Top Tennessee Online Colleges

Discover the top schools in Tennessee with online programs and what types of programs are available. Learn what to look for when choosing a school, how to get financial aid and what types of jobs you may qualify for after graduation.

Top Tennessee Colleges with Online Programs

To determine the best schools for online college programs, it's important to consider things like cost, flexibility, program length and accreditation. The best 20 colleges in Tennessee with online programs are listed below.

1. University of Memphis

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Memphis $9,317 98%

The University of Memphis was founded in 1912 and welcomes over 21,000 students every year. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, or SACSCOC. Students can pursue more than 60 degree programs online, such as those in business, computing, engineering and social science. Online undergraduate students have a tuition rate of $463 per credit hour while online graduate students have a tuition rate of $647 per credit.

2. East Tennessee State University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Johnson City $8,935 97%

East Tennessee State University has been accredited by the SACSCOC since 1927 and currently has over 14,000 students. The school emphasizes respect, dignity, diversity and collaboration and a commitment to intellectual and academic success. Online undergraduate residents of Tennessee have a tuition rate of $422 and can choose from 10 completely online programs and 6 primarily online programs. In-state graduate students can choose from more than 20 hybrid and online programs, such as those in nursing and education, and have a tuition rate of $601 per credit hour.

3. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Knoxville $13,006 94%

Founded in 1794, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville was one of the first institutions of higher learning in the 'West' and that tradition continues with the school's online education. Accredited by the SACSCOC, UT offers online undergraduate programs in nursing and social work, which have tuition fees of $378 (in-state) and $453 (out-of-state) per credit hour. Graduate students have a tuition rate of $639 to $714 per credit hour and can pursue around 20 different online programs including those in nursing, engineering and social work. UT Knoxville is a highly regarded research college that emphasizes creativity, engagement and education.

4. Southern Adventist University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Collegedale $21,950 99%

Southern Adventist University emphasizes biblical instruction, promotes professional and academic excellence and encourages lives of service for students, staff and faculty. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and has specialized accreditation for some of its online programs. Undergraduate students have a tuition rate of $366 to $915 per credit hour and can choose from several programs that offer part of the required coursework online. Graduate students can pursue online programs in business and/or nursing and have a tuition rate of $650 or $860 (doctoral) per credit hour.

5. Austin Peay State University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Clarksville $8,159 99%

Austin Peay State University has been providing educational programs since 1927 and has more than 11,000 students as of the fall of 2019. The school is accredited by the SACSCOC and is the top school in the state for military students. Students can pursue around 30 certificate and degree programs completely online, including programs in sociology, nursing, political science and leadership. In-state students have tuition rates of $280 (undergraduate) or $450 (graduate) per credit hour but can qualify for a significantly discounted flat-rate if enrolled in at least 13 (undergraduate) or 11 (graduate) credit hours.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6 Lee University Cleveland $17,690 98%
7 Johnson University Knoxville $16,060 99%
8 Middle Tennessee State University Murfreesboro $8,858 95%
9 Free-Hardeman University Henderson $21,950 100%
10 Trevecca Nazarene University Nashville $25,598 100%
11 The University of Tennessee-Martin Martin $9,512 98%
12 The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Chattanooga $8,664 96%
13 Union University Jackson $32,610 100%
14 Carson-Newman University Jefferson City $27,900 100%
15 Welch College Gallatin $19,012 91%
16 Bethel University McKenzie $16,552 100%
17 King University Bristol $29,714 88%
18 Lincoln Memorial University Harrogate $22,010 99%
19 Lipscomb University Nashville $32,144 98%
20 Tennessee State University Nashville $8,792 97%

All table data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition represents the 2018-2019 undergraduate school year's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Choosing the Right Tennessee College for an Online Program

When you are narrowing down your school choices for an online program in Tennessee, there are a few factors that you should consider.

Admissions Requirements

When choosing a school for your online program in Tennessee, check out its admissions requirements. How do your SAT scores and GPA measure up? Will you be able to get solid letters of recommendation if required?


Depending on your selected program and career interests, accreditation may be a necessary part of your school selection. Even if it isn't required for your field, it can greatly increase your chance of a quality education and career. We'll investigate accreditation in more detail below.


Some online programs allow students to study part-time or full-time, taking courses at their own pace. Other programs, however, are offered in specific formats and schools sometimes run courses in a specific order. Check with your candidate schools to ensure that your program is offered in the format that works best for your lifestyle.

Residency Requirements

Depending on your program and school, you may need to complete some on-site requirements. These may be done on campus or at practicum sites one or more times during your program. Ask your admissions counselors about what residency requirements are involved with your program and if they can be completed near where you live.


The cost of your online program can range from a few thousand dollars to more than $60,000; costs vary by degree level, courses required and residency (when applicable). Tuition is the largest cost in an online program and is typically charged per credit hour, although some schools do offer flat-rate costs to full-time students. Compare the total costs for your programs and remember that there are various types of financial aid available to online students in Tennessee.

Why Accreditation Matters for Online Programs in Tennessee

Two main types of accreditation can affect students of online programs in Tennessee: institutional and specialized.

Institutional Accreditation

Institutional accreditation applies to an entire school and shows that a school meets quality criteria regarding things like graduation rates, curriculum and faculty. Institutional accreditation can be regional or national, the differences of which are highlighted in the table below. Institutional accreditation of either type is necessary for students to qualify for federal financial aid, and can be beneficial in future employment and education.

Characteristic National vs. Regional
Cost Many nationally accredited schools are less expensive than regionally accredited schools.
Quality Regional accreditation focuses on specific regions within the U.S. and has stricter standards for accreditation than national (meaning students may have a higher-quality experience)
Credit Transfer Credits from regionally accredited schools can be transferred to regionally and nationally accredited schools, but credits earned from nationally accredited schools can only be transferred to other nationally accredited schools
Tuition Reimbursement While some employers offer tuition reimbursement to graduates from both, many corporate reimbursement programs are only available to graduates of regionally accredited schools.
Admissions Requirements Nationally accredited schools usually have more relaxed admissions requirements than regionally accredited schools.

Specialized Accreditation

Specialized accreditation, also referred to as programmatic accreditation, applies to certain programs and/or academic units. Students in some fields (such as nursing) usually need to graduate from an accredited program to qualify for their relevant licensure. There are other accredited programs, such as those in business, that are not necessarily required but can give graduates an advantage in their career search. Students should note that not all programs have specialized accreditation, and should review the requirements for their career interests to find out what (if any) specialized accreditation applies to them.

Financial Aid for Online Students of Tennessee Colleges

Online students in Tennessee colleges can qualify for several types of financial aid, including scholarships, grants and student loans. Students who are interested in financial aid should first apply for federal aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA allows students to see what types of federal aid that they qualify for, and also sends the application results directly to any schools that students include. After completing the FAFSA, students should review the types of aid that are available through their school as well as external sources, such as the state of Tennessee's College Pays website.

Student Loans

Student loans are available through the government as well as through private lenders. Government loans should be used before any private loans because they have nationally set interest rates, are income-based and offer flexible repayment options.

Loan Forgiveness

Loan forgiveness is offered by both the federal and state government and is available to various students. For example, the federal government offers loan forgiveness to students who work in certain public-service positions for around 10 years, and Tennessee offers loan forgiveness to qualifying graduates who work in teaching and nursing roles.


Work-study is offered by some employers as well as schools that participate in the federal work-study program. Students can earn funding for their programs by working part-time while in school. When available, students are able to work in roles that are relevant to their fields of study and gain valuable experience.


Scholarships are available through schools, private organizations and the government. Students can find countless scholarships through websites such as College Pays and CareerOneStop (funded by the U.S. Department of Labor). Some scholarships offered to Tennessee students are listed below.

  • Tennessee Student Assistance Award - available to Tennessee residents with financial need.
  • TCAT Reconnect Grant - offered to undergraduate students who are considered independent.
  • TN Promise Scholarship - available to full-time students who complete required community service and mentoring hours.
  • Ned McWherter Scholars Program - offered to graduating high school seniors who demonstrate academic excellence.
  • Christa McAuliffe Scholarship Program - offered to students pursuing teaching programs.


Grants, like scholarships, are a type of financial aid that students do not have to pay back. Listed below are some grants that are available to online students in Tennessee.

  • Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant - awarded to TN students pursuing a diploma or certificate.
  • Tennessee HOPE Access Grant - awarded to qualifying freshman undergraduate students.
  • TN HOPE Foster Child Grant - offered to qualifying students who were in foster care.


The Southern Regional Education Board is a nonprofit organization composed of 16 states, including Tennessee, that offers educational resources and assistance to students in the participating states.

Academic Common Market

The Academic Common Market, or ACM, enables students to be eligible for in-state tuition at a school within the SREB. To qualify, the selected program must not be available within the student's home state.

SREB-State Doctoral Scholars Program

This program provides financial and other assistance to minority students pursuing doctoral degrees and careers in postsecondary education to change the balance of diversity in United States faculty. Currently, around 10% of all faculty across the nation is made up of minorities.

Careers for Graduates of Online Programs in Tennessee

Graduates of online programs in Tennessee can pursue countless careers, although career options are somewhat determined by the degree or certificate obtained. Tennessee's Department of Labor & Workforce Development offers tools to find earnings and job trends through its website. Students can look at different positions to check out prospects for their career interests.

The U.S. Bureau of Statistics compiles career data, such as growth and earnings. Some of the careers that are expected to see the most growth in Tennessee over the next few years are listed below.

  • Interpreters and Translators - Interpreters and translators translate and interpret written and spoken word.
  • Nurse Practitioners - Nurse practitioners provide advanced care to patients as collaborative care providers and primary care providers.
  • Health Educators - Health educators create and oversee health education programs for communities, families and individuals.
  • Accountants and Auditors - These individuals review, compile and maintain financial records for organizations and individuals.
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors - These professionals provide counsel and assistance to people with various problems and disorders.
  • Marketing Managers - Marketing managers oversee marketing staff, campaigns and operations for organizations.
  • Software Developers, Applications - Software developers create and test application software used by computers and other devices.
  • Dietitians and Nutritionists - Dietitians and nutritionists advise people on healthy habits for improving their diets and lifestyles.
  • Computer and Information Systems Managers - These professionals oversee the operations and activities in programming, data, and similar fields.

Job Title Mean Annual Salary (2018, Tennessee) Typical Education Needed
Interpreters and Translators $43,550 Bachelor's degree
Nurse Practitioners $95,990 Master's degree
Health Educators $40,700 Bachelor's degree
Accountants and Auditors $69,690 Bachelor's degree
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors $38,030 Bachelor's degree
Marketing Managers $118,740 Bachelor's degree
Software Developers, Applications $87,630 Bachelor's degree
Dieticians $55,120 Bachelor's degree
Computer and Information Systems Managers $118,660 Bachelor's degree

All table data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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