alumni include two American 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 an Historically Black University that today offers students 25 majors and certificate programs. Noted alumni include W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. U.S. News has 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. For students wishing to complete an unfinished degree, Nashville State Community College offers a comprehensive completion program through the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus. Tennessee State University (TSU) offers accredited, fully online programs for undergraduate students leading to bachelor’s degrees in professional studies in health administration, information technology and leadership. TSU offers accelerated degree programs as well as online graduate degrees in holistic nursing, education, traditional nursing, human resource and strategic leadership. Nashville’s Belmont University, a Christian college ranked seventh in Regional Universities by U.S. News, offers an extensive range of online degree programs for undergrads and graduates with a special focus on health sciences though its Gordon E. Inman College of Health Sciences and Nursing. Popular online programs include the RN-BSN nursing degree, doctorate of nursing practice and master’s of occupational therapy.
Tennessee Online Colleges
Many colleges and universities across the country now offer online or distance learning programs to supplement or replace traditional programs, and this trend is no different in Tennessee. In 2013, 28 four-year Tennessee colleges offered some form of online learning, whether an individual course or a full online degree program. The University of Tennessee aims to make higher education more affordable and accessible--as well as meet the unique demands of working professionals, parents, and out-of-state residents who wish to pursue higher education--through UT Online, which offers more than 40 web-based degree and certificate programs. Online students can earn a degree from one of the five campuses in a range of academic fields such as nursing, educational administration, family & consumer science, and dental hygiene.
The Cost of College in Tennessee
When looking for colleges to attend, students need to consider the cost of the degree they want to pursue. Tuition is generally the primary financial obligation for students, and this can vary between different schools and programs. Tennessee ranks 34th in the nation for in-state tuition, with students paying an average of $13,306 in 2012.
The cost of living (COL) is another factor prospective students should consider before making their final decision on a college. The COL index takes into account room and board, utilities, transportation, food and so on. Tennessee’s COL index is almost 10 percent below the national average, which can spell out savings for students choosing the state. 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.|
In addition to cost of living, students need to be mindful of return on investment (ROI) when evaluating colleges. In other words, will the degree a student earns hold value in the marketplace? The following Tennessee colleges offered the highest ROIs in 2013:
- Christian Brothers University
- Vanderbilt University
- Tennessee Tech
- University of Tennessee
- Southern Adventist University
FAFSA, Scholarships, and Other Financial Aid Options
Paying for college can seem like a frightening prospect, but both federal and private financial aid can be a boon for would-be students. To receive federal aid, students must fill out certain FAFSA forms to determine the amount of aid they may be eligible to receive from the government. In 2012, 73 percent of undergraduate students in Tennessee were given federal aid, ranking it 8th in the nation for students receiving federal aid.
Private scholarships are another invaluable resource for students looking for financial aid and can cover the excess costs that federal aid may not cover. The amount of aid awarded and the requirements for application vary between scholarships, and are often based on the accomplishments and abilities of the applicants. Major Tennessee associations and companies that offer scholarships are listed below:
- AQHF Swayze Woodruff Memorial
- Herb Society of Nashville
- James A. Hyter Vocal Scholarship Fund
- National Association of Junior Auxiliaries
- Ned McWherter Scholars Program
- Scarlett Family Foundation
- Stegall Charitable Educational Foundation
- Tennessee General Assembly
- Tennessee Grocers Education Foundation
- Tennessee Trucking Association
- William Reid Frazier Memorial
As potential students in Tennessee begin looking at possible colleges, they should ensure that a school is accredited by an organization such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (http://www.sacs.org/), the main regional accrediting agency for Tennessee. In additional to regional accreditation, individual colleges, programs, or departments within an institution can hold programmatic or specialized accreditation. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Business Administration, for example, has maintained accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) since 1941. In Spring 2012, UT received continued accreditation for five years for its College of Business Administration as well as its accounting program. Accrediting organizations evaluate colleges and universities on criteria such as the quality of instructors, degree programs and school facilities. This process can confirm that schools meet certain standards, and it is also a determining factor for whether the U.S. government awards federal aid for students attending the institution.
College decisions can be a daunting task; whether it is financial obligations, learning style or a final choice of which college to attend, prospective students have many factors to evaluate. This guide contains a wealth of topics to consider, but the Tennessee school profiles below should guide further research and provide more concrete details as students continue in this decision-making process.
We encourage students to find online programs that fit their financial needs, but affordability is not the only factor to consider when choosing a school. Wanting to better understand the landscape of online learning in Tennessee, we spoke with Trevecca Nazarene University about their online offerings. Read on:
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.
Ranking: Most Affordable Online Colleges in Tennessee
Tennessee leads the way in online distance learning opportunities. From degrees to certifications, all can be earned from fully online degree programs in Tennessee. Often these degrees are considered equivalent to those granted to on-campus students. With more flexibility than on-site education, online programs still carry similar benefits, such as comparable tuition assistance and identical curriculum. For potential students seeking four-year Tennessee online colleges, we compiled a comprehensive list. These are the premiere online schools in Tennessee, listed in order from lowest tuition to highest. Search here for the best online program that meets your needs in Tennessee.Click here to see our methodology.