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Tennessee Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2017-2018

Updated on: 12/06/17

Tennessee is home to a thriving online college environment, with several excellent degree programs available to students living within the state and across the country. Ever thought about pursuing an online degree or certificate, or maybe just taking a taking a course or two? Then this guide is for you. Below you’ll find helpful information on top online colleges in Tennessee, tuition rates, scholarships and grants, and how to find an accredited online program that can help you achieve your academic and career goals.

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Tennessee’s Online Colleges

With over 80 colleges offering some level of online learning options, the growth of online postsecondary education in Tennessee has been nothing less than striking. And there’s no better example of that growth than the Tennessee Board of Regents’ impressive TN eCampus program. TN eCampus brings together 46 partner institutions – six state universities, 13 community colleges and the state’s system of 27 Colleges of Applied Technologies (TCATs) – to offer more than 500 degree and certificate programs, and over 400 courses that can be completed either fully or partially online. All TN eCampus offerings are regionally accredited and equivalent to those available on the physical campuses.

The state’s other public university, the University of Tennessee, also boasts a robust curriculum of online programs and courses. UT’s main campus in Knoxville, for example, offers hundreds of courses and dozens of degrees and certificates through its distance learning portal Vols Online .

Online programs are also available at a small number of private colleges in the state, such as Vanderbilt University , Cumberland University and Bethel University .

Featured Online Colleges

Grand Canyon University

Founded in 1949, Grand Canyon University is a private, Christian university that offers more than 160 academic programs and more than 100 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral online degrees.

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Southern New Hampshire University

You have goals. Southern New Hampshire University can help you get there.

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Kaplan University

Helping you achieve your goals, from enrollment through graduation and beyond.

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Paying In-State or Out-of-State Tuition

College is expensive but can be well worth the investment. Along with room and board, the big ticket item on the college expense list is tuition. How big a ticket item it is, however, can vary depending on the school, the specific degree or certificate program, and whether the school is public or private. Often, the most important factor is whether the student must pay in-state or out-of-state tuition. Below are different tuition rates to illustrate:

Public 4-year in-state: $8,932

Public 4-year out-of-state: $24,554

Private 4-year: $25,053

Public 2-year in-state: $3,940

Public 2-year out-of-state: $15,346

Source: National Center for Education Statistics (2015-2016)

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If I attend an online college in Tennessee, do I need to pay in-state or out-of-state tuition?

Residents pay in-state tuition for their Tennessee online education. For non-residents, the answer to this question is not as straightforward. The good thing, though, is that there is a way for some students to avoid those crushing out-of-state tuitions when attending a Tennessee online college.

Tennessee belongs to the Southern Regional Education Board’s Academic Common Market (SREB ACM), an organization of 15 regional states – Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia – that have agreed to offer in-state tuition to students residing in any of the 15 states if they enroll in certain academic programs located within those states.

Through the SREB ACM’s Electronic Campus Program (ECP), waivers for out-of-state tuition rates are available to students residing in member-states if the following requirements are met:

  • The student is certified as a resident of a SREB member-state
  • No public college or university in the student’s state of residence offers a degree program in his or her chosen field of study
  • Such a degree program is available at a public college or university in another SREB-participating state
  • The degree program is available through online learning
  • The student meets the admissions requirements of the college or university offering the online program
Quick summary on tuition:
  • 1.Tennessee residents pay in-state tuition rates for online college programs offered by Tennessee public colleges and universities.

  • 2.In most cases, online students who do not live in Tennessee but are residents of states that are members of the SREB ACM will pay in-state tuition for online programs offered through Tennessee public colleges and universities.

How can I get financial aid?

Financial aid is available to all students enrolled at an accredited online college. The first step in obtaining federal financial aid – as well as assistance from any number of Tennessee state-sponsored scholarship and grant programs – is to fill out and submit the U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form. FAFSA filing currently begins October 1 and ends June 30 to secure federal loans for the upcoming academic year. Updates and corrections must be submitted by mid-September (September 15, 2018 for the current school year). Keep in mind, however, that other financial aid programs using FAFSA information may have earlier filing deadlines, so it is recommended that students submit their FAFSA as soon as possible. For more information on your federal and state financial aid options, contact your online school’s financial aid department.

Regardless of the type of aid, students must meet certain requirements to qualify for financial aid benefits. Recipients must also meet stated academic standards throughout their funding period to maintain eligibility. This is known as Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP. SAP requirements vary slightly from school to school. To satisfy SAP requirements at UT Knoxville , for example, students must:

  • Have a minimum 2.0 GPA for undergraduates. Graduate students must meet the stated minimum GPA for their particular program.

  • Earn a minimum number of credits for each academic year. Undergrads must successfully complete 67% of total academic hours attempted.

  • Complete their degree within 150% of the published time length for their particular major.

If you don’t meet SAP requirements…

Failure to meet any of the SAP minimum requirements will likely result in suspension of financial aid. Most programs allow students to regain their eligibility if they get back on track to meet SAP minimums or by successfully appealing their suspension on the grounds of extenuating circumstances. Be sure to check with your school’s financial aid office for more information.

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Scholarships for Tennessee Students

Scholarships and grants are important but often overlooked sources for funding a college education. Many students assume they’re not qualified to receive them or do not take the time to find what’s available. That’s a big mistake. While academic achievement is typically the most common qualification, there are still hundreds of scholarships and grants that are awarded based on other factors, such as field of study, ethnic or cultural background, athletic or artistic talent, geographic location, or charitable or civic involvement. The point is, there are several scholarship and grant opportunities out there for almost every Tennessee student – you just have to look for them.

What types of scholarships and grants are available?

Scholarships and grants are offered by many public and private programs and organizations, and for a wide range of purposes. Some awards are limited to students attending a specific college or university, while others may be open to all students. There are several online scholarship databases to help students find opportunities. Two examples are Fastweb and Scholarship Monkey.

The State of Tennessee sponsors a number of scholarship and grant opportunities itself. Two examples of state-sponsored programs are:

  • Tennessee HOPE Scholarship

    The Tennessee HOPE Scholarship is awarded to eligible high school students who plan to enroll in a participating Tennessee college. An applicant must be a Tennessee resident and meet other requirements, including a high school minimum GPA and/or ACT/SAT test scores.

  • Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA)

    The TSAA is a need-based program that provides non-repayable funds to undergrads enrolled in an eligible Tennessee postsecondary institution. Applicants must be Tennessee residents and enrolled at least half time. Other requirements apply.

What are the application requirements?

The application process can vary depending on the scholarship or grant. Typical requirements include:

  • A properly-completed and submitted application form
  • Completion of standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT, and timely submission of scores
  • Submission of all requested financial, personal and academic information
  • Submission of all high school and college transcripts
  • Submission of letters of recommendation
  • Completed essay on a stated topic

Many programs – like the HOPE Scholarship and TSAA – use the FAFSA form as their application. Others supplement their applications with FAFSA-supplied information, so students are advised to submit their FAFSA as soon as possible.

And, most importantly, make sure to meet – all application deadlines. Nothing is will end your chances to earn a scholarship or grant quicker than a missed deadline.

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Best Online Colleges in Tennessee: 2018

With all the online colleges available in Tennessee, how do you know which one is right for you? That depends on what you’re looking for, like the best affordable online colleges in Tennessee or the best accredited online colleges in Tennessee. We analyzed several Tennessee online colleges and created the following list to help you find distance learning programs that meet your unique academic interests and career goals.

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Methodology
  • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution

  • At least 3 online associate degrees or certificate programs (2-year schools)

  • At least 3 online bachelor’s or master’s degrees (4-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)

Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:

  • Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates

  • Count and breadth of online programs available

  • Student-teacher ratio

  • 6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)

  • % of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college

  • Average $ of financial aid students receive directly from the college

  • Availability of academic/career counseling services

  • Availability of job placement services for students and graduates

  • 3-year loan default rate

  • AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*

  • *PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or ‘bang for your buck’ – of an online degree.

Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.

  • Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 King University Bristol, TN 100.00 $24,316 16 86% 16:1 52% yes yes yes
2 Freed-Hardeman University Henderson, TN 99.52 $20,468 7 100% 13:1 52% yes yes yes
3 Carson-Newman University Jefferson City, TN 99.18 $23,300 10 99% 13:1 50% no yes yes
4 Trevecca Nazarene University Nashville, TN 98.63 $22,626 6 100% 17:1 47% yes yes yes
5 Cumberland University Lebanon, TN 98.44 $19,200 4 99% 16:1 37% yes yes yes
6 University of Memphis Memphis, TN 98.32 $7,056 32 40% 14:1 44% yes yes yes
7 Bethel University McKenzie, TN 98.22 $9,600 11 70% 17:1 30% yes yes yes
8 Lee University Cleveland, TN 97.70 $13,680 10 76% 17:1 53% no yes yes
9 Bryan College-Dayton Dayton, TN 97.27 $22,200 4 90% 14:1 62% no yes yes
10 Southern Adventist University Collegedale, TN 96.90 $19,440 4 97% 15:1 54% no yes yes
11 The University of Tennessee-Martin Martin, TN 96.72 $6,716 10 61% 16:1 46% yes yes yes
12 The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Knoxville, TN 96.55 $9,493 12 47% 17:1 68% no yes yes
13 Johnson University Knoxville, TN 96.28 $11,200 6 80% 14:1 54% no yes yes
14 Tennessee State University Nashville, TN 95.64 $5,904 3 35% 16:1 29% no yes yes
15 Tennessee Technological University Cookeville, TN 95.39 $6,168 6 43% 19:1 51% no yes yes
16 East Tennessee State University Johnson City, TN 95.33 $6,312 11 15% 17:1 41% yes yes yes
17 The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Chattanooga, TN 94.46 $6,430 3 40% 20:1 37% yes yes yes
18 Mid-South Christian College Memphis, TN 94.35 $4,640 3 33% 4:1 N/A yes yes yes
19 Austin Peay State University Clarksville, TN 94.28 $5,904 12 25% 18:1 36% yes no yes
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2-Year Best College Rankings

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Roane State Community College Harriman, TN 100.00 $3,528 8 6% 16:1 N/A yes yes yes
2 Chattanooga State Community College Chattanooga, TN 99.04 $3,528 6 8% 18:1 N/A yes yes yes
3 Dyersburg State Community College Dyersburg, TN 97.88 $3,528 17 37% 20:1 N/A yes yes yes
4 Walters State Community College Morristown, TN 97.44 $3,528 10 15% 18:1 N/A yes yes yes
5 Cleveland State Community College Cleveland, TN 97.15 $3,528 3 15% 20:1 N/A yes yes yes
6 Volunteer State Community College Gallatin, TN 97.03 $3,528 12 9% 22:1 N/A yes yes yes
7 Northeast State Community College Blountville, TN 95.02 $3,528 12 6% 22:1 N/A no yes yes
8 Columbia State Community College Columbia, TN 93.71 $3,528 5 15% 20:1 N/A yes no yes

Finding the Right Online College

Before you can find the online college that’s right for you, you have to decide on the field of study you’re interested in. Then it’s research, research, research. Learn all you can about distance learning at the Tennessee college you’re interested in: how it works, what it takes in terms of cost and time commitments, and what programs are available. These questions and answers can help get you started:

Will Tennessee colleges accept my transfer credits and/or work/life experience?

Yes, most colleges and universities in Tennessee will accept transfer credits if they are from an accredited college and meet all stated requirements. Credit acceptance may require an extensive evaluation, however, so be sure to contact your school’s registrar’s office before enrollment for more information.

For Tennessee community college students, the credit transfer process is made easier by the Tennessee Transfer Pathway (TTP) program. Through TTP, a student who completes all required coursework in a selected major will earn an A.A. or A.S. degree, and is guaranteed that their credits will be accepted by a participating public or private college for the completion of a bachelor’s degree in that major. Visit TTP for detailed information on requirements for successful transfer.

In some cases, college credits may be earned through non-traditional means, such as work experience or military service. Tennessee’s Timewise TN program is an assessment that allows students to earn credits for knowledge gained outside the classroom. Students demonstrate their knowledge through three basic forms: credit by examination, credit for past training and portfolio assessment. Credits earned can be applied to degree and certificate programs at more than 20 Tennessee state colleges , including the University of Tennessee.

Contact each of the online programs you are considering to find out if you can earn credits for work experience or other non-traditional ways.

Do I need to attend an online college in Tennessee if I live in Tennessee?

No. Tennessee residents aren’t limited to only in-state online colleges. The great advantage of distance learning is that students can earn a degree from an accredited and reputable college regardless of location. But, keep in mind that attending an out-of-state college could mean you’ll have to pay higher tuition costs than a similar in-state program.

If I do want to attend an online college in Tennessee, how do I choose the right one?

There are many excellent state-specific websites where you can learn about online colleges in Tennessee. The TN eCampus website provides comprehensive information on all of the online programs offered by its 46 school members. It also offers helpful advice on how to decide if online learning is right for you.

Another great state-sponsored program is Tennessee Reconnect . Tennessee Reconnect offers information for anyone thinking about going back to college in Tennessee and it also has a section dedicated to online learning .