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Online Degrees in Tennessee (TN)


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Methodology  To be included in our ranking of the best colleges for online degree programs, all colleges had to meet the following five criteria:
  1. Be an accredited U.S. institution
  2. Offer either 2- or 4-year degree programs
  3. Have at least 1 percent of students taking at least some of their classes via distance education
  4. Be active in the 2015-16 school year
  5. Report data for all 15 specific ranking variables included in our methodology

We then ranked the remaining 2,169 colleges and universities and scored each on a 100-point scale on these specific. Our data points include:

  • The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • The average amount of federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • Full-time Retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • Percent of students participating fully or partially in distance education to total enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • No. of degree programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
  • Open admissions policy for all or most entering first-time undergraduate-level students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
    • Dual credit
    • Credit for life experience
    • Advanced Placement credit
    • Academic and career counseling
    • Job placement services for graduates
    • Offers credit for military training

Sources:

  • Admissions Requirements, South College, https://www.southcollegetn.edu/admissions/admissions-requirements, accessed April 2018
  • AdviseTN, Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), https://www.tn.gov/thec/bureaus/student-aid-and-compliance/college-access/redirect-college-access-and-success/advise-tn.html, accessed May 2018
  • College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=TN&ct=1+2+3&ic=1+2+3, accessed April 2018
  • CollegePaysTN, TN Higher Education Commission and Student Assistance Corporation, https://www.tn.gov/collegepays, accessed May 2018
  • Education Beyond High School, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Recovery2020.SR_.Web_.pdf, accessed April 2018
  • Governor's Drive to 55, The College System of Tennessee, https://www.tbr.edu/initiatives/governors-drive-55, accessed May 2018
  • Industry Projections (Long-term) for Multiple Industries in Tennessee in 2014-2024, Tennessee Government, https://www.jobs4tn.gov/vosnet/analyzer/results.aspx?enc=9bfxYCUawMEI8NJGd4XMp3BWhc88lC+Uyyf5mUqJADg=, accessed May 2018
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  • Money for College, TN.gov, https://www.tn.gov/collegepays/money-for-college.html, accessed April 2018
  • Online Degree Programs: How to Tell the Good From the Bad, U.S. News & World Report, https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2012/11/09/online-degree-programs-how-to-tell-the-good-from-the-bad, accessed April 2018
  • Pay For College, Tennessee Reconnect, https://www.tnreconnect.gov/PayForCollege/tabid/5232/Default.aspx, accessed April 2018
  • SARA Key Attributes, http://nc-sara.org/about/key-attributes-sara, http://nc-sara.org/files/docs/C-RAC%20Guidelines.pdf, accessed May 2018
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, http://www.sacs.org/, accessed April 2018
  • Stronger Nation, Lumina Foundation, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2018/#state/TN accessed April 2018
  • Tennessee College Access and Success Network, https://www.tncollegeaccess.org/mission-history/, accessed May 2018
  • Tennessee Higher Education Fact Book 2016-2017, Section V Quality Assurance Funding 2015 - 2016, https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/thec/bureau/research/other-research/factbook/2016-17_Fact_Book_Suppressed_Final_2.pdf Tennessee Promise, The College System of Tennessee, https://www.tbr.edu/initiatives/tn-promise, accessed May 2018
  • Tennessee Reconnect, The College System of Tennessee, https://www.tbr.edu/initiatives/tn-reconnect, accessed May 2018
  • University of Tennessee Admission Requirements, PrepScholar, http://www.prepscholar.com/sat/s/colleges/University-of-Tennessee-admission-requirements, accessed April 2018
  • Occupations with Bright Outlooks in Tennessee's Job Markets, Jobs4TN.gov, https://www.jobs4tn.gov/admin/gsipub/htmlarea/uploads/Bright%20Outlook%20final%207-29-2015%20Report.pdf, accessed April 2018
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, http://www.sacs.org/, accessed April 2018
  • 10 Questions to Ask Before Selecting an Online University, Military.com, https://www.military.com/education/finding-a-school/10-questions-to-ask-before-selecting-an-online-university.html, accessed April 2018
  • Online Degree Programs: How to Tell the Good From the Bad, U.S. News & World Report, https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2012/11/09/online-degree-programs-how-to-tell-the-good-from-the-bad, accessed April 2018
  • 5 disadvantages to consider about online education - Petersons.com, https://www.petersons.com/blog/5-disadvantages-to-consider-about-online-education/, accessed April 2018
  • Money for College, TN.gov, https://www.tn.gov/collegepays/money-for-college.html, accessed April 2018
  • Pay For College, Tennessee Reconnect, https://www.tnreconnect.gov/PayForCollege/tabid/5232/Default.aspx, accessed April 2018
  • Admissions Requirements, South College, https://www.southcollegetn.edu/admissions/admissions-requirements/, accessed April 2018
  • University of Tennessee Admission Requirements, PrepScholar, http://www.prepscholar.com/sat/s/colleges/University-of-Tennessee-admission-requirements, accessed April 2018
  • Looking at the latest wage data by education level, Economic Policy Institute, https://www.epi.org/blog/looking-at-the-latest-wage-data-by-education-level/, accessed April 2018
  • Tennessee Board of Regents, https://www.tbr.edu/, accessed April 2018
  • Programs and Initiatives, Tennessee Board of Regents, https://www.tbr.edu/initiatives/programs-and-initiatives, accessed April 2018
  • TN eCampus, https://www.tnecampus.org/, accessed April 2018
  • Online Learning /TN eCampus, Tennessee Board of Regents, https://www.tbr.edu/initiatives/online-learning-tn-ecampus, accessed April 2018
  • Tennessee State's Community College Initiative Fulfills Dream for Many Seeking Four-Year Degree,
  • Tennessee State University Newsroom, http://tnstatenewsroom.com/archives/15917, accessed April 2018
  • Electronic Campus, Southern Regional Education Board, TN.gov, https://www.sreb.org/electronic-campus, accessed April 2018
  • Types of Tests, Tennessee State University, http://www.tnstate.edu/testing/types.aspx, accessed April 2018
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online degrees in Tennessee
Tennessee is making strides in educational attainment like few other states! According to a recent study from the Lumina Foundation, the percentage of adults with an associate degree or higher has surged from just 31.3 percent in 2008 to 40.7 percent in 2016. However, with the national average for degree attainment hovering at around 45 percent, there is still room for improvement. And with the state reporting a high number of positions opening up in the coming years that will likely need to be filled by professionals with a college credential, this may be the right time for Tennesseans to consider earning the degree they have always wanted.

If lack of time to be on a college campus is what's holding you back from earning a college degree, Tennessee has plenty schools that offer online learning options. The National Center for Education Statistics lists 100 colleges and universities in the state, many of which offer two- and four-year online degree programs.

Online offerings allow fresh high school graduates, professionals wanting a career change, and those trying to get a promotion a way to earn their postsecondary credential and still fulfill their jobs and other responsibilities.

With more than half the jobs (58 percent) in 2020 requiring a college degree, according to a Georgetown University report, earning a college degree may give you the edge you need to compete for higher-paying jobs in Tennessee's growing economy.

A 2016 Lumina Foundation study on Tennessee's progress toward its educational goals, reported that among adults age 25 to 64:

  • 16.7 percent had some college experience, but no degree
  • 5 percent held a professional certificate
  • 8 percent held an associate degree
  • 18.2 percent held a bachelor's
  • 9.5 percent held a graduate or professional degree

Another reason for Tennesseans to earn a college a degree is because of the correlation between earning potential and education. Those who hold a college degree earn more than high school graduates. According to the Economic Policy Institute, average earnings in 2016 across the country in relation to education levels were:

  • Workers without a high school diploma made an average of $13.01 per hour
  • Workers with a high school diploma or equivalent made an average of $17.14 per hour
  • Workers with some college made an average of $19.09 per hour
  • Workers with a college degree made an average of $31.87 per hour
  • Workers with an advanced degree made an average of $40.76 per hour

Whether you are going back to school to complete your education, entering college for the first time, or advancing in your education to aim for a raise or promotion, students need to know that the school they attend is geared to their success as a distance education student. In order to help prospective online students make this important choice, we have compiled a list of the top online colleges in Tennessee based on factors we believe online students would care about most.

The following list of top colleges was created from our methodology that weighs accredited two- and four-year colleges' tuition rate, flexibility, student services, placement services, percentage of students participating in distance education, and degree completion rates.

1
Lipscomb University
Nashville, TN
Average in-state tuition
$28,556
No. of online programs
4
% of students in distance education
36%
Avg. amount of Aid
$18,924
Admissions Rate
60%
Graduation Rate
59%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
2
Tennessee Technological University
Cookeville, TN
Average in-state tuition
$7,296
No. of online programs
6
% of students in distance education
68%
Avg. amount of Aid
$8,185
Admissions Rate
64%
Graduation Rate
49%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
3
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville
Knoxville, TN
Average in-state tuition
$11,110
No. of online programs
19
% of students in distance education
32%
Avg. amount of Aid
$8,964
Admissions Rate
77%
Graduation Rate
70%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
4
Carson-Newman University
Jefferson City, TN
Average in-state tuition
$26,200
No. of online programs
16
% of students in distance education
45%
Avg. amount of Aid
$18,792
Admissions Rate
67%
Graduation Rate
46%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
5
Southern Adventist University
Collegedale, TN
Average in-state tuition
$20,700
No. of online programs
4
% of students in distance education
30%
Avg. amount of Aid
$13,214
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
52%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
6
Belmont University
Nashville, TN
Average in-state tuition
$31,300
No. of online programs
N/A
% of students in distance education
31%
Avg. amount of Aid
$12,737
Admissions Rate
81%
Graduation Rate
70%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
7
University of Memphis
Memphis, TN
Average in-state tuition
$7,680
No. of online programs
45
% of students in distance education
35%
Avg. amount of Aid
$7,030
Admissions Rate
85%
Graduation Rate
43%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
8
King University
Bristol, TN
Average in-state tuition
$27,024
No. of online programs
20
% of students in distance education
57%
Avg. amount of Aid
$11,928
Admissions Rate
51%
Graduation Rate
52%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
9
Union University
Jackson, TN
Average in-state tuition
$30,480
No. of online programs
8
% of students in distance education
31%
Avg. amount of Aid
$18,807
Admissions Rate
60%
Graduation Rate
68%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
10
Fountainhead College of Technology
Knoxville, TN
Average in-state tuition
$14,550
No. of online programs
5
% of students in distance education
100%
Avg. amount of Aid
$3,861
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
44%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

In order to ensure they can compete in the changing economy, Tennessee residents need to earn online degrees that will likely equip them for careers in industries that are expected to grow. Popularity of online degree programs based on higher number of enrollments may be an indication of fields that are or will probably be in good demand in the coming years.

The following list displays the top online degree programs in Tennessee based on data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. While reviewing the list, students should remember that no matter what subject they choose to study, the school they enroll in should be accredited to ensure they're receiving a quality education.

Program Name
No. of online programs
Business Administration and Management, General
36
General Studies
21
Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse
18
Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration
14
Bible/Biblical Studies
11
Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal Studies
11
Education, General
9
Criminal Justice/Safety Studies
8
Web Page, Digital/Multimedia and Information Resources Design
8
Health/Health Care Administration/Management
7

Quality Assurance Funding (QAF) is a performance-based model that incentivizes the promotion of academic excellence among higher education institutes in Tennessee — regardless of whether courses are offered online or on campus. Implemented in 1979 by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), QAF evaluates postsecondary institutes (which include online colleges and universities) based on 7 qualitative and quantitative measures as described in the Tennessee Higher Education Fact Book (2016-2017):

  • General Education Assessment
  • Academic Major Assessment (e.g., licensure)
  • Academic Programs (e.g., accredited programs)
  • Institutional Satisfaction Study (e.g., surveys of students/alumni)
  • Adult Learner Success
  • Tennessee Job Market Graduate Placement
  • Student Access and Success

Institutes that meet these quality standards can earn up to 5.45 percent above their annual operating budgets.

Tennessee is a SARA state. SARA stands for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements and according to their website, it "is a voluntary agreement among its member states and U.S. territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance-education courses and programs." SARA-participating institutions agree to follow best practices for distance education as laid out in their Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education. Adhering to these guidelines ensures that SARA-participating institutes offer comparable distance learning offerings that are as rigorous as traditional on-campus programs.

Students who are considering earning online degrees in Tennessee should look for schools that are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting body which is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the United States Department of Education. When accrediting a school, the organization evaluates its education content and structure, student achievement, goals, planning effectiveness, faculty, governing board, mission, administration, library, learning resources, educational policies, and student support services.

Tennessee has introduced several different initiatives to support growth in higher education. Governor Bill Haslam initiated the Drive 55 Alliance consisting of the private sector, leaders and nonprofit organizations. The goal is to increase the percentage of college degree and certificate holders in the state to 55 by 2025. To this end, the Drive55 Alliance seeks greater partnership with industry leaders to help identify and close skills gaps. This will better prepare Tennessee's workforce to meet future economic growth. The state seeks to promote and increase college entry and completion through the following initiatives:

  • AdviseTN, developed by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), works with high school students to help them learn more about and enroll in postsecondary options that they are likely to succeed in.
  • The Tennessee College Access and Success Network, a nonprofit professional organization funded by the Lumina Foundation, aims to promote a college-going culture and increase the number of people who participate in postsecondary education and successfully complete an undergrad program.
  • The Tennessee Transfer Pathways helps students transfer smoothly from a community college to a four-year college or university to complete their baccalaureate degree.
  • The Tennessee Promise not only serves as a mentoring program for high school students but can provide students with a "last dollar scholarship" which covers tuition and fees not covered by the Pell Grant, the HOPE scholarship or the Tennessee Student Assistance Award Program (TSAA )funds for two years of technical or community college.
  • Tennessee Reconnect helps adults to return to school to complete their college credential, learn new skills through higher education and be eligible for advanced positions in the workplace.

Students who are looking for online degree programs in Tennessee can find them through TN eCampus, which allows users to search for programs and courses from certificate, associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs at schools affiliated with the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Online education in Tennessee is ideal for almost any type of student — rich or poor, rural or urban, young or old. Not only does distance learning in Tennessee increase access for the state's rural residents, but it also makes it easier for working adults to remain in the workforce while they earn an advanced degree or finish a degree they have already started.

According to Joe Kitterman, founder of 180Skills.com, an online career and technical education service that seeks to enable careers seekers to gain the skills they need for meaningful employment, "finding a…form of education… that allows individuals to flexibly balance existing work with their training is an important enabler to helping them prosper."

Kitterman elaborates, "As an example, Forbes.com has listed Nashville/Davidson/Murfreesboro/Franklin, Tennessee among its top 10 manufacturing boomtowns. Finding the right mixture of affordable education that's connected to these growing companies… can be a quick and effective way to become gainfully employed."

"Online education isn't going anywhere," adds Kitterman. "For individuals who find work, the majority of formal career and technical education they'll receive after embarking upon their career will probably be web-enabled. Becoming accustomed to this form of training will serve individuals throughout their entire career and beyond as lifelong learners."

According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, between 2014 and 2024,400,000 jobs are projected to be added to the state's workforce. The information in this table, sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lists the top occupations for the state along with their projections.

Occupation
Number of Workers
(2018)
Average Salary
(2018)
Office and Administrative Support Occupations468,630$36,220
Sales and Related Occupations287,500$37,500
Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations277,940$21,900
Transportation and Material Moving Occupations277,290$35,010
Production Occupations265,850$36,780
Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations195,400$70,110
Management Occupations169,830$98,980
Education, Training, and Library Occupations155,930$49,960
Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations127,750$45,290
Business and Financial Operations Occupations127,220$64,340
Construction and Extraction Occupations96,050$41,790
Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand95,200$29,300
Retail Salespersons88,980$27,790
Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations81,360$26,240
Personal Care and Service Occupations79,870$25,040
Source: 2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Students can apply for federal aid such as Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, Pell Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.

In addition to federal assistance, there are several available scholarships and financial aid in Tennessee to students who qualify. The following are some examples of state-sponsored financial aid:

More information on federal and state-level financial aid and scholarships is available on CollegePaysTN.

Scholarship Listing

Tennessee Student Assistance Award
No. of Awards
20,000
Deadline
March 1
Max. Award Amount
4,644
Renewable
Yes
Criteria
Applicant must be a Tennessee resident and United States citizen who is an undergraduate student pursuing their first degree and who is enrolled at least half-time at an eligible Tennessee post-secondary institution. Financial need is determined by FAFSA.
More
Ned McWherter Scholars
No. of Awards
180
Deadline
February 15
Max. Award Amount
6,000
Renewable
Yes
Criteria
Applicant must be a United States citizen who is a Tennessee resident entering as a freshman student at an eligible Tennessee post-secondary institution as a full-time student. Applicant must have a minimum composite ACT score of 29 (combined SAT Reasoning score of 1280) on a national test date with a minimum 3.5 unweighted GPA.Extra credit for honors or advanced placement courses and leadership in extracurricular activities. Award is highly competitive.
More
Dependent Children Scholarship
No. of Awards
15
Deadline
July 15
Max. Award Amount
N/A
Renewable
Yes
Criteria
Applicant must be a Tennessee resident and United States citizen who is the dependent child of a law enforcement officer, fireman, or emergency medical technical who was killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty while employed in Tennessee. Applicant must be enrolled full-time as an undergraduate student at an eligible Tennessee postsecondary institution. Financial need as determined by FAFSA.
More
Tennessee Academic Scholars
No. of Awards
4
Deadline
January 15
Max. Award Amount
5,000
Renewable
Yes
Criteria
Applicant must have a minimum 3.5 GPA and standardized test scores in at least the 95th percentile nationally and be a Tennessee resident.
More
Ruby Holmes Hefley Scholarship Fund
No. of Awards
1
Deadline
April 3
Max. Award Amount
N/A
Renewable
N/A
Criteria
Applicant must be the child of a parent(s) with a disability(ies) who is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income.
More

Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-19 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.

All online schools in Tennessee have their own standards for student admission, but generally schools look at students' grade point average and the courses they completed, as well as their scores on the SAT or ACT examinations. Students can find out the details of the grades and scores that are expected from the individual schools they are applying to.

In addition, Tennessee Board of Regents schools, such as Tennessee State University, require that students complete the Admissions Placement Exam (ACCUPLACER), which is designed to evaluate students' proficiency in mathematics, writing, and reading. There are also examinations that are administered for specific disciplines, such as the Dental Hygiene Assessment Exam for dental hygienists, the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination for attorneys, and the Praxis Series for teachers.

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