Online Colleges in Tennessee

Top Online Programs

When researching accredited online colleges in Tennessee, students can find many options. The state is home to many colleges offering distance learning opportunities for residents and out-of-state enrollees. Tennessee became the first state in the country to offer free community college in 2018, and degree seekers can take advantage of many grants, scholarships, and loan forgiveness programs that make it easier to attend an accredited online college in Tennessee.

This guide offers helpful information on the state’s job outlook, the cost of online colleges, financial aid opportunities, details about the top industries in the state, and other resources pertinent to prospective online learners.

Job Outlook for Students With College Degrees in Tennessee

As of 2018, employment patterns in Tennessee largely mirror the rest of the country, with approximately a 3.7% unemployment rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), roles in the medical profession offer the highest annual mean wages, with many requiring doctoral degrees and additional years of training.

Many other roles with higher-than-average salaries are also in demand in the state, particularly positions for healthcare administrators, given that Tennessee is home to several large healthcare organizations. Roles for individuals without college degrees are concentrated in Nashville, where a thriving hospitality and tourism industry requires thousands of individuals to work in roles that do not require a degree. Other nondegree positions in the state focus on agriculture and auto manufacturing.

While the state’s annual mean wage lags behind the national average, students should note that, outside of cities like Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis, the cost of living is also significantly lower than the national average. Individuals living in metropolitan areas typically earn higher salaries than those in rural areas to help offset the higher costs of city living. According to reports by The Tennessean, individuals must earn $80,548 annually to live comfortably in the capital city of Nashville.

Unemployment Rate, August 2018

Tennessee 3.7%
United States 3.8%

Source: BLS

Annual Mean Wage, May 2017

Tennessee $43,550
United States $50,620

Source: BLS

Cost of Online Colleges in Tennessee

The cost of in-state tuition at public colleges in Tennessee is aligned with the national average. What sets the state apart, is that in 2018 it became the first state in the country to make community college free for all graduating high school and adult students. The Tennessee Promise program covers all costs not alleviated by the Pell Grant, Hope Scholarship, or Tennessee Student Assistance Award.

The tuition and fees associated with accredited online colleges in Tennessee are similar to those of campus-based programs. However, distance learners save money on the housing and transportation expenses that on-campus students incur. Online schools also typically let students opt out of the facility-use fees that on-campus students must pay.

Average Price for In-State Tuition and Fees by Institution Type, 2018-19

  Public Two-Year Public Four-Year
Tennessee $4,560 $9,950
U.S. Average $3,660 $10,230

Source: The College Board

In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition in Tennessee

Tuition rates at public colleges vary significantly by residency. Out-of-state students can expect to pay 250% more per year than residents. The exception to this rule, according to The College System of Tennessee, applies to students who live in Tennessee for at least one year prior to starting college and either graduate from a public or private school in the state or earn a high school equivalency diploma in the state, in which case they can pay in-state tuition.

However, some colleges allow online learners to pay in-state rates, regardless of location. Students can also take advantage of scholarships and other financial aid opportunities to offset the cost of out-of-state tuition.

Average Tuition and Fees, 2018-19

  Public Two-Year Public Four-Year
Tennessee $9,950 $25,130
U.S. Average $10,230 $26,290

Source: The College Board

Financial Aid in Tennessee

According to College Board, the cost of higher education continues to rise each year. Most students cannot pay for tuition, fees, and other expenses associated with baccalaureate programs without some financial aid. Fortunately for Tennesseans and those hoping to attend a school there, the state offers significantly more state grant aid to full-time learners than the national average.

When figuring out how to pay for college, students should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as a first step. In addition to showing students which federal loans they qualify for, many universities use the information provided on this document to award institutional scholarships. Students also learn their eligibility for federal grants and work-study programs after submitting the FAFSA.

Tennessee residents can receive funding through the Hope Scholarship with a qualifying ACT or SAT score and GPA. As of 2018, this scholarship provides $1,750 per semester to full-time learners during their freshman and sophomore years, and $2,250 per term during their junior and senior years.

State Grant Aid per Full-Time Equivalent Undergraduate Student, 2016-17

Tennessee $1,690
U.S. Average $820

Source: The College Board

Scholarships and Grants for Tennessee College Students

Tennessee government agencies, nonprofits, businesses, and foundations provide many scholarships to help students with different backgrounds and interests lower the cost of their education. Below, are 10 scholarship and grant opportunities for Tennessee students.

General Assembly Merit Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Tennessee residents who qualify for the Hope Scholarship, possess a high school GPA of 3.75 or higher, and scored a 29 on the ACT or 1350 on the SAT qualify for this award.

Amount: $1,500 per year

Apply Here

Aspire Award

Who Can Apply: This scholarship exists for individuals who meet Tennessee residency requirements and whose parents make adjusted gross incomes of $36,000 or less per year.

Amount: Up to $750 per semester

Apply Here

Tennessee HOPE Access Grant

Who Can Apply: Students who are residents of Tennessee, attend a Tennessee college, possess GPAs of 2.75 or higher, and whose parents make adjusted gross incomes of $36,000 or less each year qualify for this award.

Amount: $1,250 per full-time semester (including summer)

Apply Here

Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant

Who Can Apply: This award exists for individuals pursuing a certificate or diploma at a Tennessee-based college of applied technology. Applicants must live in Tennessee for at least one year before applying.

Amount: $2,000

Apply Here

Tennessee HOPE Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Tennessee residents with a minimum ACT score of 21 or SAT score of 1060 can apply for this renewable award provided they possess a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Amount: $3,500 per year as a freshman/sophomore; $4,500 as a junior/senior

Apply Here

Helping Heroes Grant

Who Can Apply: Tennesseans who served in the armed forces and received the Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, or Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal qualify for this award as long as they do not already hold a baccalaureate degree.

Amount: $2,000 per year

Apply Here

Tennessee Student Assistance Award

Who Can Apply: Tennesseans who demonstrate financial need and whose Expected Family Contribution on the FAFSA is $2,100 or less qualify for this award.

Amount: $4,000/year (private), $2,000/year (four-year public), $2,000/year (career school), $1,300/year (two-year public)

Apply Here

Tennessee STEP UP Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students with intellectual disabilities who participate in an approved program at one of five Tennessee colleges for this learning population qualify for this award.

Amount: $3,500 per year

Apply Here

Jack Diller Education Award

Who Can Apply: Students living within Nashville or the greater Middle Tennessee area who demonstrate academic excellence (3.0 GPA or higher) and show financial need qualify for this award.

Amount: $2,500

Apply Here

MaryEllen Locher Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The children of individuals who battled breast cancer qualify for this award provided they live within 50 miles of Chattanooga, maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher, and plan to study full time.

Amount: Varies

Apply Here

Best Majors for Online Students in Tennessee

Students attending affordable online colleges in Tennessee can select from many majors. As a state with significant rural and metropolitan areas, students enjoy diverse career opportunities.

In Nashville, healthcare and music are the primary industries. According to the Nashville Health Care Council, the city, home to 500 healthcare organizations, provides an economic benefit of $46.7 billion annually and more than 270,000 jobs in healthcare. Outside of Nashville, Tennessee manufactures a large number of automobiles, with approximately 7% of all American-manufactured cars produced in the state.

Healthcare Administration

Tennessee online colleges and universities offering this degree teach students about the administrative side of the healthcare industry. Topics covered include healthcare leadership, policy, medical ethics, health facility finances, hospital software, facility management, insurance claims, and data management.

Music Business

Music business programs at accredited online colleges in Tennessee teach learners about the many facets of the music industry. Some of the topics covered include artist management, recording industry practices, royalties, tour management, liaising with labels, merchandising, negotiating contracts, and handling budgets.

Automotive Technology

Many automotive technology degrees allow students to concentrate their knowledge in particular areas of the field. Some students may desire to work in the engineering side of the industry, while others may want to work in a project management or operations management capacity. Students can often tailor their degree to their career aspirations.

Resources for Online College Students in Tennessee

Tennessee Promise: Tennessee Promise allows recent high school graduates and adults to attend two years of community college for free by paying for any amount not covered by Pell grants or the Hope Scholarship.

Advise TN: Developed by the Higher Education Commission and Student Assistance Corporation, this program provides advising services to more than 10,000 high school juniors and seniors living in Tennessee to promote higher education in the state.

Tennessee Reconnect: With a focus on helping adult students finish their degrees or pursue higher education to expand their job opportunities, Tennessee Reconnect partners with colleges to support these learners throughout their education.

VETS Program: Established as a law in 2014, the Veterans Education Transition Support Act helps veterans transition from active or reserve duty into higher education. Several schools participate in the initiative by providing resources and support services for this student population.

College Pays TN: This statewide financial assistance program helps students find money for college, educates parents on what to expect, and offers an expansive list of financial aid resources specific to Tennessee.

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