Online Colleges in Tennessee

When people think of Tennessee, they often think of music. But while Memphis and Nashville may be known for the mark they've left on country music, rock 'n' roll and the blues, Tennessee is also quickly becoming known for its wide variety of online degree programs.

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The Southern Regional Education Board's Electronic Campus contains a database of virtual offerings from colleges throughout the South, including 13 online colleges in Tennessee. Students can search for courses and degrees by state, institution, subject area, or academic level. As of November 2012, the number of programs offered by online colleges in Tennessee at each level is as follows:

  • Online Associate's Degrees: 74 programs
  • Online Bachelor's Degrees: 38 programs
  • Online Graduate Degrees: 51 programs

The Tennessee Board of Regents also offers online degrees through the Regents Online Degree Programs, a collaborative that includes 13 community colleges and six universities. Credits from these courses are completely transferable among the participating online colleges in Tennessee.

Along with state schools, many national online colleges also offer degree programs to students in Tennessee. Most of these schools have offered virtual education longer than their brick-and-mortar counterparts and feature a broader set of academic options. Some, such as Argosy University and DeVry, even have physical campuses in Tennessee in addition to being online.

In August 2011, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (tn.gov, 2011) compiled a list of careers with the most opportunities statewide through 2018. Of the occupations featured, those with the best outlook and highest average wages typically require at least an Associate's degree. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than one third of Tennesseans 25 and older possesses the education necessary to fill these in-demand positions.

Nearly 84 percent of the residents of Tennessee have earned a high school diploma. Among those who are 18-24 years old, almost half have attended college but only 8 percent have earned a Bachelor's degree or higher. Among those older than 25, 15.2 percent have earned a Bachelor's degree and 8.3 percent have earned a graduate or professional degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

There are just over 2.7 million workers in Tennessee, and they earn an average annual wage of $40,200, or about $19.33 an hour. Unemployment in Tennessee remains higher than it was before the Great Recession, but it has dropped steadily, decreasing from 8.4 percent to 6.4 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

There are 70 universities and colleges in Tennessee where students can earn a Bachelor's degree, and 78 that offer both Bachelor's and Master's degree programs. There are nine state-run universities in Tennessee.

The Top 10 List of Online Colleges in Tennessee

The following list ranks the top 10 schools in Tennessee offering online classes, starting with the lowest tuition costs. This top ten list provides key information for prospective students, such as the actual degree programs that are available from online colleges in Tennessee, and information on tuition fees, accreditation and notable alumni.

#1 - Austin Peay State University

  • In-state Tuition: $6,876 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 9 undergraduate and 7 postgraduate
  • Notable alumni: Professional basketball player James "Fly" Williams; pro baseball players Matt Reynolds, Jamie Walker and Shawn Kelly; Christian comedian Chonda Pierce; musician Josh Rouse.

Austin Peay, in Clarksville, Tenn., has a long history of supporting veterans and military personnel, and as a result attracts more veterans than any other college in the state. The school, in addition to being a member of the collaborative of 13 community colleges and six universities that comprise the Regents Online Degree Program, offers an online Associate of Science in Liberal Arts degree, as well as Bachelor's degree programs in Communication Arts; Computer Science and Information Systems; Criminal Justice; Nursing; Political Science; Professional Studies; Medical Technology; and Public Management. It offers Master's degrees in Communication Arts; Health and Human Performance; Management; Military History; Industrial/Organizational Psychology; Data Management; and Predictive Analytics.

#2 - Tennessee Technological University

  • In-state Tuition: $7,063 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 3 undergraduate and 5 postgraduate
  • Notable Alumni: singer Rodney Atkins, master Jack Daniel's distiller Jimmy Bedford, astronaut Roger K. Crouch and former football player Jim Youngblood.

Tennessee Tech University offers three undergraduate degrees online and five online Master's degree programs. Bachelor's are available in Accounting; Professional Studies; and Interdisciplinary Studies, and graduate degrees are offered in Business Administration; Exercise Studies; Professional Studies; Education; and Nursing. The school's programs have been authorized for students from 32 states and the District of Columbia.

#3 - East Tennessee State University

  • In-state Tuition: $7,249 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 6 undergraduate and 3 postgraduate
  • Notable alumni: Pro football player Donnie Abraham, musician Barry Bales, playwright Jo Carson, musician Kenny Chesney and golfer J.C. Snead.

East Tennessee offers both asynchronous courses, which allow students to interact with the course content and instructor at any time, and synchronous courses, where virtual classrooms and live broadcasts allow students to log into their classes at a set time each week. ETSU offers online Bachelor's degree programs in Allied Health, with concentrations in allied health leadership, cardiopulmonary science and radiography; Interdisciplinary Studies; Dental Hygiene; Human Services; Nursing; and Public Health Fundamentals. Its online Master's degree programs include Educational Leadership, with concentrations in school administration, student personnel and teacher leadership; Educational Media and Educational Technology, with a school library concentration.

#4 - University of Tennessee

  • In-state Tuition: $7,507 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 4 undergraduate and 4 postgraduate.
  • Notable alumni: Politician Lamar Alexander, actor David Keith, singer Deana Carter, novelist Alex Haley, author Kurt Vonnegut, football player Peerless Price.

The University of Tennessee's online degree programs are managed from its Martin campus, one of five locations around the state at which the university maintains physical campuses. UT Online, as the university's online degree program is called, offers undergraduate degree programs online in Interdisciplinary Studies; Business Administration; Nursing; and Agriculture. Its graduate programs offer Master's degree programs in Banking; Agriculture and Natural Resources; Family and Consumer Science; and Education - a program that offers a broad array of concentration options.

#5 - Middle Tennessee State University

  • In-state Tuition: $7,546 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 5 undergraduate and 6 postgraduate
  • Notable Alumni: Pro football players Tyrone Calico and Jayhawk Owen, professional basketball player Alysha Clark, musicians Scott "Skippy" Chapman and Bobby Bosko Brubic, economist James Buchanan, and former Vice President Al Gore.

Middle Tennessee caters to those who can't always travel to campus for classes by offering several undergraduate and graduate degree programs online. In many programs, the students can combine online learning with on-campus classes, or they can choose to do all their learning from a distance. Middle Tennessee offers undergraduate online degree programs in Liberal Studies; Organizational Communication; Professional Studies; Psychology; and Nursing. In addition, the school offers online graduate degree programs in Professional Studies; Advanced Studies; Curriculum and Instruction; Administration and Supervision; Nursing; and Aviation Administration.

#6 - University of Tennessee Chattanooga

  • In-state Tuition: $7,554 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 4 undergraduate 3 postgraduate and 1 doctoral
  • Notable Alumni: Actor Hugh Beaumont, professional football player Eldra Buckley, professional basketball players Willie White and Gerald Wilkins, and poet Khaled Mattawa.

UTC launched its Achieve Degree program in large part to assist Chattanooga area residents who had earned some college credit without completing their undergraduate degree. The Achieve Degree, which leads to a Bachelor's in integrated studies, allows them to finish by taking online courses on their own time and without having to travel to campus. In addition to the Achieve Degree, UTC also offers an online undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice and Legal Assistant Studies. Other online programs at UTC, some of which may require some on-campus visit for tests or orientation, include a Bachelor's degree in Nursing and Master's degrees in Elementary Education; Engineering Management; and Business Administration. The school also offers a doctorate in Nursing Practice.

#7 - University of Memphis

  • In-state Tuition: $8,312 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 18 undergraduate, 21 postgraduate, and 1 doctoral
  • Notable alumni: Actresses Kathy Bates and Dixie Carter; politician Steve Cohen, writer Edmund Warren Perry, professional athletes Dan Uggla and DeAngelo Williams.

The University of Memphis offers 18 online Bachelor's degree programs, six Master of Arts degrees, several Master of Science degrees, an online doctorate degree and a number of graduate certificates. The school emphasizes that its eCampus online courses are just as rigorous as their on-campus courses, and that the degrees and transcripts for online programs are the same as for their on-campus students. The Bachelor's degrees are offered in African and African-American Studies; Criminology and Criminal Justice; English, with an emphasis on African-American Literature or Professional Writing; History; Philosophy; Psychology; Sociology; Communication; Journalism; Business Administration in Accountancy; Business Administration in Finance and Real Estate; Business Finance; Business Management; Business Management Information Systems; Marketing Management; Nursing; Professional Studies; and Liberal Studies. Some of the graduate online programs include English, with a concentration on English as a second language; History; Criminal Justice; Applied Computer Science; Journalism; Teaching Secondary Education; Teaching Special Education; Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning; Educational Psychology; Health Promotion; Environmental Nutrition; Instruction and Curriculum Leadership; Nursing; Public Health; and Liberal Studies. Its Doctor of Education program focuses on higher and adult education.

#8 - Johnson University

  • Tuition: $10,800 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 5 undergraduate, 2 postgraduate and 1 doctoral.
  • Notable alumni: Politician Oren E. Long, minister Fred Craddock and minister Grover Cleveland Brewer.

Johnson University, which has a campus in Florida as well as its original physical campus in Tennessee on the banks of the French Broad River, offers Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's and Ph.D. degrees through its online colleges in Tennessee. These programs focus on religious studies and include one-on-one academic advising and virtual library services that make online learning at Johnson very close to in-person instruction. The online Associate's degrees are offered in Biblical Studies and Intercultural Studies. The online Bachelor's degrees are offered in Ministry Leadership; Intercultural Studies; and Lay Counseling. The online Master's Degrees are offered in New Testament and Intercultural Studies. The Ph.D. program focuses on Leadership Studies.

#9 - Tennessee Temple University

  • Tuition: $12,120 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 12 undergraduate, 3 postgraduate and 1 doctoral.
  • Notable Alumni: Former baseball executive Kevin Malone, prophesier Jimmy DeYoung, television journalist Dan Lothian.

Tennessee Temple University, a Christian college located in Chattanooga, offers an online Associate's degree in Bible; Business Administration; General Studies; and Early Childhood Education. It offers online Bachelor's degrees in English; History; Psychology (with concentrations on general psychology and Christian counseling); Intercultural Studies; Pastoral Ministry; Women's Ministries; Youth Ministries; Business Administration (with concentrations in general business, computer information systems and sports administration); Interdisciplinary Studies; and Sign Language Interpretation. It also offers online Master's degrees in Educational Leadership; English Education; and Interpreter Education. It offers an online Ph.D. program in Leadership that requires one residential course at its campus near the Tennessee River.

#10 - Bryan College

  • Tuition: $21,150 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 4 undergraduate
  • Notable alumni: Bible scholar David C. Fisher, Canadian politician David Alward, musician Aaron Henningsen.

Bryan College offers four online Bachelor of Science degree programs, all focused on Business Administration. The programs allow you to concentrate on one of four areas - organizational management, business management, healthcare management or human resource management. The difference at Bryan, whose motto is "Christ above all," is that these courses are taught "from a Christian worldview."

Snapshot of Tennessee Cities

Tennessee's state flag features three stars, and each represents one of the three Grand Divisions the state is broken into. These geographic regions -- East, Middle and West Tennessee -- are identified in state law and are geographically, culturally and politically distinct. East Tennessee is a mountainous region dominated by Knoxville and Chattanooga, while Middle Tennessee is dominated by Nashville and characterized by rolling hills and valleys. West Tennessee, meanwhile, is flat and mostly agricultural, and its major city is Memphis.

What follows is a closer look at the Grand Divisions. The economic data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the 2014 Cost of Living Index published by The Council for Community and Economic Research. All demographic data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau and the latest Labor Force Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All data in the Facts for Online Learners section comes from the region's various tourism websites.

West Tennessee
There are just over 600,000 workers in the Memphis metropolitan area, which is the urban center of the West Tennessee region and the largest city in the state. Workers in Memphis earn an average of $41,200 a year, or about $19.92 per hour, and the 606,000 workers in the Memphis metropolitan area comprise about a fifth of the state's total workforce. Home prices in Memphis average $210,249, with a total Cost of Living index of 84.9.

More than a third of West Tennessee's residents live in Memphis (population 662,897), and the next largest city in this geographic area is Jackson, with a population one-tenth the size of Memphis. The unemployment rate of 8.7 percent in Memphis is significantly higher than it is in other cities in Tennessee, an indication that the area has struggled to recover from the Great Recession.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
Memphis is home to Beale Street, a great place to see live entertainment, as well as Graceland, Elvis Presley's famous mansion. There is also an antiques district, and a wide variety of museums and public gardens. Outside the city, there are many Civil War-related attractions, old battlefields and re-enactment events.

Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennesse, the geographic region of the state bordered by the Tennessee River to the west and the line between Central and Eastern Time zones to the east. It's an area of rolling hills and rich valleys, and is home to the state capital, Nashville. Most of the state's major universities are located in Middle Tennessee. Nashville's total Cost of Living index is 88.9, and home prices average $206,403.

The Nashville metropolitan area, which includes Davidson, Murfreesboro and Franklin, is the largest in the state and dominates Tennessee economically. There are about 850,000 workers in that metropolitan area -- about a third of the state's workforce -- and they earn an average of $42,920 annually, or $20.63 per hour. Nashville's unemployment rate of 6 percent is the best of any metropolitan area in the state.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
Nashville is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame, The Grand Ole Oprey and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. The Belle Meade Plantation is a popular attraction, as is the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art.

East Tennessee
The mountainous East Tennessee region is home to the state's third- and fourth-largest cities, Knoxville (population of 183,270) and Chattanooga (173,366), and the country's most-visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Major employers include the Tennessee Valley Authority, Eastman Chemical and various health and education services. Knoxville provides about 11 percent of the state's workforce and Chattanooga provides about 8 percent. Workers in Knoxville earn an average annual salary of $41,450, about $19.93 per hour, and workers in Chattanooga earn about $40,130 per year, for an average hourly wage of $19.29. Knoxville's total Cost of Living index is 87.2, with home prices averaging $243,578.

The unemployment rates in Knoxville (6.4 percent) and Chattanooga (7.1 percent) have both recovered well from the Great Recession, making these two cities the economic drivers for the region.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
Chattanooga is the only U.S. to have its own custom-designed typeface, called Chatype. It's used in a variety of ways, include street signage, in a way many European cities employ unique typefaces. In addition to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, East Tennessee features the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the Bristol Motor Speedway and the Knoxville Botanical Gardens.

Helpful Resources

The governor of Tennessee, Bill Halsam, joined forces with governors from 18 other states, including Oklahoma and Texas, in January 2013 to launch a Tennessee branch of Western Governors University. The university, which now serves students from all 50 states, offers Bachelor's and Master's degrees in four areas of subject matter -- business, information technology, K-12 teacher education and health professions, including nursing. The average tuition for WGU students is approximately $6,000 per year.

Tennessee's strategy for the new online school is two-fold. First, the state hopes that WGU's online programs can serve as a stepping stone for unemployed and underemployed adults to learn new skills in preparation for a new career. And second, Tennessee hopes that increasing the number of highly educated adults in the state may attract new corporations and jobs.

1. Austin Peay State University, http://www.apsu.edu/online/online-degree-programs
2. Austin Peay State University, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_Peay_State_University
3. Bryan College, http://www.bryan.edu/10014
4. Bryan College Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryan_College#Notable_alumni
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Civilian labor force and unemployment rages by state and metropolitan area,
6. Core 77, http://www.core77.com/blog/kickstarter/kickstarter_project_chatype_chattanoogas_new_visual_identity_21757.asp
7. East Tennessee State University, http://www.etsu.edu/online/
8. East Tennessee State University Notable People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Tennessee_State_University#Notable_people
9. Johnson University, http://online.johnsonu.edu/programs/
10. Johnson University Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnson_University#Notable_alumni
11. List of Middle Tennessee State University People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Middle_Tennessee_State_University_people
12. List of University of Tennessee People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Tennessee_people
13. Made in Tennessee, East, http://www.tnvacation.com/east/Made in Tennessee, Knoxville, http://www.tnvacation.com/cities-towns/knoxville/
Made in Tennessee, West, http://www.tnvacation.com/west/
14. Middle Tennessee State University, http://www.mtsu.edu/universitycollege/distance/online_portal.php
Nashville Music City, http://www.visitmusiccity.com/visitors/thingstodo
15. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
16. Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, https://news.tn.go
17. Tennessee Tech University, https://www.tntech.edu/academics/onlineprograms/
18. Tennessee Tech University, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Technological_University
19. Tennessee Temple University, http://www.tntemple.edu/programs-list
20. Tennessee Temple University, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Temple_Universityv/node/12686
21. Tennesee's Grand Divisions, http://www.tngenweb.org/maps/tngrand3.htm
22. University of Memphis, http://memphis.edu/ecampus/degree_prog.php
23. University of Memphis Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Memphis#Notable_alumni
24. University of Tennessee, http://www.utm.edu/utonline/
25. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, http://www.utc.edu/learn/online/online-programs.php
26. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Notable Alumni, Students and Faculty, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Tennessee_at_Chattanooga#Notable_alumni.2C_students.2C_and_faculty

27. U.S. Census Bureau: American FactFinder, http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_12_5YR_S1501
28. U.S. Department of Education, The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.aspx

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