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:
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 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 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 following list ranks the 10 schools in Tennessee that offer online degrees at the lowest tuition costs. This ranking is based on a number of factors that are important to prospective students such as the actual degree programs that are taught online, and information on tuition fees, accreditation and notable alumni. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics (2014-2015) and reflect in-state tuition (when in-state tuition is available) for all students, including online students. See our Methodology section for more details on the ranking methodology.
Q. Can you tell us a little about the online programs offered at ETSU?
ETSU offers 26 fully online degree programs, some with several concentration options, at the graduate and undergraduate levels. At the undergraduate level (http://www.etsu.edu/online/undergradprograms.aspx) we offer a Bachelor of Science in Human Services, Allied Health Bachelors of Science completion degrees (for students who have completed an A.S. degree) in Dental Hygiene Allied Health fields, which include Allied Health Leadership, Cardiopulmonary Science and Radiography, and a Nursing R.N. to B.S.N program. A Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies are also available at ETSU through the Tennessee Board of Regents as part of the Regents Online Degree Program partnership. We also have several undergraduate programs that are available mostly online, which means that a limited number of on campus courses or meetings may be required.
At the graduate level, we offer full and mostly online masters and doctoral degree programs and graduate certificate programs (http://www.etsu.edu/online/gradprograms.aspx) in the areas of education, health and nursing and digital marketing.
Q. What advice would you give to students interested in an online degree program?
ETSU is dedicated to providing access to education by providing high-quality, flexible courses in online formats. We recognize that many students work full time, have family responsibilities and may not be able to pursue a degree, whether graduate or undergraduate, in a traditional, on-campus way. Our online courses have the same student outcomes as our on-campus courses, which we believe is due to having the same faculty teaching in our classrooms leading our online courses as well.
Our advice to students interested in online courses or an online degree program is that online courses involve the same investment of time as on-ground courses for success. Online courses are rigorous and require self-discipline, organization and time-management skills. We also encourage online students to take advantage of the resources available to them. Our library system, for example, makes research easily accessible to online students through our online databases. Tutoring is also available to online students through the ETSU Center for Academic Achievement.
Q. How do you anticipate online learning might evolve in the coming years?
Continuous advancements in technology will impact online learning as higher education institutions look for ways to innovate the learning experience. The population of online students continues to grow nationwide, which seems to signal a need or a desire among students to have flexibility in how they go about meeting their educational goals. Online learning offers a tremendous opportunity for students to match learning opportunities to their specific needs, whether in terms of scheduling or in terms of selecting a school or university to attend.
ETSU uses a variety of online learning options from asynchronous assignments to live streaming lectures, bringing the classroom to the student in an interactive way wherever he or she may be. We anticipate that online learning will continue to become more student-focused over the next few years and that students will become empowered to direct their educational experience because of the increase in options and availability. As digital natives begin to enter the collegiate environment, we also anticipate that they’ll be looking for rich and robust online learning experiences, and it seems likely that the virtual classrooms of tomorrow will become more interactive and integrated to meet those demands.
Colleges and universities that aren’t prepared or able to innovate the learning experience will be at a disadvantage in a market environment in which potential students are less tied to options within a specific geographic area and are more likely to value flexibility and options that meet their individual needs and preferences.
Average Cost of a House
# of Employed People
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.
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.
Average Cost of a House
# of Employed People
Middle Tennessee is 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.
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.
Average Cost of a House
# of Employed People
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.
Chattanooga is the only U.S. city 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.
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. Bethel University, http://www.bethelu.edu/academics/degrees_and_programs/online_bachelors_programs
4. Bryan College, http://www.bryan.edu/10014
5. Bryan College Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryan_College#Notable_alumni
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Civilian labor force and unemployment rages by state and metropolitan area,
7. Chattanooga State Community College, https://www.chattanoogastate.edu/academics/online-learning
8. Cleveland State Community College, http://www.clevelandstatecc.edu/academics/online-instruction
9. Christian Brothers University, http://www.cbu.edu/frequently-asked-questions-caps
10. Core 77, http://www.core77.com/blog/kickstarter/kickstarter_project_chatype_chattanoogas_new_visual_identity_21757.asp
11. East Tennessee State University, http://www.etsu.edu/online/
12. East Tennessee State University Notable People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Tennessee_State_University#Notable_people
ITT Technical Institute-Chattanooga, http://www.itt-tech.edu/onlineprograms/
13. Heather N. Laurendeau, Director of Marketing for Online Programs, East Tennessee State University, interview with the author March 2015
14. Johnson University, http://online.johnsonu.edu/programs/
15. Johnson University Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnson_University#Notable_alumni
16. Hiwassee College, http://hiwassee.edu/academics/online-degree-offerings/
17. List of Bethel University People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Bethel_University_%28Tennessee%29_alumni
18. List of Chattanooga State Community College People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chattanooga_State_Community_College#Notable_Alumni
19. List of Cleveland State Community College People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_State_Community_College#Noted_people
20. List of Middle Tennessee State University People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Middle_Tennessee_State_University_people
21. List of University of Tennessee People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Tennessee_people
22. 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/
23. Middle Tennessee State University, http://www.mtsu.edu/universitycollege/distance/online_portal.php
Nashville Music City, http://www.visitmusiccity.com/visitors/thingstodo
24. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
25. Southern Adventist University, https://www.southern.edu/online/onlinesupport/undergraduate/Pages/default.aspx
26. Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, https://news.tn.go
27. Tennessee Tech University, https://www.tntech.edu/academics/onlineprograms/
28. Tennessee Tech University, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Technological_University
29. Tennessee Temple University, http://www.tntemple.edu/programs-list
30. Tennessee Temple University, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Temple_Universityv/node/12686
31. Tennesee's Grand Divisions, http://www.tngenweb.org/maps/tngrand3.htm
32. University of Memphis, http://memphis.edu/ecampus/degree_prog.php
33. University of Memphis Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Memphis#Notable_alumni
34. University of Tennessee, http://www.utm.edu/utonline/
35. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, http://www.utc.edu/learn/online/online-programs.php
36. 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
37. U.S. Census Bureau: American FactFinder, http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_12_5YR_S1501
38. U.S. Department of Education, The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.aspx
39. Vanderbilt University, http://www.vanderbilt.edu
40. List of Vanderbilt University People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Vanderbilt_University_people
41. Vatterott College, http://www.vatterott.edu/online.asp
42. Virginia College-School of Business and Health-Chattanooga, http://www.vc.edu/online/online-college.cfm