You may be surprised to learn that a number of smaller Tennessee colleges and universities have a robust package of four-year online courses and programs to choose from. Schools like Johnson University and Middle Tennessee State offer at least five fully online undergraduate programs, in addition to a selection of electives and a large list of fully online graduate and two-year programs. As such schools prove how successful they can be by embracing online education, it makes sense that a large number of Tennessee schools have joined their ranks.
But before we look at the best online colleges in Tennessee, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in Tennessee today.
An Overview of Higher Education in Tennessee
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Tennessee had 112 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 22 public schools, 49 nonprofits and 41 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 20,893 at public schools, 11,826 at private nonprofits and 1,047 at private for-profits.
- 22 public
- 49 non-profit
- 41 for-profit
Tuition-wise, the College Board found that, in the ’15-’16 school year, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public schools was $9,260, while the out-of-state average was $23,430.
As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that Tennessee awarded $87.5 million in need-based grants and $278.2 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 23% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education; the third largest percentage amongst all states.
To date, the premier educational goal in Tennessee, as set by the governor, is to have 55% of the state’s working population hold a postsecondary degree by 2025. Recent reports have the state sitting at 32%. Yet, with a host of excellent schools, affordable in-state tuition and considerable grant support, Tennessee’s goals may well be obtainable.
The State of Online Higher Education in Tennessee
The NCES estimates that at least 6.1% of students enrolled in Tennessee’s Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 75.3% were reported to be undergraduates and 82.1% were found to be living in Tennessee.
The TN eCampus is the state’s premier organization dedicated to distance learning. All told, the ROCC network is made up of 6 state universities, 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology. Powered by Electronic Campus, which we profile in greater detail below, the ROCC lets students throughout the state pursue courses and programs remotely, whether that be to start an education or to complete a degree. The institutional members of the ROCC share resources in order to better their own online programs. This in turn greatly benefits their students, who can enjoy opportunities to pursue distance courses at fellow ROCC schools, often at considerably reduced rates.
Tennessee is also a member of the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus. An initiative that lets students sift through an impressive directory of online colleges in TN and online programs throughout the southeast U.S. SREB also has strong aid initiatives. Services like the Academic Common Market/Electronic Campus and the Regional Contract Program for Health Professions let students fully enroll in a selection of out-of-state programs while paying in-state rates. While the program selection is small and the admissions criteria strict, for qualified students these are incredible opportunities.
Best Online Colleges in Tennessee
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Tennessee. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in TN, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Tennessee or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||Johnson University||Knoxville||$$$$$||7900 Johnson Dr|
Knoxville, TN 37998
As one of the top Christian online colleges in Tennessee, Knoxville's Johnson University strives to provide students with knowledge necessary for Christian ministries and other careers in similar capacities. Students enrolled at Johnson without previous credits can earn an online bachelor’s degree in four years in five different subjects, including nonprofit administration, business administration, intercultural studies, ministry leadership, and pastoral care and counseling. At the core of all of Johnson’s programs is biblical study, and the school integrates arts and sciences into programs to ensure students receive a well-rounded education. With donations from churches, alumni, and friends, Johnson University provides a private education at an affordable price.
|2||King University||Bristol||$$$$$||1350 King College Rd|
Bristol, TN 37620-2699
Located in Bristol, home to the Bristol Motor Speedway and known as the birthplace of country music, King University provides affordable and diverse associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. King’s accommodating faculty and diverse course selection make it one of the top online colleges in Tennessee To be accepted into King, high school students must have at least a 2.6 GPA, and prospective transfer students must have at least a 2.2 GPA in previous college coursework. King University strives to make the transition for transfer students easy, accepting up to 76 transfer credits to be applied towards any bachelor's degree program. King offers daytime classes, online courses, and evening and weekend courses. Regardless of your program, students begin their education with core curriculum courses to instill students with the knowledge, study habits, and judgement necessary to successfully pursue their degree.
|3||University of Memphis||Memphis||$$$$$||Southern Avenue|
Memphis, TN 38152
The University of Memphis is a research university that offers students with high-speed internet access the chance to learn from anywhere through UofM Global. One of the best online colleges in Tennessee, online courses are designed by UofM professors, and are mostly taught asynchronously on the university's traditional semester calendar. Taught asynchronously, courses allow students to participate in class when their schedule allows. UofM Global's online bachelor’s degree programs include real estate, sport and leisure management, and political science. UofM Global provides students with a 24/7 technology help desk, access to librarians via online chat or phone, and academic advising.
|4||Carson-Newman University||Jefferson City||$$$$$||1646 S Russell Ave|
Jefferson City, TN 37760
One of the best online schools in Tennessee, Carson-Newman University offers a personalized education where students come first. Online programs are designed for working adults who want to complete their bachelor's or master's degree. Available bachelor's degrees include programs in interdisciplinary studies, business administration, and organizational leadership. Students must have at least 48 transfer credits, a minimum GPA of 2.0 in all previous college coursework, and complete liberal arts core requirements before enrollment into their chosen bachelor’s degree program. Students can obtain a master's degree in social entrepreneurship online, an MBA, or M.Ed. Tuition prices vary by program.
|5||Tennessee Technological University||Cookeville||$$$$$||1 William L. Jones Drive|
Cookeville, TN 38505-0001
Located in Cookeville, Tennessee Technological University is one of the leading online colleges in TN where students learn how to excel in their field of study. In collaboration with TN eCampus, TTU provides an abundance of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs completely online for working adults needing flexible and convenient schedules. Students can earn a bachelor of science in professional studies with a concentration in information technology, health administration, organizational leadership, international organizational leadership, or interdisciplinary studies. In that last program, students can customize the degree to fit their specific interests by choosing two emphases, like music and business, or psychology and education.
Students can also earn an MBA or M.Ed fully online, an MA in exercise studies, or a master's degree in accounting in a hybrid format. Students with an associate in nursing and a bachelor's degree in another field are now eligible for the TN eCampus MS in nursing.
|6||Trevecca Nazarene University||Nashville||$$$$$||333 Murfreesboro Rd|
Nashville, TN 37210
For students looking for online colleges in Tennessee founded in the Christian faith, Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville would be a great option. Students take online classes asynchronously, allowing them flexibility to complete coursework whenever their schedule allows, giving students with family obligations or full-time jobs an opportunity to pursue education. Trevecca Nazarene offers four online bachelor's degree programs: Christian ministry, general studies, management and human relations, and health care administration. Many students can complete the core classes required for a Trevecca Nazarene online bachelor’s program within 15 to 18 months depending on how many transfer credits they have.
|7||Union University||Jackson||$$$$$||1050 Union University Dr|
Jackson, TN 38305-3697
Union University in Jackson understands that many potential students around the world have difficulty furthering their education because of the required time commitment. Thus, Union created various online programs to ensure pursuing higher education is convenient and accessible. One of the top Christian online colleges in Tennessee, programs are offered fully online in an accelerated format, allowing students to complete chosen programs in 18 months. Students can choose a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership or an RN-BSN. Students earning a BS in organizational leadership can choose a concentration in organizational management, criminal justice administration, information technology, and manufacturing and industry management. Admission requirements to Union’s online bachelor’s program include two years of relevant work experience and 60 hours of completed coursework.
Graduate degree programs offered fully online include a master's in business administration, Christian studies, or nursing, A master's in education is also available, and students can choose a concentration in teaching and learning, or a library information specialist certification track. Doctoral degrees are available online in the form of either an Educational Specialist track or or Doctor of Education track.
Hybrid courses and blended face to face/online undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees are also available. Financial aid is available, including employer-paid tuition benefits, veteran benefits, scholarships, and state and federal grants and loans including Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarships.
|8||The University of Tennessee - Martin||Martin||$$$$$||544 University Street|
Martin, TN 38238-0002
As a public university, UT- Martin’s main objective is to prepare students for success in their field of study upon graduation. Students can complete a bachelor’s degree 100% online, perfect for students with schedules that don't allow them to participate in traditional class settings. Differing from other online schools in Tennessee, UTM provides online students with the option of completing a bachelor of science in agriculture with an agricultural business concentration. Students who choose to pursue this unique degree can pick one of two tracks – farm and ranch management or agribusiness – depending on where their interest lies. These online programs are almost identical to the on-campus programs, with the same objectives and course goals, usually taught by the same faculty. Online programs don't have any on-campus requirements, allowing students across the country to easily earn a degree from UTM.
|9||East Tennessee State University||Johnson City||$$$$$||1276 Gilbreath Drive|
Johnson City, TN 37614
Whether on-campus in Johnson City, partially online, or fully online, East Tennessee State University offers students the chance to find their passion and thoroughly learn about it in the process of earning their bachelor’s degree. Students unable to attend on-campus courses have the option to complete their degree completely online or partially online, which requires a limited amount of on-campus coursework. There is a wide array of program options for students looking to receive their degree 100% online, with programs including interdisciplinary studies and allied health leadership. ETSU welcomes transfer students with open arms providing transfer students with a transfer guide outlining the transfer process, and the office of adult, commuter & transfer services. Students enrolled in online programs that are not residents of Tennessee qualify for an 'eRate' which offers about a 50% tuition discount, making ETSU one an affordable online college in Tennessee for residents of Tennessee and residents of other states.
|10||Bethel University||McKenzie||$$$$$||325 Cherry Ave|
McKenzie, TN 38201
One of the best online colleges in TN for adult learners, Bethel University, located in McKenzie, offers a variety of programs for those looking to further pursue higher education online. Adult students with little or no college experience are encouraged to consider Bethel’s online 'college start' programs, providing students with the opportunity to complete core bachelor's degree courses within two years completely online. To be admitted into the college start programs, students must be at least 23 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and have three or more years of work experience. For students with over 30 hours of college credit or that have previously completed core courses, Bethel offers online bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, management & organizational development, emergency services management, and organizational leadership. Both the college start program and degree continuation program for transfer students require students to complete a total of 128 credit hours to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
|11||Austin Peay State University||Clarksville||$$$$$||601 College St|
Clarksville, TN 37044
APSU, located in Clarksville, created their distance education program to facilitate more flexible options for students working full-time or with other obligations. Austin Peay provides students the opportunity to earn an online bachelor’s degree with programs including computer science and information systems, and communication arts, making it one of the most sought after online schools in Tennessee. Typically there aren't any on-campus requirements, although some courses require face-to-face or proctored exams, in which cases students can make arrangements with professors and often use an approved, satisfactory online proctoring tool. As part of the TN eCampus consortium, APSU students have access to a multitude of courses offered from by Tennessee Board of Regents colleges.
|12||The University of Tennessee - Chattanooga||Chattanooga||$$$$$||615 McCallie Ave|
Chattanooga, TN 37403-2598
One of the online programs that offers both online and hybrid degrees, The University of Tennessee in Chattanooga defines its online programs as courses for credit that replace 80% or more of on-campus, face-to-face instruction with web-based instruction, expanding the population of students they can provide with an education. The online programs offered include a BS program in criminal justice, designed for students who have already completed the equivalent of a two-year degree, or 60 credits, interested in pursuing a four-year degree. Online courses are taught by the same faculty teaching on-campus courses. Students are assigned a distance learning adviser to help plan each semester’s course schedule, which can help students finish their degree within 18 months by taking 12 credits a semester, including required summer semesters.
|13||Middle Tennessee State University||Murfreesboro||$$$$$||1301 East Main Street|
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
Serving active military, veterans, parents, working adults, and traditional students, Middle Tennessee State University’s University College provides higher education to students at any point in their academic careers. MTSU offers an adult degree completion program, allowing adults to use prior knowledge gained through work experience and school to earn college credit. Whether an adult looking to begin or finish a degree or a first-time college student wanting to earn a bachelor’s degree fully online, MTSU facilitates online programs fitting almost anyone’s needs and interests. MTSU’s University College offers distance learners five different fully online bachelor's degree options, including health administration and liberal studies. All new online students can participate in an online orientation in lieu of on-campus orientation, familiarizing students with the university, its resources, and online learning in general.
|14||Lee University||Cleveland||$$$$$||1120 N Ocoee St|
Cleveland, TN 37311
Lee University seeks to educate all students, including those working full-time, raising a family, or with other pressing obligation via their adult and online learning program. The flexibility of Lee’s online and adult learning program sets them apart from other online colleges in Tennessee. To be eligible for admission, students must have a high school degree or GED and have over three years of life experience. Once admitted, students can earn a master’s or bachelor’s degree fully online in numerous subjects including bible and theology, ministry leadership with eight emphasis areas to choose from, and liberal studies. Online courses are seven weeks, during which students participate in lectures and discussions at designated times set by the instructor. All online course materials are available to distance learners 24/7, allowing students to study and access material as their schedule allows.
|15||Tennessee State University||Nashville||$$$$$||3500 John A. Merritt Blvd|
Nashville, TN 37209-1561
Nashville is not only home to all things country, but also to the 500-acre Tennessee State University campus. TSU serves the Nashville area by providing higher education opportunities and extends its offerings to people nationwide through their distance education programs. Online learning programs include bachelor's and masters' degree programs available 100% online, including sociology and health administration.
Starting in 2010, TSU implemented an e-Rate for out-of-state students taking courses solely online, reducing tuition to less than half of usual out of state tuition and making TSU’s online program one of the more affordable online colleges in TN for some students.
|16||Cumberland University||Lebanon||$$$$$||1 Cumberland Square|
Lebanon, TN 37087
Cumberland University in Lebanon provides students with personalized attention before students enroll, assigning every student interested in the school an admissions counselor to answer any questions a potential student has. Students can complete their bachelor’s or master’s degree completely online. Students with an associate of science degree in nursing, a nursing diploma with a 2.0 GPA, or current registered nursing license or that are currently employed as an RN with at least two years of RN work experience are eligible for admission into Cumberland’s online BS in nursing program. Eligible students can complete their degree in under a year, earning 36-39 credit hours without traditional clinical requirements. Upon graduation, students are awarded the same degree as on-campus students and are prepared to become a leader in the nursing field.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Tennessee
Below you’ll find the best online colleges in Tennessee, sorted by affordability.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Tennessee State University||Nashville||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Austin Peay State University||Clarksville||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Tennessee Technological University||Cookeville||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||East Tennessee State University||Johnson City||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||The University of Tennessee - Knoxville||Knoxville||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||The University of Tennessee - Martin||Martin||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||The University of Tennessee - Chattanooga||Chattanooga||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||Middle Tennessee State University||Murfreesboro||School profile||$$$$$|
|9||University of Memphis||Memphis||School profile||$$$$$|
|10||Johnson University||Knoxville||School profile||$$$$$|
|11||Tennessee Temple University||Chattanooga||School profile||$$$$$|
|12||Welch College||Nashville||School profile||$$$$$|
|13||Lee University||Cleveland||School profile||$$$$$|
|14||Bethel University||McKenzie||School profile||$$$$$|
|15||Cumberland University||Lebanon||School profile||$$$$$|
|16||Bryan College - Dayton||Dayton||School profile||$$$$$|
|17||Tennessee Wesleyan College||Athens||School profile||$$$$$|
|18||Martin Methodist College||Pulaski||School profile||$$$$$|
|19||King University||Bristol||School profile||$$$$$|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Tennessee
The Academic Scholarship is available to incoming freshmen and transfer students at Milligan College. Students are automatically considered for this scholarship when they are admitted to the college. Recipients are chosen based on their ACT/SAT scores and GPA. The maximum award is $15,000 per year for 4 years.
Mountain Challenge Fellowship
Maryville College provides the Mountain Challenge Fellowship for incoming freshmen who are interested in gaining leadership skills while participating in the Mountain Challenge — an outdoor adventure program. Applicants must have a 23+ ACT or 1060+ SAT score. A campus interview is required. The award is $24,000, renewable for 8 semesters.
Ned McWherter Scholars Program
The Ned McWherter Scholarship is available to freshmen entering Milligan College with a high school GPA of 3.5+ and a 29+ ACT score (1280+ SAT). To be eligible, applicants must be residents of Tennessee. The maximum award is $6,000 per year for 4 years.
Presidential Scholarship from Maryville College
The Presidential Scholarship is open to freshmen entering Maryville College with a GPA of 3.8+, and an ACT score of 27+ (or SAT of 1200+). This scholarship program requires a commitment of 4 semesters volunteering as a tutor. The award is $23,000 per year.
Scarlett Family Foundation Scholarship
Provided by the Scarlett Family Foundation, this scholarship is available to Middle Tennessee students who are pursuing a Business degree. The program is open to high school seniors and college freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Applicants must have a GPA of 2.5+. The strongest candidates have demonstrated interest or leadership in entrepreneurship.
Tennessee HOPE Access Grant
The Tennessee Student Access Corporation provides the HOPE Access Grant to Tennessee high school graduates who will attend a college or university within the state. Applicants must demonstrate financial need. A GPA of 2.75+ and an ACT score of 18+ is required. The maximum award is $1,375 per semester.
This competitive fine arts scholarship is open to theatre majors entering Maryville College as freshmen. Selection is based on individual talent. Preference is given to students with at least two years experience participating in theatre productions. Auditions are required. The maximum award is $23,000, renewable for 8 semesters.
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