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Best Community Colleges in Kentucky

Kentucky community colleges operate more than 70 campuses across the state, providing accessible higher education to prospective students from the banks of the Ohio to the Mississippi. Each of the public two-year schools in the Bluegrass State belongs to the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), which serves over 120,000 students annually at its member institutions.

Whether you're hoping to complete some core lower-division courses for transfer to Kentucky universities or you're looking to help your career with additional training or a new set of skills, being aware of the best community colleges in Kentucky can help you make the most of your decision. Check out our list of the top ten Kentucky community colleges and see how they can help you succeed.

THE TOP 10 COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN KENTUCKY

1

Big Sandy Community and Technical College (Prestonsburg)

Big Sandy Community and Technical College maintains four campuses in eastern Kentucky -- the main site in Prestonsburg and three satellite locations in Pikeville, Paintsville and Hager Hill. Total enrollment here is around 5,000 students, of whom around 44 percent attend classes on a full-time basis.

Distance education enrollment suggests that BSCTC is also one of the best online community colleges in Kentucky, reporting that nearly two thirds of students have at least one online class on their schedules. Nearly 90 percent of all students are awarded some form of financial aid, and first-time college students receive aid packages in 98 percent of cases.

BSCTC offers more than 30 degree and certificate programs in career-focused subjects as well as common academic majors. The most popular areas of study in 2017 included liberal arts, criminal justice, business administration, nursing and electrical technology.

2

Henderson Community College (Henderson)

Originally founded as the University of Kentucky Northwest Center in 1960, Henderson Community College has grown into a hot destination for students in the northwestern section of the state. Training programs for career advancement and associate degree plans for university transfer are both available here, from the main campus in Henderson and its second location down the road in Morganfield.

Like most of the top Kentucky community colleges, HCC reports relatively affordable tuition rates for resident students. Total tuition and fees for two 12-credit semesters came in under $4,250 in 2017 -- about $800 less than the statewide average calculated by the College Board.

Those affordable tuition rates are generally reserved for Kentucky residents, but they're not entirely exclusive. Those who live in eight Indiana counties nearest the Henderson campus can also attend HCC at that affordable in-state price.

3

Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (Cumberland)

Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College reports an enrollment headcount of more than 5,000 students across its five campuses. The main campus in Cumberland opened in 1960; the secondary sites in Harlan, Middlesboro, Pineville and Whitesburg all became a part of the growing institution in the years between 1990 and 2002.

More than 50 degree and certificate programs are available for students at Southeast, where courses can be delivered in a variety of ways. Traditional campus-based, full-term courses are very common, but a set of distance learning options are also available for students who need extra flexibility.

A partnership with the Kentucky Virtual Campus permits Southeast to offer more than 1,100 online courses, a virtual library and an online bookstore. An all-weekend degree option is also available for students pursuing specific Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees.

4

Somerset Community College (Somerset)

Somerset Community College was founded in 1965 and has grown into an institution that awards more than 3,000 degrees and certificates each year. Around 87 percent of students receive financial aid in one form or another.

The service area for SCC is fairly large, but the central Kentucky institution's half-dozen learning sites make it possible for prospective students throughout the six-county area to get the education they're looking for. SCC operates two full-service campuses -- the main location in Somerset and a second site in London -- and four learning centers in Liberty, Albany, Russell Springs and Whitley City.

Programs in more than 40 areas of study are available at SCC, including the popular fields of education, nursing and business administration. Total enrollment here was reported as over 5,900 students in 2017, and more than 70 percent of them took at least some online courses.

5

Hopkinsville Community College (Hopkinsville)

The catalog of degree and certificate programs at Hopkinsville Community College leans heavily toward career training, although students preparing for university transfer can earn Associate in Science (A.S.) degrees in fields like biology and engineering. Pre-med, pre-vet and pre-physical therapy programs are available as well.

Two campus locations and various learning sites in south central Kentucky exist to serve HCC students, as well as a range of online degrees and courses available through Kentucky Virtual Campus. The main campus locations are located in Hopkinsville and Fort Campbell.

HCC may be one of the best Kentucky community colleges for working pros and other non-traditional students -- at least those who would prefer to be among members of their peer group. Nearly two-thirds of the 2017 student body at the Hopkinsville institution was over the age of 25.

6

Maysville Community and Technical College (Maysville)

Founded in 1968, Maysville Community and Technical College maintains four campuses to serve students in northern Kentucky. The main campus in Maysville offers the largest selection of degree programs and amenities, but the satellite sites in Morehead, Mt. Sterling and Cynthiana can also deliver much of the catalog available at the principal campus.

Total enrollment at MCTC was reported as more than 4,800 in 2017, with approximately 42 percent of students attending on a full-time schedule. Online courses are fairly popular here, with more than 56 percent of students participating in at least some distance education.

Associate degrees, certificates and diplomas are available in more than 25 areas of study, including medical assisting, fire/rescue science technology, automotive technology and business administration systems. Associate of Arts (A.A.) and A.S. degrees are also available for future transfer students.

7

West Kentucky Community and Technical College (Paducah)

West Kentucky Community and Technical College is one of the larger institutions among the best Kentucky community colleges, reporting 2017 enrollment of nearly 6,100 students. Despite that relatively high enrollment figure, WKCTC admins manage to keep the student-faculty ratio to a comfortable 18:1.

The main WKCTC campus in Paducah is the only full-service location maintained by the institution, but students with specific educational needs may be able to satisfy them at a trio of off-campus learning sites. Creative types can look toward the Paducah School of Art and Design, while those interested in skilled craft or workforce education may take classes at the training centers in Hickory or Mayfield.

WKCTC students with exceptional academic records have an exciting opportunity here, as well. Phi Theta Kappa, a national honor society for community college students, maintains a chapter on campus.

8

Bluegrass Community and Technical College (Lexington)

The largest number of campuses among our top Kentucky community colleges belongs to Bluegrass Community and Technical College, with eight total learning centers under its auspices. Seven of these sites, of which there are three in Lexington and one each in Danville, Georgetown, Lawrenceburg and Winchester, offer A.A. and A.S. transfer plans alongside a selection of technical degrees and certificates.

The eighth location doesn't look much like a traditional college campus, but a certain type of student is highly likely to appreciate the difference. BCTC operates the North American Racing Academy (NARA) -- the only accredited community college-based horse racing school in the U.S. -- out of the Thoroughbred Training Center in northeast Lexington.

More than 40 areas of study are available to BCTC students. It's also one of the few Kentucky community colleges that features Associate in Fine Arts (A.F.A.) programs at certain campuses.

9

Hazard Community and Technical College (Hazard)

Hazard Community and Technical College is a medium-sized institution in a rural area that offers 200+ individual degree programs in over 30 areas of study. The main campus is located in Hazard, a city of around 5,000 people, with satellite locations in Jackson, Hyden and Hindman.

The HCTC Leslie County Center in Hyden is home to a few unique programs for Kentucky students interested in the region's artistic history. The Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music offers courses in songwriting, recording, performance and music history, as well as an A.A.S. program for aspiring professional studio musicians.

Career programs available at HCTC include some cutting-edge plans in disciplines like health care, design and computer science. Students can study information technology, computer-aided drafting, telehealth technology, visual communications and diagnostic medical sonography.

10

Ashland Community and Technical College (Ashland)

Ashland Community and Technical College has one of the smaller student bodies among the top Kentucky community colleges, reporting enrollment of just over 2,600 students in the fall semester of 2017. Around 54 percent of students took full-time schedules, and just 16 percent of those enrolled in 2017 were embarking on their first year of college.

As is often the case at colleges that serve smaller numbers of students, ACTC offers a closer-knit learning environment than some of the other schools on our list. The student-faculty ratio is 17:1, for example, and the average class size is a manageable 17 students.

ACTC also offers a few rare degree programs, such as a certificate in Appalachian Studies and an A.A.S. in automated and semi-automated chemical manufacturing. A.A. subjects for university transfer include education, psychology and social work.

Initiatives for Kentucky Transfer Students

Around ten years ago, Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) launched a wide-reaching initiative to help students complete their academic journey with a bachelor's degree or better from Kentucky universities. Called KnowHow2GOKY, the media-based program provides information and access to resources for students at all levels.

If you're considering making a transfer into a university program from one of Kentucky's community colleges, the KnowHow2Transfer portion of the initiative can answer some commonly asked questions and give you an idea of how your credits will transfer. It also shows how a variety of individual bachelor's programs at specific universities handle incoming transfer students and directs students to additional transfer counseling services if needed.

Each public college or university in the state abides by a policy that provides certification of students who have completed their general education requirements, which ensures that at least 30 credit hours of your completed coursework can transfer without a hitch. Some institutions also offer completer degrees, which can also make transfer easier for students who graduate with a full-fledged A.A., A.S. or A.A.S. degree.

Methodology

We ranked community colleges in Kentucky on multiple factors related to educational opportunity, student performance and student services.

Each school was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following six data points:

  1. The percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  2. Cost of attendance, based on the average net price for students receiving scholarship and grant aid, and the total cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  3. Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  4. The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  5. The transfer-out rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  6. Flexibility, based on the following data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2016

a. Whether the school offers credit for life experiences
b. Whether the school offers programs of study that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
c. Whether the school offers on-campus day care for students' children
d. Whether the school offers any kind of alternative tuition plan. These may include, but aren't limited to, payment plans or guaranteed rates.

Article Sources
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