2024 Top Online Colleges in Tennessee

Scroll down to see the top not-for-profit colleges and universities in Tennessee offering online degree programs.

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Earning an online degree in Tennessee is a solid move. The state has plenty to offer in terms of programs and individual courses. In fact, there’s so much to take in that you might feel overwhelmed. Where should you look first? How can you get the best rate? How do you know whether the school is any good?

To save you money and time, we’ve assembled a concise guide to selecting an online program in Tennessee. We’ll cover everything from grants to course catalogs to accreditation databases, before listing our top colleges and universities. At the end, we’ll recap distance learning resources you should check out next.

School Selections

Bethel University

Bethel University has online programs for students seeking an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree. A degree in criminal justice is available at all three levels. The college also offers an online associate degree in business and an online MBA program with four available concentrations. Students with an associate degree or some previous college work can earn a bachelor's in emergency services management or organizational leadership through online coursework. The degree-completion program is for adults at least 23 years old with at least three years of work experience, and students can earn the degree in as few as 19 months.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

University of Memphis

University of Memphis offers 54 fully accredited online programs including bachelor's degrees in African and African-American studies, criminal justice, English, history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, communication, journalism, accountancy, finance, management, management information, marketing management, nursing, professional studies, and liberal studies; Master's degrees in English, history, criminal justice, applied computer science, journalism, teaching, educational psychology, health promotion, environmental nutrition, instructional and curriculum leadership, sport commerce, professional studies, business administration, nursing, public health, and liberal studies; a Ph.D. program in Higher & Adult Education; and many graduate certificates. Students pay unique fees for online classes that do not include fees charged to students on-campus, and financial aid is available in the form of loans, scholarships, and grants. Most classes allow students the flexibility to work on their own schedules. However, some classes may require students to be online at specific times. The University of Memphis website offers a helpful transfer equivalency table so transfer students can see exactly how their credits will transfer. Full 16-week semesters are available in the fall and spring as well as a 10-week summer session and several sessions between 4 and 8 weeks throughout the year.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Austin Peay State University

For students seeking degrees they can earn entirely online, Austin Peay State University offers one associate degree (an Associate of Science Liberal Arts); nine bachelor's degrees (in Communication Arts - Information Specialist, Computer Science and Information Systems, Criminal Justice - Homeland Security, Medical Technology - MLT to MLS/MT, Nursing RN to BSN, Political Science - Legal Studies, Professional Studies, Public Management, and Interdisciplinary Studies); eleven master's degrees (a Master of Arts in Communication Arts Program, a Master's in Reading Specialist Program, a Master's in Health Leadership - Health Administration, a Master's in Industrial - Organizational Psychology, a Master's in Management, a Master's in Military History, a Master's in Music - Music Education, a Master's in Professional Science, a Master's of Education - Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning, a Master of Science in Nursing - concentration in Nursing Education, Nursing Administration, Family Nurse Practitioner, and RN to MSN, and a Master of Professional Studies - concentration in Strategic Leadership, Human Resource Leadership, or Training and Development); as well as several teacher education and licensure programs. Classes allow students to work at times that are convenient for them, and there are many start dates throughout the year and options for shorter terms.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University offers eight bachelor's degrees online: a Bachelor in Science in Allied Health Leadership, a Bachelor in Science in Cardiopulmonary Science, a Bachelor in Science in Radiography, a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, a Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies, a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene, a Bachelor of Science in Human Services, and an R.N. to B.S.N. program for nurses. Additionally, they offer eight graduate degrees online: a Master of Education in Educational Leadership (concentration in school administration and leadership, student personnel leadership, or teacher leadership), a Master of Education in Educational Media and Educational Technology, a Master of Education in Teaching and Learning Advanced Studies, a Master of Science in Allied Health, a Master of Public Health (concentration in community health, epidemiology, or public health administration), a Master of Science in Nursing (concentration in family nurse practitioner, nursing administration, and nursing education), a Master of Science in Digital Marketing, and a Master of Professional Studies (concentration in strategic leadership or training and development) as well as graduate and professional certificates. Online students need to be self-motivated, but tutoring is available. There are flexible options for start dates and 5-week sessions as well as full-length semesters.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

King College

Kings College Online has an Associate of Arts program, about one dozen bachelor's completion programs, and two master's degrees that can all be completed in an online format. The online Associate of Arts is designed to provide flexibility and give students a good foundation of knowledge for their career or future educational pursuits. The courses are offered in five-week terms, and students can complete the program in 20 months. To earn the associate degree, students must pass a comprehensive general education test. Students who have an associate degree or at least 45 transferrable hours can complete their bachelor's degree online. Applicants to the program should have a college GPA of 2.2 or higher and must meet with a counselor to develop a plan of study. The college offers online programs leading to a Bachelor of Arts in English, Bachelor of Business Administration, and Bachelor of Science degrees in communication, criminal justice, health care administration, health informatics, history, information technology, interdisciplinary studies, nursing, psychology, and religious studies. Kings College also offers an online Master of Science in Nursing and an MBA with specializations in management, accounting, finance, health care management, human resource management, marketing, leadership, or project management.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

The University of Tennessee-Martin

Several of the online degrees offered by the University of Tennessee at Martin reflect the college's rural location. Online students can earn a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with a focus on agribusiness or farm and ranch management or an online Master of Science in Natural Resources. But many of the online programs could apply to students in any location, including the MBA for banking and financial service professionals and the Master of Science in Education. Undergrads have six degree options, including degree-completion programs for veterinary techs and registered nurses. Five graduate degrees are delivered via the internet. All the programs are 100 percent online with no requirements for campus visits, and course schedules follow a traditional academic calendar.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Tennessee Technological University

Tennessee Tech offers bachelor's and master's degree and teacher education programs online. Students seeking an undergraduate degree can earn a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies or a Bachelor of Professional Studies with a major in health administration, information technology, international organizational leadership, or organizational leadership. Master's programs include Master of Arts in Exercise Science, Physical Education and Wellness, Master of Education in Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning, or MBA with a concentration in finance, general accounting, human resource management, international business, or management information systems. Students seeking the Master of Professional Studies can concentrate in human resources leadership, strategic leadership, or training and development. Nursing programs offered online include Master of Science in Nursing with tracks in family nurse practitioner, nursing administration, and nursing education, and post-master's certificates in the same three specialties. Tennessee Tech also has an online RN to Master of Science in Nursing for students who have an associate degree or diploma in nursing. Teachers can enter online programs to earn endorsements in special education, math, or English as a second language.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

  • Advanced Placement Credit

10,900 Students

Columbia State Community College

Students who plan to transfer to a four-year school to earn a bachelor's degree can complete the first two years of their college education online at Columbia State Community College. Columbia State offers an Associate of Science and an Associate of Arts University Parallel program that covers the general education requirements for a bachelor's degree in Tennessee. Students who following a state transfer pathway when choosing classes should be able to transfer their credits to a state school and many private colleges. The associate degree requires 60 credits, with 41 credits in core general education requirements and 19 credits in emphasis courses, or lower level courses in the planned major.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Lee University

Lee University's Division of Adult Learning offers a range of online programs designed for students who have been out of high school for at least three years. Adult learners can earn a bachelor's degree, master's degree, or a certificate through online classwork. Online classes are delivered in a seven-week term, and most of the work is asynchronous, meaning students can work on it at a time that suits them. Occasionally, instructors may require students to log on at a specific time for an online meeting. Undergraduates have the choice of pursuing a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in any available major. Bachelor's degrees are offered in liberal studies, Bible and theology, Christian studies, and ministry leadership (with areas of emphasis in business, church administration, children's ministry, counseling, discipleship, music and worship, pastoral ministry, and youth ministry.) Master's degrees are offered in ministry studies, marriage and family studies, and business administration. Lee University offers a tuition discount for students in the undergraduate or graduate ministerial programs.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Walters State Community College

Although it doesn't have any fully online programs per se, Walters State Community College is able to offer students individual online courses from its own faculty as well as access to other schools' distance ed courses through the TN eCampus. Offerings obviously depend upon the semester, but students can find plenty of seats in popular general education courses such as Composition I, Introductory Biology and American History I, in addition to specialized offerings such as Introduction to Health Information Management. TN eCampus has additional specialities that aren't offered on every Tennessee community college campus, such as Infant and Toddler Care.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Roane State Community College

Students at Roane State Community College can complete an associate degree through online coursework, with the help of the TN eCampus. TN eCampus is a consortium that allows students to take online classes from other participating state colleges when they can't get the course they need at their home college. Students have to use a differ login and pay an additional fee for eCampus, but they enjoy the convenience of online classes and easy transfer of credits. Online students can earn a general studies transfer associate degree or earn a career degree in criminal justice, early childhood education, or health information technology. RSCC has two certificates programs online - GIS and healthcare documentation specialist.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

The University of Tennessee

Students who wish to earn an RN to BSN degree may do so online through the university's online program. UTK also offers nine online M.S. degrees in the following areas: Agricultural and Extension Education, Civil Engineering Public Works Option, Environmental Engineering, Industrial and Information Engineering, Information Sciences, Social Work, Reliability and Maintainability Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, and Rehabilitation and Counseling Program. UTK Online has four MBA programs (Aerospace Executive, Executive, Physician's Executive and Professional), which are offered as hybrid programs. UTK Online offers five graduate certificate programs in Applied Statistics, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Engineering Management, Nuclear Criticality Safety, and Reliability and Maintainability Engineering.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

  • Advanced Placement Credit

27,845 Students

Tennessee State University

Tennessee State University offers an array of online degrees at the bachelor's and master's level. All the undergraduate programs lead to a bachelor of science. Students can major in urban studies, sociology, interdisciplinary studies, or professional studies with a concentration in health administration, information technology, international organizational leadership, or organizational leadership. Master's options include Master of Science in Holistic Nursing, M.S. in Speech and Hearing Services, Master of Science in Nursing, and Master of Education in Career and Technical Education. The Master of Professional Studies program has three concentrations: strategic leadership, human resource leadership, or training and development. Students interested in applied geospatial information systems can earn a professional science master's or a graduate certificate in the subject. Students taking classes through TSU Online have access to a number of student support services, including 24/7 technical support via phone, an online library, online bookstore, verified sites for proctored testing, online tutoring services, and an online virtual campus where students can interact with other students and gain a sense of connection to the TSU community.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Bryan College-Dayton

Adult learners can finish an undergraduate degree or earn a masters' while continuing to work full time through Bryan University's online adult degree programs. All the programs are delivered 100 percent online, and financial aid is available to online students who qualify. Undergraduate classes are offered in an accelerated six-week format, and students can start the program any time a new session starts. Bryan allows adult learners to earn academic credit for life experiences to accelerate the completion of their degree. Master's classes are delivered in a 12-week format, providing new students with multiple start dates each year. Undergrads can earn an Associate of Business, Bachelor of Science in Applied Psychology, or a Bachelor of Business Administration with a specialization in leadership, health care management, or human resource management. Master's programs offered online include a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry with specializations in administration or Bible education; MBA with specializations in marketing, human resources, or ministry; or Master of Education. The education master's is a non-licensure program that allows students to specialize in teaching and learning or Christian school administration. Graduate certificates in human resources or marketing are also offered online.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

  • Advanced Placement Credit

1,489 Students

Johnson University

Johnson University offers a variety of online programs at all levels, from associate degrees to doctoral programs. Courses typically run for seven or eight weeks and are delivered in an asynchronous format that does not require students to log on at a specific time to attend class. Online students are assigned an academic adviser and have access to the same services as do students who attend Johnson at one of its campuses. Degrees are offered through four of Johnson University's schools. The School of Bible and Theology offers an associate degree in biblical studies and a Master of Arts in New Testament with concentrations in preaching, research, spiritual formation and leadership, or a customized concentration. The School of Business and Public Leadership offers bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies with concentrations in educational leadership, organizational leadership, philosophy and theology of leadership, or missional leadership. The School of Congregational Ministry offers an associate degree in ministry leadership and bachelor's programs in pastoral care and counseling and in ministry leadership. The School of Intercultural Studies offers associate, bachelor's, and master's programs in intercultural studies. Most of the schools also offer graduate certificates in related subjects.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Trevecca Nazarene University

Trevecca Nazarene University offers a range of degrees - from associate to doctoral - through its Trevecca Online programs. These degrees are designed for working adults and deliver coursework in an asynchronous format so that students can do the work when it fits into their personal schedule. Many of the programs use a cohort format so that a student moves through the program with the same group of people, developing a network of support. Associate of arts degrees are awarded in general studies and human services, and an Associate of Science in Business Management is also available. The bachelor's degrees are degree-completion programs that are open to students who transfer at least 40 hours of college credit. Undergrads can earn a bachelor's degree in Christian ministry, general studies, management and human relations, or health care administration. Online master's programs include an MBA, organizational leadership, instructional design and technology, and religion. Educators can earn a masters' in curriculum and instruction, curriculum and instruction for Christian school educators, English as a second language, and an Ed.D. in Leadership and Professional Practice. Trevecca grants credit for some professional training through a prior learning assessment and by exam.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Cumberland University

The Jeanette C. Rudy School of Nursing & Health Professions at Cumberland University offers an RN to BSN degree that can be completed entirely online. The program is comprised of 36 - 39 semester hours. Applicants must have a nursing diploma or an Associate of Science degree in nursing, two years of work experience as an RN, and a valid RN license. Cumberland University offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree that can also be completed 100 percent online. The MSN program consists of 36 semester hours and can be earned in just 18 months following a full-time plan of study. The program has three start dates every year and a Nurse Educator specialization is available. The online Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at Cumberland University is comprised of 36 semester hours. Students accepted to the program can choose to specialize in general business or in healthcare administration. Alternately, students can opt to complete 9 hours of thesis work instead of choosing an area of specialization. There is also an online Master of Arts in Education degree available. More than 60 percent of students who enroll in these online graduate-level programs receive some type of financial aid.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Southern Adventist University

Of the 3,175 students currently enrolled at Southern Adventist University's 1,300-acre campus, approximately 28 percent are taking a distance learning or online course. At the current time, there is no fully-online bachelor's degree available, although a number of both required and elective undergraduate courses are offered online each semester. Qualified high school seniors can take part in an online dual enrollment program that allows them to take up to six credits per semester from Southern Adventist professors. Upon completion, these credits can be counted towards their high school diploma and college degree. On the graduate level, the following programs have a significant online component: Master of Science in Global Community Development, Master of Science in Education, Master of Business Administration, and Master of Science in Nursing. The university offers an MBA program that can be pursued completely online. This program offers three areas of emphasis: accounting, healthcare, and management. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is a fully-online program, with only three brief campus visits required. Non-degree teacher certification courses are also available online. Undergraduate students enrolled in at least six credit-hours and graduate students taking a minimum of nine credit-hours may be eligible for financial aid.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Freed-Hardeman University

Freed-Hardeman University offers online programs leading to graduate degrees in the fields of theology, business, and education. A Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction is currently available online, and the university plans to add an online program leading to an M.Ed. in Instructional Technology in the summer of 2017. The curriculum and instruction program is a non-licensure program designed for students who want an advanced degree without seeking initial or add-on licensure. Theology degrees offered online include Master of Arts in Ministry, Master of Arts in Old Testament, Master of Arts in New Testament, Master of Arts in Pastoral Care and Counseling, and Master of Divinity. Online classes for the programs are delivered via web conferencing, with online students viewing and participating in a live broadcast from a class held on campus. Students may seek permission to view a recorded session later. The online MBA and online MBA in Health Care Management require 30 credits, and students can complete the degree in as little as a year. FHU offers multiple start times, and online business courses are arranged in eight-week sessions. FHU was ranked No. 43 in U.S. News and World Report's 2017 listing of regional universities in the South.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

  • Advanced Placement Credit

1,828 Students

Union University

Union University offers a range of fully online degree programs, allowing students to complete undergraduate degrees or earn graduate degrees without having to come to campus. Classes are presented in an asynchronous format to give students maximum flexibility. Online students also have access to library services, an IT helpdesk, and academic resources such as advising. The college offers two bachelor-completion programs. The Bachelor of Sccience in Organizational Leadership is open to students who are at least 22 years, have at least two years of work experience, and who have at least 60 college credits to transfer to the program. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree-completion program is open to working nurses with a diploma or associate degree in nursing. Online master's programs include a two-year MBA program with a concentration in human resource management, Master of Christian Studies, Master of Education with a teaching and learning track, and Master of Science in Nursing with education and administration tracks. Advanced degrees available online are Education Specialist and Doctor of Education, with both programs offering a leadership in school reform track.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Online Degrees in Tennessee: What to Know

1. Find Online Degrees in Tennessee Through TN eCampus

TNeCampus.org is a searchable database of all online degree programs and course offerings from Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) schools —  six state universities, 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology. It doesn’t include the University of Tennessee system, but it still boasts over 500 online degree programs. Search for everything from undergraduate certificates to doctorates to continuing education, and feel free to filter by college and/or delivery method. You can do the same with courses, plus limit your results to accelerated courses.

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2. You Can Take Online Courses at Other State Schools

Don’t confuse TNeCampus.org with TNeCampus.info. Whereas the former website compiles all the online programs and courses at individual schools, the latter is a cooperative of online programs and courses that Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) schools have developed collaboratively. When you see a school’s website talking about eCampus (formerly called the Regent Online Degree Program), this is what they’re typically referring to.

More important than the handful of full degree programs available is the eCampus course catalog. It allows students at any TBR school to easily register across the the TBR system for courses their home schools don’t offer.

As you get further into your research, keep in mind that eCampus programs and courses come with different rates than online programs and courses run by the schools themselves, which can make student balance sheets messy.

3. Expand Your Search to All of the South

The Volunteer State is stocked with high-quality online degree programs, and many of them are available through the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Electronic Campus. The Electronic Campus’s online program and course catalog extends well beyond Tennessee. You can actually search for any degree program or a specific course in 15 Southern states. If the program is marked “E,” you’ll be charged the Electronic Rate for tuition, which is the same for in-state and out-of-state enrollees.

Are you looking out of state because Tennessee doesn’t have what you need? The SREB’s Academic Common Market-Electronic Campus (ACM-EC) lets students who can’t find specific degrees in their home state pay in-state tuition at another SREB state’s schools. The program must be ACM-EC eligible. Apply through the institution running the program.

If you’re not a Tennessean, keep in mind that both SREB initiatives mentioned above represent a way not just for Tennessee students to study elsewhere at an affordable rate, but also for out-of-staters to get a Tennessee degree at a low cost.

4. Use the TN Transfer Pathway to Lock in 4-Year Admission

Interested in getting the first two years of college tuition-free? That’s the Tennessee Promise to all Tennessee high schoolers who enroll in a state community college or technical college. The Tennessee Transfer Pathway builds upon this promise by guaranteeing that associate degree-seekers who complete a prescribed list of courses will be admitted to a state-run school (and even many private ones) of their choice (except UT Knoxville).

There are multiple pathways, depending on your starting school, target school and academic field. Tennessee Transfer Pathway will map a route for you. Plus, TN eCampus provides two completely online pathways to a baccalaureate — an Associate of Arts in General Studies and an Associate of Science in General Studies. So, to recap: You can get the first two years of college tuition-free by enrolling in a community college or technical college, then get admitted to just about any school you choose. Not bad.

5. The Tennessee Dual Enrollment Grant

Every year, the state lottery distributes money to colleges and universities to fund the Dual Enrollment Grant Program. High school students who qualify for course enrollment from an eligible school receive up to $2,400 over their junior and senior years to take up to eight courses. If they pass, they’ll emerge with both high school and college credit.

Affordable Online Schools in Tennessee

Now that we’ve given the lay of the land, let’s get to some of the major players. Each of the schools below meets our tough criteria for both quality and affordability, meaning they provide great value for your investment. We also advise a quick look at College Scorecard. The site allows you to filter schools by graduation rate, net costs and average earnings of graduates.

  • Bryan College-Dayton

    Bryan College is a good destination for those looking for courses “taught from a Christian worldview.” The school places its online offerings in the category of Adult Degree Programs, which it offers at the associate through master’s level. The prime advantage of Bryan’s undergraduate degrees is their accelerated format. Courses take only six weeks to complete, so you can earn a degree quicker. The bachelor’s degrees also accept credit for life experience, which can further hasten your graduation date. You’ll need to click on the program you’re interested in to get specifics on format, credit requirements and cost. One thing that’s consistent across programs: financial aid is available.

    Bryan College also runs a dual enrollment program for high school upperclassmen, with the option for online enrollment. By applying the state’s Dual Enrollment Grant, most students can take at least the first few courses for free.

  • Freed-Hardeman University

    Freed-Hardeman doesn’t maintain a webpage detailing its distance learning activities, but you’ll find the online degrees clearly labeled in the Graduate Studies section of the website. Plus, some programs that aren’t fully online do have online courses on offer. To find those, however, you’ll just have to click on the program, scan to the bottom of the page and look for “Online Courses” in the menu.

    Like many other Tennessee colleges, FHU runs a dual enrollment program for students from participating high schools. Courses are taught completely online, and students can apply the Tennessee Dual Enrollment Grant toward their tuition.

  • Tennessee Technological University

    Tennessee Tech’s webpage provides a quick list of online programs, but your true starting point is probably the College of Interdisciplinary Studies, which houses most of the university’s nontraditional programs, including the Adult Learning Community, which, of course, is aimed at adults looking to go back to school. You can enroll in the BS in Interdisciplinary Studies (designed for easy transfer from a community college) or BS in Professional Studies online or at any of six satellite campuses across the state. Before doing so, however, you’ll have the opportunity to get credit for work experience or competencies.

    The pricing is a bit convoluted, with some online students charged out-of-state tuition and others assessed an e-rate. However, through the university’s Eagle’s Reach initiative, all nonresidents enrolled exclusively online qualify for reduced tuition…except for the ones who don’t. You’re best off talking to the Bursar’s Office or requesting information from an admissions counselor. Of course, you’ll also want to talk with the Office of Financial Aid.

    Lifelong learning is also available, thanks to Tennessee Tech’s partnership with ed2go. Take an instructor-led class for certification in just six weeks or work at your own pace. Full career training programs in everything from art to IT are available as well. Each program/course is individually priced.

  • The University of Tennessee

    Visit Vols Online for a list of online UT graduate programs (and one undergraduate RN to BSN program) or a directory of online undergraduate courses. If anything catches your eye, visit the One Stop Express Students Services office to get the scoop on both school costs and financial aid.

    U.S. News & World Report rates the school’s graduate engineering programs highly, so many Southerners outside of Tennessee will be glad to know that multiple engineering programs are listed on the Academic Common Market/Electronic Campus, allowing eligible students to pay in-state tuition for UT programs.

Online Schools in Tennessee with Accreditation & Quality Concerns

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission is responsible for overseeing the state’s postsecondary institutions and keeps a list of authorized institutions as well as exempt institutions (mainly longstanding private nonprofit universities). Authorization provides legal permission to operate, but accreditation is something else. It not only indicates that a school meets certain standards of quality but also renders enrollees eligible for federal financial aid.

  • The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), also known as SACS, accredits Tennessee’s public colleges and universities, as well as most of its private nonprofits. Just visit the homepage to search for accredited institutions in the Volunteer State.
  • Scan the list of SACS schools in Tennessee for public sanctions. A “warning” signals there’s something you should know, although it may not be too serious. “Probation” means a school hasn’t yet corrected the problem that led to the warning.
  • If your school isn’t on this list, it might be nationally accredited. You can still receive financial aid, but you may have trouble transferring credits to a regionally accredited school. Visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) Database to see a full list of both regionally and nationally accredited institutions.

Tennessee hosts a few schools whose accreditation status is less than ideal:

  • Bethel University

    SACS placed Bethel University on warning in 2014 for failing to show compliance with SACS standards. In December 2015 it continued the warning, stating that the relevant standards expect schools to “(1) have competent and experienced administrative/academic officers; (2) identify expected outcomes, assess student achievement, and provide evidence of improvement in the area of educational programs and student learning; (3) evaluate success with respect to student achievement consistent with mission; and (4) have policies for determining credit hours awarded for courses that conform to common practices in higher education.”

  • Hiwassee College

    As of September 2016, the U.S. Department of Education was keeping Hiwassee on something called “heightened cash monitoring 2” because of severe findings in a program review. The upshot is that the school is currently not allowed to offer financial aid in the usual manner and instead must be reimbursed by the government after distributing federal aid to students, putting further strain on its finances.

  • Tennessee Bible College

    Although Tennessee Bible College is authorized to operate by the state, it is unaccredited. Therefore, it’s not listed in the CHEA database or on College Scorecard.

Tennessee Online Education Resources


Distance Learning Resources

  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC): THEC runs multiple initiatives for nontraditional learners, including Tennessee Reconnect, which helps adults capitalize on flexible course delivery options to return to school; Tennessee Promise, the state’s free community college and technical college plan; and Timewise TN Prior Learning Assessment, which grants credit for skills gained through life and work experience.
  • Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC): TSAC administers the Tennessee Dual Enrollment Grant, which many online colleges accept. Learn how much money you’re entitled to and how you can apply it toward college coursework.
  • Tennessee’s Community Colleges: Learn how the state’s community colleges have made it easy to hop from an associate to a bachelor’s degree with the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.
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Online Degree & Course Catalogs

  • Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Electronic Campus: Use SREB to search for online degree programs or courses offered by participating institutions throughout the South. The website also delves into credit transfers and financial aid.
  • TN eCampus: Search for any online program or course from nearly 50 Tennessee public colleges and universities.
  • TN eCampus Collaborative: Learn how to take courses at another Tennessee state institution while remaining enrolled in your home college, or peruse the degree programs collectively run by multiple state schools.
  • University of Tennessee System: Quickly jump to the online offerings at UT Chattanooga, UT Knoxville or UT Martin.


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