- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed March 2, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, accessed March 2, 2016, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed May 30, 2017: Bachelor's Degrees, Virtual College, Fort Hays State University, http://www.fhsu.edu/virtualcollege/degrees/bachelors/; About Washburn, Washburn State University, http://www.washburn.edu/about/index.html; Degrees and Programs, Global Campus, Kansas State University, http://global.k-state.edu/courses/degrees/; About, Emporia State University, http://www.emporia.edu/info/about/; About KU, The University of Kansas, http://www.ku.edu/about/; Welcome Military-Affiliated Students, The University of Kansas, http://veterans.ku.edu/; About WSU, Wichita State University, http://www.wichita.edu/thisis/aboutus/about_wsu.asp; About Pitt State, Pittsburg State University, http://www.pittstate.edu/about/; About Newman, Newman University, http://newmanu.edu/about-newman; About, Central Christian College of Kansas, http://www.centralchristian.edu/about; Online Degree Programs, Central Christian College of Kansas, https://myonline.centralchristian.edu/online-degree-programs; About, Sterling College, https://sterling.edu/about; Online College Degree Programs, Sterling College, https://online.sterling.edu/;
- Best for Vets: Colleges 2017, Military Times, accessed May 30, 2017, http://bestforvets.militarytimes.com/2017-11-01/colleges/4-year/
- The Kansas Board of Regents, accessed May 18, 2017: Scholarships and Grants, http://www.kansasregents.org/students/student_financial_aid/scholarships_and_grants; Transfer & Articulation, http://kansasregents.org/transfer_articulation;
The higher education landscape in the Sunflower State contains large schools and small, and they each present students with their own unique arrangements of challenges and opportunities. We wanted to put together a straightforward source of information on the best traditional and online colleges in Kansas, so we researched popular degree programs, state-based options for financial aid and Kansas's hottest upcoming jobs for graduates.
If paying for your education is your main concern, remember that starting your degree plan at a two-year school and finishing it at a university can be a cost-effective way to earn a bachelor's degree. The Kansas Board of Regents maintains transfer and articulation agreements between community colleges and Kansas public universities that can help your transition go smoothly.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Kansas
We analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) with a detailed methodology that covers 13 separate metrics, and then sorted the best traditional and online colleges in Kansas by their total score. The top ten schools in our rankings are listed below.
Our No. 1 school overall took home top honors in two important metrics: raw affordability and commitment to distance education. Fort Hays State University earned the No. 1 ranking in the state for its low average cost of tuition and fees in 2015-16, and no other school in our top ten had a higher percentage of students enrolled in distance education courses than the more than 77 percent reported at this Hays institution.
The array of online study plans available at FHSU is impressive as well. Students seeking a bachelor's degree in Kansas had more than 30 programs to choose from, including such popular subjects as computer science, elementary education and psychology. Fort Hays State was also the only school on our list to offer all ten of the state's most popular bachelor's degree programs on campus in 2016-17.
Washburn University took the No. 3 spot for its affordable raw cost of tuition and fees, and that's not even the brightest spot in its affordability profile. Average net price is a comprehensive measure of college cost that takes a full accounting of expected tuition, fees, housing, meals, academic supplies and other expenses and subtracts each student's expected amount of institutional grant and scholarship aid from the total. Washburn University placed No. 1 in the state for the average net price paid by students at all points on the income spectrum.
What's more, Washburn awarded the second-largest proportion of institutional grant aid in the state, and its students finished their degrees with an amount of college debt that fell well below the state average. Washburn alumni left school with just over $16,000 on their student loan balances, the lowest amount of any school on our list.
This large institution in Manhattan features an on-campus degree catalog that ranked No. 2 in the state for its size, and the academic variety didn't stop there. Kansas State University was also one of the best online schools for Kansas students, offering the largest catalog of distance education programs of any school that made our list.
K-State does a great job of retaining students and ultimately getting them to the finish line. Kansas State University posted the highest graduation rate of any school in our top ten, and only one other school on our list had a higher percentage of first-year students return to continue their studies at the sophomore level. On top of that, more than 85 percent of graduates were able to pay back their student loans within three years of graduation — the second-highest percentage in the state.
Founded as a teachers' college in 1863, Emporia State University offers an affordable education in more than 65 undergraduate majors, minors and concentrations. ESU also took the No. 4 spot for its percentage of students enrolled in distance education programs. This combination of program variety and the option to pursue an online course of study are likely to be reasons why the school has a high retention rate of first-year students. In fact, only two other schools on our top ten list featured a higher one .
The Emporia school came in at No. 2 statewide for the affordability of its raw cost of tuition and fees, and its average net price for both low- and middle-income students ranked No. 4 statewide. The median debt of ESU alumni ranked No. 6 among schools on our list, and more than 76 percent of graduates reported being able to pay off their student loans in three years or less.
The largest school by enrollment in Kansas and also one of its oldest, the University of Kansas has the widest selection of on-campus degree programs in the state. Students at the Lawrence institution had more than 300 undergraduate programs to choose from in 2015-16, according to NCES numbers. And out of all those programs, journalism was the most-popular major. It also posted the second-highest graduation rate of any member of our top ten, and its first-year student retention rate was No. 1 among all schools on our list.
If you're a veteran or active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces, you may want to give KU particular consideration when choosing where to earn your degree. The Lawrence campus maintains a special resource center for military-affiliated students, and Military Times listed the school among its top 10 "Best for Vets" colleges in 2017.
Tuition and fees costs at Wichita State University ranked No. 5 statewide for their affordability, and just four other schools in the state charged a lower average net price to middle-income students. Its catalog of campus-based degree programs was third-largest in the state, and the more than 52 percent of students taking advantage of distance education courses were enough for the No. 3 spot among schools on our list. The school awarded the largest number of bachelor's degrees in 2015 to students majoring in nursing.
Flexibility measures for on-campus students were also in force at WSU. Students returning to college after a few years away can take advantage of remedial services to help get them back on track, and some incoming students may be able to leverage prior knowledge gained through life experience to gain course credit.
This medium-sized school in southeastern Kansas put up a line of strong finishes on our affordability metrics, beginning with its No. 4 ranking for its average raw cost of tuition and fees charged to students. Just four other schools on our list featured a lower estimated cost of books and supplies, and the average net price amounts charged to both middle- and low-income students each ranked No. 3 in their respective categories.
The degree catalog available at Pittsburg State University was the state's fifth-largest, and only three other institutions in our top ten had a higher graduation rate in 2015-16. More than 78 percent of Pitt State graduates managed to eliminate their student loan debt within three years, also — a rate that ranked No. 7 statewide.
Newman University is a small private institution rooted in the Catholic teachings and traditions. The Wichita school offered the state's No. 3 proportion of institutional grant aid to its students, and its average net price rankings for middle- and low-income students landed at No. 7 and No. 8, respectively. It also took the No. 7 spot for its affordable average cost of books and supplies.
Students who enroll at Newman have a tendency to finish what they start, according to NCES data. The percentage of students who maintained attendance at Newman from their first to second program years ranked No. 3 among schools that made our top ten, and just two other institutions on our list posted a higher 2015-16 graduation rate.
The institutional grant aid provided to students of this McPherson institution covered a larger percentage of their average tuition and fees than any other school statewide in 2015, and the average net price for middle-income student's ranked No. 5 in the state. Central Christian College was also one of the top schools for online bachelor's degree programs in Kansas, recording the state's No. 4 distance education enrollment rate and offering a catalog of study plans that includes business administration, criminal justice and ministry leadership.
Central Christian also has programs in place to help ensure that campus-based students have access to the courses they need. Entire degree programs available here can be completed in evenings or on weekends, and remedial services and credit opportunities for life experience are available to eligible students.
This tiny Christian private school has the smallest student body of any one of our top ten colleges, but it landed a few big-time rankings in the affordability realm. No other school on our list reported a lower average cost for books and supplies than Sterling College, and the nearly 80 percent of alumni who were able to repay their student loans in three years or less led to a No. 4 ranking statewide on that metric.
The small student body at Sterling allows for small class sizes — an average of just 14 students in 2016-17 — which can encourage greater connection between students and professors. The Rice County institution was also offering deep tuition discounts on select online general education courses in 2017.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Kansas
Whether you're still looking for inspiration in the search for your major or you just want to know what your fellow students are likely to be studying, a list of the state's most popular degree programs can help. Take a look at the top college majors in Kansas by enrollment.
In-Demand Careers in Kansas
Students who have a good idea of what to expect from the job market once they graduate tend to have a better chance of aligning their degree plan with high-demand occupations. Here's a quick list of the hottest careers in Kansas.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Interpreters and Translators||37.9%||590||$35,060|
|Personal Care Aides||37.3%||17,500||$20,720|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||32.1%||670||$56,910|
|Personal Financial Advisors||30.7%||1,870||$115,870|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||30.2%||5,000||$61,970|
|Veterinary Technologists and Technicians||28.5%||600||$28,940|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||28.3%||490||$58,910|
|Agricultural Workers, All Other||28%||40||$31,510|
|Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners||27.4%||610||$46,200|
|Medical Equipment Repairers||25%||440||$45,900|
|Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic||24.2%||540||$59,810|
|Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents||24.1%||1,780||$104,370|
|Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders||24.1%||460||$35,560|
|Home Health Aides||23.8%||4,100||$23,980|
|Computer Systems Analysts||21.2%||5,010||$77,880|
|Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery, and Greenhouse||21.2%||650||$26,160|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians||20.9%||-||$25,460|
|Software Developers, Systems Software||20.8%||2,850||$99,250|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Kansas
Certain state-based student aid programs can help Kansas students lower their college expenses. For example, The Kansas State Scholarship offers up to $1,000 annually for Kansas high school seniors who have been designated as Kansas State Scholars by the Kansas Board of Regents. Also, The Kansas Comprehensive Grant awards eligible full-time public and private university students between $100-$1,500 and $200-$3,500 respectively, based on financial need.
November 15 (Early Action admissions deadline)
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.25 GPA and full-time status.
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.6 GPA.
- The Kansas Board of Regents
- LearningQuest 529 Education Savings Program
- Credit for Prior Learning Guidelines
- Kansas Community College Transfer and Articulation
- Kansas Association of Community College Trustees