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19 Best Online Colleges In Tennessee

 Between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River lies the state of Tennessee.

Here, the rich history of Civil War battlefields gives way to the serene natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. The well-known Southern warmth of small towns spills over into major centers of commerce, arts, and culture in Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville.

The economy of Tennessee was once primarily agrarian, but starting in the 20th century, federal investments in the Tennessee Valley Authority spurred diversification. Today, agricultural products like poultry, soybeans, and cattle remain an important part of the Tennessee economy, while manufacturing and tourism are rapidly growing sectors.

Perhaps more than anywhere else in the nation, Tennessee is linked with music. Nashville has the Country Music Hall of Fame and flagship offices for the Big Three record labels (Sony, Warner, and Universal) on its iconic Music Row. Memphis has Beale Street, a national historic landmark and the birthplace of the Memphis blues, and the legendary Sun Studio, where Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis made their first records. It’s also home to Graceland, the mansion that once belonged to the King himself. Country, rock, gospel, and the blues all have deep roots in Tennessee.

The Volunteer State is so known because of the number of volunteer soldiers the state supplied for the Mexican-American War, but many locals feel that the same bold spirit and fearless attitude is still an essential part of Tennessee tradition.

The unique heritage and culture of Tennessee make this state an exciting launchpad for any number of careers. These days, students have more options than ever when it comes to pursuing their professional goals through higher education. Many people are choosing to earn a degree through online learning programs.

These online degree tracks, which often don’t require any on-campus classroom attendance, are at the cutting edge of education. They integrate all of the rigorous academic standards and expansive resources of Tennessee’s thriving colleges and universities, while still allowing students to keep up with the responsibilities of a family or full-time job. The state of Tennessee has an impressive roster of colleges offering online programs to undergraduate, graduate, and even doctoral students.

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What are the best online colleges in Tennessee?
While compiling this list, we wanted to be sure that we accounted for not just one but all of the important factors that affect student experience at each school. To that end, we take into consideration data points such as graduation rate, test scores for incoming students, endowment size, institutional reputation, and student-faculty ratio. All of these points become part of our institutional excellence assessment.

We also consider average financial aid packages, return on investment based on tuition costs, student indebtedness after graduation, and expected early career salary for graduates, all of which become part of our student success assessment. Information for these assessments comes from sources such as individual college websites, U.S. News & World Report, Payscale, and the IPEDS database. All of these critical metrics have been used to build the following ranking for best online colleges in Tennessee.

See our rankings methodology page.

1. The University of Tennessee-Martin Overview For 90 years, the University of Tennessee-Martin has been a keystone member of the University of Tennessee System. Whether students choose to take classes on-campus or online, theyll meet the same meaningful objectives and work with the same outstanding faculty. While the school offers numerous online-only programs, online classes are available for all students, an indication of UT-Martins robust distance learning program. Features The University of Tennessee-Martin offers a total of six online bachelors programs and nine online graduate programs. As part of the graduate academic catalog, UT-Martin Online offers a number of occupational licensure programs for teachers, including courses in Technology Integration, Students with Exceptionalities, and Diagnosis and Evaluation. Popular online undergraduate majors include: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Bachelor of Science in Nursing Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Details UT-Martin transitioned its distance learning platform from Blackboard to Canvas in the spring of 2017. Students can now use Canvas to access interactive course materials including PowerPoints, images, lectures, movie clips, audio, graphs, and charts. UT-Martins MBA program is ranked number 36 nationally among the Best Online MBA Programs by U.S. News World Report. The school recently launched a Paralegal Studies online curriculum that can be paired with any major and is designed to prepare students to seek a Doctor of Jurisprudence or to sit for the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) examination.

2. Overview Founded in 1823, Union University offers a broad spread of academic programs and an engaged student community that will enrich any experience, whether students attend Union on-campus or online. The university is located in Jackson, Tennessee, and is the oldest institution of higher education affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Features The academic catalog at Union University includes fully online programs in business, education, ministry, and nursing. Hybrid programs are offered for a masters degree (M.S. in Nursing), a professional certification (Post Graduate Certificate in Nursing), and doctorate degrees (Doctor of Education and Doctor of Nursing Practice). Fully online masters programs include a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Christian Studies, and a Master of Art in Education. Fully online bachelors degree completion programs are offered in the following fields: Organizational Leadership Organizational Management Information Technology Nursing (RN to BSN) Details The student body of Union University is 3,500, and the student-faculty ratio is just 10:1. For both on-campus and online programs, this student-centered environment provides ample opportunity for personalized attention from supportive professors. Union University highlights its commitment to integrating Christian faith into every program of study, including online coursework. The school earned the number one slot in the 2017 Best Christian Colleges and Universities in the South ranking from Christian Universities Online.

3. Tennessee Technological University Overview Approximately 70 miles east of Nashville is Cookeville, the home of Tennessee Technological University. Tennessee Tech serves a total student body of over 10,000 and offers degrees across six academic fields, including Agriculture and Human Ecology, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Engineering, and Interdisciplinary and Extended Education. Features Masters degrees available through online programs include a Distance MBA, Master of Accountancy, Master of Education, and Master of Science in Nursing. A number of endorsements for licensed teachers are offered through online coursework, including certifications in English as a Second Language, Mathematics, and Special Education (Comprehensive or Early Childhood). Available bachelors degrees include the following: Bachelor of Professional Studies Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Details The university was named among the best schools in the Southeast for 10 consecutive years by the Princeton Review. Almost two-thirds of TTU students receive some form of financial aid either from the institution, the state or federal government, or private funds (financial aid works the same way for on-campus students or remote students). TN eCampus, a repository of digital courses used by TTU and numerous other Tennessee institutions, utilizes the Desire2Learn (D2L) learning management system to deliver class materials and allow students to connect with faculty members during the course.

4. Overview Located in Bristol, King University was first established in 1867 and is still true to its Presbyterian roots. The school provides a strong liberal arts education as the foundation for all students, and has been recognized for excellence in a number of contemporary fields, including nursing, security and intelligence studies, exercise studies, and digital media and design. Features Students of the King University online program may pursue an Associate of Arts degree, a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Science in Nursing, or one of a number of bachelors degrees in business, nursing, arts and sciences, communication, and behavioral and health sciences. Some of the top online bachelors degree programs include the following: Information Technology Criminal Justice Business Administration Religious Studies Details In addition to its standard degree program structure, King University also offers a program called The Pathway, which is designed for adult students who have already earned 30 to 45 hours of college credit. Classes for The Pathway are either held entirely online or on-campus one night a week. The undergraduate degree programs at King are accelerated, and many can be completed in as little as 16 months. All online programs allow students to enroll in the spring, summer, or fall semesters, allowing extra flexibility for students to begin a new program and progress throughout the year.

5. The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Overview The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga is one of three universities and two affiliated institutions in the University of Tennessee system, and one of the fastest growing campuses in the state. Recent campus renovations and expansions in the academic catalog have included the addition of an honors program, a state-of-the-art library, and a broadening range of credit and non-credit distance learning opportunities. Features Masters degree programs through UTC Learn, as the universitys remote learning platform is known, include a Master of Science in Criminal Justice, Master of Science in Engineering Management, Professional Master of Business Administration (PMBA), and Doctorate of Nursing Practice. UTC Learn offers three undergraduate tracks: Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice (a degree completion program for non-traditional students) RN to BSN Nursing Gateway Program Non-Profit Management Certificate Details Programs are considered online if they replace 80 percent or more of in-class seat time with technology-enhanced instruction. Online courses through the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga may require minimal on-campus attendance for orientation or proctored exams. Hybrid programs, which replace 30 percent to 79 percent of required seat time with online instruction, are available for a Doctorate in Learning and Leadership and a MSN Nurse Anesthesia program. UTC Learn is powered by the Blackboard learning management system.

6. Overview The main campus of the University of Memphis is located in the citys Normal Station neighborhood, while the Lambuth Campus is located in midtown Jackson, Tennessee. As a major research institution located in a dynamic urban area, the University of Memphis offers numerous research, internship, and professional opportunities for both traditional and online students. Features All of the degree tracks through the distance learning program, called UofM Global, are fully online and are designed for maximum flexibility to allow students to take classes at their own pace. Over 60 areas of study are available. The online coursework is designed by the highly respected faculty of U of M. Graduate programs are available in education and engineering, while both graduate and undergraduate programs are available in the following fields: Business Health Professions Humanities Social Sciences Details Students who earn a degree through UofM Global will have a diploma and transcript that is identical to traditional on-campus students. Every UofM Global student is assigned an advisor who will guide them through their educational experience, and can assist them with alternative degree pathways such as the Finish Line program or the Prior Learning Assessment credit conversion program. Because of the array of academic options and plentiful sources of support for distance learning students, the university was recently named the Best Online College in Tennessee by TheBestSchools.org.

7. Overview Located less than 40 miles from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Carson-Newman University serves a student body of over 2,600 and offers degree programs in over 50 majors for undergraduates alone. The 120-acre campus is at the heart of scenic Jefferson County. A historically Baptist university, the school was recently named to the Presidents Honor Roll for Service with Distinction, the highest federal honor available for an outstanding commitment to service learning and civic engagement. Features C-N offers online degree programs at the graduate level leading to a Master of Arts in Social Entrepreneurship, Master of Education, Education Doctorate, Master of Business Administration, and Education Specialist certification. The university also grants the following undergraduate degrees through fully online programs: Bachelor of Business Administration Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership Bachelor of Science in Independent Studies Details Students at C-N will find extensive tools and resources tailored specifically to the unique challenges of online learning. Distance education students will have access to a Career Services center, a Writing Center, an IT help desk easily accessible by email or phone, and an extensive library of e-books, journal articles, and digitized archives. C-N utilizes the Edvance360 learning management system for multimedia course content.

8. Austin Peay State University Overview The history of Austin Peay State University goes back more than 210 years: The campus was first established as the Rural Academy in 1806. Located on the Cumberland River and just 45 minutes from Nashville, Austin Peay State University and the surrounding city of Clarkesville have both grown into vibrant communities full of creative energy and professional opportunity. Features Online students at APSU may pursue an Associate of Science or an Associate of Applied Science. Theyll also have degree and certification options at the bachelors, masters, and post-masters level in the fields of teacher education, STEM, business, arts and letters, and behavioral and health sciences. Fully online degree programs at the undergraduate level include the following: Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Information Systems Bachelor of Professional Studies in Leadership and Organizational Administration Details The Distance Education program highlights a commitment to exceptional student support. One-on-one help sessions are available for the programs learning management system, Desire2Learn (D2L). In addition, the university offers a dedicated Distance Education Help Desk, online proctoring services, and online student assistance. APSU is part of the TN eCampus consortium, which includes numerous other institutions and community colleges throughout the state.

9. Trevecca Nazarene University Overview The history of Austin Peay State University goes back more than 210 years: The campus was first established as the Rural Academy in 1806. Located on the Cumberland River and just 45 minutes from Nashville, Austin Peay State University and the surrounding city of Clarkesville have both grown into vibrant communities full of creative energy and professional opportunity. Features Online students at APSU may pursue an Associate of Science or an Associate of Applied Science. Theyll also have degree and certification options at the bachelors, masters, and post-masters level in the fields of teacher education, STEM, business, arts and letters, and behavioral and health sciences. Fully online degree programs at the undergraduate level include the following: Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Information Systems Bachelor of Professional Studies in Leadership and Organizational Administration Details The Distance Education program highlights a commitment to exceptional student support. One-on-one help sessions are available for the programs learning management system, Desire2Learn (D2L). In addition, the university offers a dedicated Distance Education Help Desk, online proctoring services, and online student assistance. APSU is part of the TN eCampus consortium, which includes numerous other institutions and community colleges throughout the state.

10. Middle Tennessee State University Overview Middle Tennessee State University is true to its name: Its located in Murfreesboro, the geographic center of the state. As the largest producer of graduates in the Greater Nashville economy, MTSU is the top choice for Tennessee adult learners. Every semester, over 8,000 students enroll in the roughly 400 fully online courses offered through MTSUs academic catalog. Features Five undergraduate and seven graduate degrees are currently available through Middle Tennessee State University Online. Many of these tracks offer numerous optional concentrations, allowing students to tailor their academic experience to best meet their career goals. An additional three graduate and three undergraduate degrees are available through hybrid or blended programs. The fully online tracks leading to a bachelors degree at MTSU include the following: Criminal Justice Liberal Studies Organizational Communication Professional Studies Psychology Details MTSU is a major driver of the regions economic growth, providing a yearly $1.1 billion impact and 8,400 jobs across the state. The distance education program at MTSU uses the Desire2Learn (D2L) platform for delivering course content. MTSU participates in TN eCampus, a repository of online courses that is utilized by numerous Tennessee institutions. Students may register either for TN eCampus courses, which were developed by a variety of community colleges and universities across the state, or for university-specific courses developed by MTSU faculty.

11. Overview At the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, Bryan College occupies a 128-acre hilltop campus in Dayton, Tennessee. Originally named William Jennings Bryan University, the college has a strong identity as a nondenominational Christian institution, and spirituality is central to its ideology and its curriculum. A student body of over 1,400 make up the close-knit community of Bryan College. Features The distance education program at Bryan College provides a number of associates, bachelors, and masters degree tracks. Graduate degree tracks include a Master in Business Administration, Master in Christian Ministry, and Master in Education, as well as numerous graduate level certifications in Human Resources and Marketing. The undergraduate programs are designed primarily for first-time or returning adult students (as opposed to students who have just graduated high school). At the undergraduate level, wholly online programs include: Associate in Business Bachelor of Business Administration Bachelor in Applied Psychology Details Bryan Colleges online programs utilize Moodle as their learning management system. Because the undergraduate program is specially tailored to adult learners with existing career or family obligations, most academic pathways offer a format thats highly flexible and significantly accelerated compared to a traditional course of study. The college encourages online students to take advantage of programs to convert non-traditional learning experiences into college credit. All of the coursework for a Bryan College degree is taught from a Christian worldview.

12. East Tennessee State University Overview With a student body of over 14,000, East Tennessee State University in Johnson City is the fourth largest university in the state. The school comes with all the trappings of a major university, including Division I athletics in 17 sports, an expansive library, and a broad range of academic opportunities. Even for students who study remotely, these facilities and resources add to the energizing atmosphere of ETSU. Features Students can pursue a fully online program in the health sciences, with bachelors degree tracks available for Allied Health Leadership, Dental Hygiene, Cardiopulmonary Science, Radiologic Science, and Nursing. Additional bachelors degrees are available in Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Studies, with optional concentrations in Information Technology and Organizational Leadership. Hybrid programs are also available for undergraduate degrees in economics, English, finance, business administration, psychology, and sociology. Fully online graduate programs lead to the following degrees: Master of Science in Allied Health Master of Science in Digital Marketing Master of Science in Nursing Details The learning management system in place at ETSU is Desire2Learn (D2L). Certain degree tracks, such as the Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning Master of Education program, are available in conjunction with TN eCampus, a statewide repository of online coursework. Both synchronous (all students are online at assigned times) and asynchronous (students work through the content and assignments at their own pace) classes are available.

13. Overview Highlighting the transformative nature of higher education, Lee University is a private university that serves roughly 5,300 students. Located in Cleveland, Tennessee and founded in 1918, the universitys philosophy is rooted in the conservative, evangelical values of the Church of God. In 2014, Lee University was recognized by Christian Universities Online as the most affordable Christian college in the nation. Features The Division of Adult Learning at Lee offers both online and intensive hybrid programs of study. Fully online masters degree tracks include a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Studies, and a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry. Offerings at the bachelors level include the following fields of study: Business Administration Criminal Justice Liberal Studies Bible and Theology Ministry Leadership Details The online courses at Lee University use Moodle to allow students to access the class syllabus, contact professors and peers, engage with course material, and complete assignments and tests. Classes are fully online, requiring no proctored exams or the use of any specialized equipment (such as a webcam or microphone) other than a typical computer connected to the internet. Classes generally follow an accelerated seven-week format. For both online and hybrid courses, the average student will need to spend 16 hours a week studying and working through class material to succeed in a particular class.

14. Tennessee Wesleyan University Overview Ranked number nine among the Best Value Colleges in the South by U.S. News World Report, Tennessee Wesleyan College combines a high level of affordability with personalized attention and support that empowers every student, on-campus or online, to meet their academic and professional goals. The colleges main campus in Athens is complemented by two satellite locations in Cleveland and Knoxville, which serve students in the nursing and Management Excellence degree completion programs. Features TWU offers a Professional Leadership in Criminal Justice bachelors degree through a hybrid program that requires class attendance one night a week. A fully online MBA is available, with concentrations in management and accounting. An RN to BSN online program is designed for registered nurses to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The Management Excellence degree completion program for working adults offers numerous tracks, including the following: Management Information Systems (fully online) Healthcare Management (fully online) Industrial Management (onsite at the Athens campus) Details While the flexible scheduling puts higher education in reach for busy working adults, the financial aid system at TWU is another important part of the universitys commitment to accessibility. More than 85 percent of TWU students receive financial aid, either through federal or state grants, work-study programs, or other scholarship opportunities. Over 90 percent of the students who apply for institutional financial aid receive some type of scholarship from TWU.

15. Overview Twelve miles from downtown Knoxville, Johnson University Tennessee enrolls roughly 800 undergraduate and graduate students. JUTN is the flagship campus of the Johnson University network, which also includes a campus near Orlando, Florida and satellite locations in Indianapolis, Knoxville, Louisville, and Phoenix. In addition to these physical locations, Johnson has a thriving online program, making this university an easily accessible, highly diverse, and faith-focused community of scholars. Features At Johnson University, students can pursue fully online programs at the associates, bachelors, masters, or doctorate level. Numerous certificate programs, mainly relating to theology and ministry, are also available at the graduate level. Popular online graduate programs include an MBA, an MA in Intercultural Studies, and a PhD in Leadership Studies. Online tracks offer the following undergraduate degrees: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Bachelor of Science in Nonprofit Administration Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Intercultural Studies Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Ministry Leadership Details The Johnson University distance learning program provides a 24/7 live chat for round-the-clock technical support. Coursework through Johnson Online is accessed through the learning management system Sakai. Typically, classes run on a seven-week schedule, with required weekly discussion posts and online assignments. All courses are asynchronous, so instructors will not take daily attendance or require students to sign on during assigned time slots.

16. Tennessee State University Overview Tennessee State University is a land-grant public institution located in Nashville, and the only state-funded historically black university in Tennessee. Roughly 9,000 students are enrolled at TSU, either at the 500-acre main campus on the Cumberland River, the Avon Williams downtown campus in Nashvilles business and government district, or through the distance education program. Features TSU Online provides a number of instructional formats, including asynchronous classes, interactive video instruction, and hybrid program models. The online graduate school offers tracks leading to degrees in Holistic Nursing, Speech and Hearing Science, Professional Studies (with concentrations in Strategic Leadership, Human Resource Leadership, and Training and Development), Nursing, and Career and Technical Education. The undergraduate programs at TSU Online include the following tracks: Interdisciplinary Studies Sociology Urban Studies Professional Studies (with concentrations in Health Administration, Information Technology, Organizational Leadership, and International Organizational Leadership) Details The Office of Student Support Services for Adult and Distance Learners is located on the Avon Williams campus in downtown Nashville. This is where students can enroll in classes and seek help with admissions, financial aid, academic planning, and other related services. Out-of-state students can utilize online help centers without needing to visit the office in person. Students will have access to courses through both TN eCampus, a digital repository of online classes shared with other Tennessee institutions, and through the TSU-exclusive Distance Education program.

17. Overview The history and rich heritage of Cumberland University reaches back 175 years to the universitys founding in 1842. Cumberlands impact as an institution is reflected in the success of its alumni: The school has produced more than 80 U.S. Congressmen, two justices of the Supreme Court, 13 governors, three ambassadors, and many others who have left their mark in the world of business, academics, politics, and the arts. As an independent liberal arts institution, Cumberland emphasizes a well-rounded, holistic education as a key component to the continuing success of its students. Features While all the coursework for Cumberlands online programs is delivered remotely, the instructors are available for phone calls and on-campus meetings to provide the best possible educational experience for students. The fully online degree tracks at Cumberland University include the following: Master of Business Administration Master of Arts in Education Master of Science in Nursing Bachelor of Science in Nursing Details The distance learning programs are designed to be completed within 18 months, but this time frame will vary depending on an individual students schedule and course load. In some cases, students may be able to earn their degree in as little as one year, particularly if they can take advantage of the schools credit transfer program. Over 60 percent of Cumberland University students receive a financial aid package.

18. Overview Originally established as a seminary to train pastors, Bethel University has kept its foundation in Presbyterian philosophy and vastly expanded its academic opportunities for students. The university now has campuses in seven locations, including Jackson, McKenzie, Memphis, Nashville, and Paris, Tennessee. Features In 2007, Bethel University launched a fully online Master of Business Administration program. The Executive concentration in this MBA track has been ranked as the top program of its kind in the state of Tennessee. (Other available concentrations include Academic Practitioner, Healthcare Administration, and HR Management.) In 2009, the university added an online Organizational Leadership bachelors degree. Additional distance learning opportunities at the undergraduate level include tracks in the following fields: Criminal Justice Emergency Services Management Management Organizational Development Healthcare Management and Information Technology (both concentrations for the Organizational Leadership program) Details The MBA program at Bethel University can be completed in as little as 19 months. All of the online tracks, both graduate and undergraduate, are entirely writing-based, with no tests or exams. Support is available 24/7 in the form of tutorials provided by academic tutoring platform SmartThinking. A personal advisor will be assigned to each student to help guide them through the unique challenges of distance learning. Necessary technology for success in remote coursework is provided to every Bethel online student at no additional cost.

19. Overview Welch College makes its home on an intimate nine-acre campus on Nashvilles West End Avenue. The college has a total enrollment of over 300 students, and it serves as the national college of the 300,000-member Free Will Baptist denomination. Established as Free Will Baptist Bible College in 1942, the institution changed its name to Welch College in 2012 to reflect its development into a more comprehensive Christian school. Features The accreditation and core objectives are the same for both on-campus and distance learning academic programs. As a result, both traditional and remote Welch students are expected to ascribe to the same philosophy of intellectual excellence and Christian faith. Degree programs through the Welch online program include: Associate of Science in Ministry Associate of Science in Business Bachelor of Science in Theology Associate of Arts (a generalized liberal arts curriculum with a basis in biblical studies) Details Roughly 90 percent of Welch students receive one or more types of financial aid. The university awards more than $4 million yearly in institutional aid, and consistently ranks highly in the U.S. News World Report list of top colleges in the nation for awarding merit-based scholarships. Class schedules are comparable to a traditional residential college: A typical associates degree program will require a full two years of study, while a bachelors degree program will require a full four years of study.

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