- 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 29, 2017: About, Northern Kentucky University, http://nku.edu/about.html; Bachelor's Degree Programs, WKU Online, Western Kentucky University, http://www.wku.edu/online/bachelors/index.php; Online Degree Programs, Eastern Kentucky University, http://ekuonline.eku.edu/earn-bachelors-degree-online; Mission, Berea College, https://www.berea.edu/about/mission/; About UofL, The University of Louisville, http://louisville.edu/about/; Online Degree Programs, Kentucky State University, http://kysu.edu/academics/distance-education/online-degree-programs/;
- Best for Vets Colleges 2017, Military Times, accessed May 29, 2017, http://bestforvets.militarytimes.com/2017-11-01/colleges/4-year/
- KHEAA-Administered Programs, Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, accessed May 17, 2017, https://www.kheaa.com/website/kheaa/kheaaprograms?main=1
- Kentucky's Transfer Policies, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, accessed May 17, 2017, http://www.knowhow2goky.org/kh2t/transfer_policies
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
The Bluegrass State is home to more than a few colleges and universities, and it's no easy task to sort out which ones stand above the rest - and which ones have programs that might line up with your targeted career goals.
In addition to the 16 different community colleges with more than 70 locations in Kentucky, there are eight public universities, several of which have multiple campuses. There are also more than two dozen private colleges and universities. To help you make the best-informed choice possible when it comes to your bachelor's degree program, we did extensive research to determine the ten best traditional and online colleges in Kentucky.
If you're planning to switch to a university program after you finish your two-year degree at a community college, many schools in Kentucky offer articulation agreements to make the transfer process easy. .
Best 4-Year Colleges in Kentucky
Our rankings are based on a mathematical analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and other sources within the U.S. Department of Education. We assembled a large dataset from the NCES and put it through the paces of a 13-point methodology that includes metrics of affordability, flexibility and distance education opportunities.
Our No. 1 school delivered a one-two punch of top affordability rankings that should stand out to students seeking a reasonably priced education. Not only did Murray State University students have the No. 1 most affordable tuition and fees cost in Kentucky in 2015-16, they also had a higher percentage of their tuition and fees covered by institutional grant aid than students of any other school in the state.
Murray State admins also went the extra mile to provide access to necessary courses for their on-campus students. Entire degree programs can be earned by attending classes in the evening and on weekends, and students who have spent some time in the workforce before returning to school may be able to earn course credit for relevant knowledge they've gained through life experience.
A combination of good performance on multiple metrics gave Northern Kentucky University the No. 2 spot on our list. NKU is one of the best schools in terms of average net price, the estimated out-of-pocket cost of college that's obtained by subtracting average grant and scholarship aid from the expected expenses of tuition, fees, room and board, books and other necessities. For low-income students, this Highland Heights school ranked No. 2 for average net price and only one other school statewide charged a lower out-of-pocket average to financially needy students.
The suburban campus, seven miles southeast of Cincinnati, serves more than 14,000 students. While most students choose to enroll in campus-based degree programs, more than 35 percent pursue their degrees through distance education. According to NCES, of the 154 degree programs available, 26 of them, such as organizational leadership, criminal justice and health science, are offered online.
The size of its online academic catalog earned Western Kentucky University a spot as one of the best online colleges for Kentucky students. Subjects such as sociology, health care administration and interdisciplinary studies can be taken entirely online, while other health care, business and technology degree programs are offered in a format that requires students to complete their first two years of coursework at a Kentucky community college.
The campus-based degree catalog at WKU also has a diverse selection of degree programs to offer. The more than 200 degree plans available on the Bowling Green campus amounted to the second-largest selection of traditional degrees in the state. Students at WKU also graduated at the fifth-highest rate among schools in our top ten.
Traditional measures of student success ran high on the list of merits for Kentucky's largest university. Just one other school in our top ten featured a higher graduation rate in 2016, and the percentage of first-year students returning to continue their degree programs ranked No. 3 among schools on our list.
UK also featured the state's largest degree catalog, with a selection of more than 300 undergraduate programs. In terms of affordability, just four other schools in the state provided a larger proportion of tuition and fees as institutional grant aid. Graduates of the Lexington school also had considerable success paying off their student debt, according to the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard. No other school on our list showed a higher percentage of alumni repaying their loans within three years than the nearly 75 percent at UK.
The main Richmond location of Eastern Kentucky University ranked No. 2 in the state for its selection of online programs, which includes bachelor's degree programs in emergency medicine, child and family studies, homeland security, occupational safety and more. It also took the No. 3 spot among schools on our list for its percentage of students enrolled in at least some distance education courses.
EKU also earned a rare distinction that makes evident its commitment to military veterans seeking an online bachelor's degree in Kentucky. Military Times ranks EKU among the top 20 four-year schools in the country on its list of "Best for Vets" colleges nationwide. Career counseling for students and job placement services for graduates were also available here.
Berea College stands out from the crowd in more ways than one. It doesn't charge tuition to its students, to begin with, which helped it record the No. 1 average net price in the state for students across the income spectrum in 2015-16. Its average net price figures were so low, in fact, that only one other college in the country posted a lower price for middle-income students and it placed in the 98th percentile nationally for those with significant financial need.
Perhaps as a result of the no-tuition policy, Berea also recorded the state's lowest median amount of college debt per student in 2015 — again ranking below just one other school in the country. It also featured the No. 2 first-year student retention rate and the No. 4 graduation rate in the state.
The University of Louisville is a large university in northern Kentucky, near the border with Indiana on the banks of Ohio River. Its degree catalog reflects the sort of variety that's usually expected from campuses that serve 20,000+ students — the more than 180 undergraduate programs available at U of L in 2015-16 placed at No. 3 statewide. Out of all those degree programs, the most popular one in terms of the number of degrees awarded was Communication.
Institutional grants covered a considerable percentage of average tuition at the Louisville campus, according to NCES numbers. Just three other schools in the state provided a more significant proportion of grant aid for its students. The graduation and retention rates at U of L ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, among schools that made our list.
The raw cost of tuition and fees at Morehead State University was the third-lowest in the state in 2015-16. Average net price at this medium-sized school ranked No. 7 statewide for both low- and middle-income students, and the percentage of students taking at least some of their coursework via distance education came in at No. 4 among schools in our top ten.
MSU students also had a good mix of study plans to choose from, whether they wanted to enroll online or on campus. The selection of degree programs for both campus-based and distance education students placed at No. 7 statewide. MSU was also one of just three schools on our list that offered every one of the ten most popular degree programs in the state.
Our No. 9 school was the smallest one on our list, but its opportunities for students of all income levels were anything but. The average cost of tuition and fees at Kentucky State University ranked No. 2 in the state for affordability, and the average net price figures for middle- and low-income students placed at No. 2 and No. 4, respectively. Students also received the state's No. 3 proportion of institutional grant aid in 2015.
The selection of online bachelor's degree programs available at KSU was limited to just three — psychology, criminal justice and public administration — but more than 52 percent of students took advantage of the flexibility of online courses in 2015-16. Campus-based flexibility measures were also in force at the Frankfurt school, including weekend/evening degree programs and opportunities to turn life experience into college credit.
The online catalog available at the University of the Cumberlands was third-largest in the state in 2015-16, according to NCES data, and no other school on our list reported a higher percentage of students taking at least some of their coursework in the virtual classroom. This flexibility metric may play a part in the first-year student retention rate at the Williamsburg institution, something that ranked No. 2 among schools that made our top ten.
UC graduates also reported a manageable average amount of student debt after leaving school. The median figure of $16,383 was low enough to take the No. 2 spot in the state and land UC among the top 100 schools nationwide on that metric. Students also had access to a tuition guarantee, a tuition payment plan and remedial services for non-traditional students returning to school after spending some time away.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Kentucky
Are you looking for extra information before deciding on your own degree path? Are you just curious about what your fellow students are likely to be majoring in? Here's a list of the most popular bachelor's programs in Kentucky.
In-Demand Careers in Kentucky
Recent employment projections can help college students better understand what the job market might look like once they graduate and start looking for full-time work in their field. Take a look at a few projected high-demand careers for Kentucky graduates.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists||67.6%||180||$55,210|
|Graduate Teaching Assistants||64.6%||1,380||$30,730|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||63.4%||500||$55,510|
|Home Health Aides||59.4%||2,540||$25,710|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||52.5%||1,770||$54,060|
|Operations Research Analysts||49.6%||930||$73,290|
|Occupational Therapy Aides||49.4%||60||$29,190|
|Physical Therapist Aides||48.4%||690||$24,410|
|Slaughterers and Meat Packers||44.2%||-||$27,160|
|Tour Guides and Escorts||44.1%||490||$23,740|
|Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians||43.9%||1,060||$46,400|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||43.2%||840||$62,740|
|Packers and Packagers, Hand||42.9%||11,100||$23,910|
|Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters||42.4%||380||$40,460|
|Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors||42.2%||1,260||$39,100|
|Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents||40.9%||1,910||$46,980|
|Dentists, All Other Specialists||40.6%||-||$215,130|
|Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including Health||38.2%||960||$51,000|
|Healthcare Social Workers||37.4%||1,740||$48,630|
|Brickmasons and Blockmasons||37%||840||$49,950|
|Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other||36.6%||1,670||$53,440|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Kentucky
Kentucky residents may be able to take advantage of state-specific financial aid programs like the Kentucky Tuition Grant provides need-based aid to Kentucky residents attending private colleges in the state. Additionally, The Go Higher Grant is a need-based award of up to $1,000 for students over the age of 24 taking less than half of a full-time course load at participating schools.
February 1 (priority)
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.0 GPA and full-time enrollment.
February 1 (priority)
Renwable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.0 GPA and full-time status.
- Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority
- Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education
- Kentucky Community and Technical College System
- Kentucky Schools' Net Price Calculators
- Kentucky Public University Transfer Agreements
- Transfer Tips