Best Colleges in Kentucky
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Individuals of all backgrounds are increasingly pursuing higher education due to the importance of advanced certificates and degrees to long-term professional success. The National Center for Education Statistics projects that the undergraduate student population in the U.S. will grow from 16.8 million in 2017 to 17.2 million by 2028. With the plethora of degree options, finding the right school for your academic interests and career goals can prove overwhelming.
This guide assists your search by detailing the 25 best colleges in Kentucky. The rankings below cover program offerings, financial aid availability, and student resources such as study abroad opportunities and career guidance. You will also learn about each college's general admissions criteria. If a school interests you, contact the relevant admissions specialists. These counselors can help you navigate the enrollment process and apply for scholarships and grants.
Top 10 Colleges in Kentucky
- Berea College - Berea, KY
- University of Louisville - Louisville, KY
- Asbury University - Wilmore, KY
- Simmons College of Kentucky - Louisville, KY
- Centre College - Danville, KY
- Northern Kentucky University - Highland Heights, KY
- Alice Lloyd College - Pippa Passes, KY
- University of Kentucky - Lexington, KY
- Midway University - Midway, KY
- Murray State University - Murray, KY
By attending a Kentucky college, you stand to benefit from the state's growing economy, particularly in the transportation, health services, and tourism and hospitality industries. The manufacturing sector is another major job provider, employing over 13% of the state's workforce in 2019. In addition to ample career opportunities, Kentucky boasts a relatively low cost of living. Even in metropolitan areas like Louisville, living expenses fall 8% below the national average.
2020 Best Accredited Colleges in Kentucky
Berea College was founded in 1855 as the first coeducational and interracial higher education institution in the American South. Today, the school serves 1,600 students, who predominantly come from low-income families and underserved communities.
Undergraduate candidates can earn a bachelor of arts or science in 28 fields of study. Options include biology, political science, communication, and child and family studies. Students can enroll in the sustainability and environmental studies program, which emphasizes service learning with local Appalachian communities. The college also delivers programs for nursing, computer science, and sociology. Additionally, Berea facilitates hands-on training with local businesses and organizations through its Labor Program. These positions help students gain paid, relevant work experience while they pursue a college education.
All admitted students benefit from the No-Tuition Promise initiative, which provides a full tuition scholarship. Berea also supports learners by providing internship placement and career development resources. Prospective learners submit an online application, academic transcripts, a school counselor evaluation form, and ACT/SAT scores.
Established in 1798, the University of Louisville was the first city-owned postsecondary school in the United States. Today, the institution operates as part of the Kentucky State University System and supports 22,500 students every semester.
Undergraduate programs cover fields such as sports administration, aerospace engineering, global public health, and entrepreneurship. Students pursuing business administration degrees can choose from concentrations in accounting, finance, computer information systems, and even equine business. UofL also delivers dual-degree law tracks that enable learners to earn their bachelor's and juris doctor in six years. Other graduate options include art education, anthropology, and neurobiology. The university delivers online education through Blackboard.
Freshman applicants submit school transcripts and ACT or SAT results. The average first-year student possess a 25.4 ACT score. Graduate candidates generally need a minimum 3.0 GPA. UofL charges affordable tuition prices based on residency status and program type. Financial aid can include major-based scholarships and fellowships.
Located in Wilmore, Asbury University delivers more than 150 degree options through its 15 academic departments. Asbury offers low tuition rates that disregard residency status. Learners enjoy a variety of financial aid opportunities, including the scaling Asbury Scholarship based on GPA and standardized exam performance.
The academic catalog contains bachelor's programs in media communication, pastoral ministries, forensic psychology, and economics. Asbury provides an instructional design degree that prepares candidates for careers as corporate trainers and online instructional specialists. Graduate students choose from programs in business and communication arts. They may also obtain a master in teaching that leads to initial state certification. Working professionals can complete their college education by enrolling in accelerated online tracks.
First-year applicants must complete the Common Application and submit ACT, SAT, or CLT scores. In lieu of standardized test results, candidates can submit an additional admissions essay and undergo a personal interview. High school juniors and seniors may jumpstart their college education by engaging in dual enrollment, with options for campus-based and online classes.
Simmons College of Kentucky was founded in 1879 as the state's first postsecondary institution for students of color. The school offers associate and bachelor's programs to over 200 learners.
Students can earn an associate degree in either general education or religious studies. The former program provides the foundational coursework candidates need to pursue advanced academics. The latter track helps learners examine the interconnections between religion, economics, politics, and social structures.
Simmons offers bachelor's degrees in music, sociology, religious studies, and cross-cultural communications. Learners may also enroll in the business entrepreneurship program, building the communication, critical thinking, and collaboration skills needed to start a new venture or grow an existing business. Outside of the classroom, Simmons learners can grow as individuals and expand their professional network by engaging in athletics, band performance, and volunteer opportunities.
Admissions materials include a formal application, official school transcripts, a recommendation letter, a 200- to 300-word personal essay, and SAT or ACT scores. Simmons offers a flat and affordable tuition rate regardless of legal residency.
Centre College enrolls over 1,450 students each term. The school boasts a 10-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and regularly features on rankings for the best liberal arts colleges in the South. Students can enroll in over 50 academic programs, including pre-professional tracks for dentistry, law, optometry, social work, and physical therapy.
Centre also delivers dual-degree tracks in collaboration with state universities. For example, students can enroll in the accelerated nursing program, earning their bachelor's at Centre and master's at Vanderbilt University in about five years.
Conventional academic majors include psychology, international studies, data science, biology, and art history. Learners can obtain a bachelor's in behavioral neuroscience, which prepares them to work as occupational therapists and clinical behavior analysts. Centre also operates an environmental studies program that allows students to study abroad in locations such as Mexico and New Zealand.
The college bases admission decisions on each applicant's GPA, quality of completed coursework, standardized test scores, and extracurricular pursuits.
Northern Kentucky University operates its main campus in Highland Heights, serving approximately 15,000 students. The school delivers 70 undergraduate majors and 22 graduate programs.
Bachelor's programs cover fields such as marketing, public history, visual arts, journalism, and environmental science. Students can complete the global supply chain management degree online. The university also delivers a variety of options for nursing students, including accelerated BSN tracks for working RNs and dual-degree options. At the graduate level, options include business informatics, mental health and school counseling, and public administration. NKU provides distance education through Blackboard.
Freshman students undergo a holistic evaluation process that considers high school curriculum, GPA, class rank, and SAT/ACT performance. Certain academic programs (such as honors, health science, and nursing) require more rigorous standards. In addition to federal aid and state grants, learners can apply for institutional awards, including the Nancy Jones Booth Scholarship for candidates with a minimum 3.0 GPA and demonstrable commitment to community service.
Located in Pippa Passes, Alice Lloyd College was founded in 1923 as a local leadership training institution. Today, the school offers 18 bachelor's degree and eight pre-professional programs. ALC's work-study curriculum requires students to hold part-time jobs as a graduation condition. In return, the college provides a full tuition guarantee to residents of the 180-county Central Appalachian service area. Furthermore, ALC helps students transition into graduate academics and professional training through its Caney Scholars Program.
Bachelor's candidates can choose from majors such as criminal justice, business administration, sociology, and history. ALC offers teaching programs with emphasis areas in elementary and middle school education. Students may also enroll in a dual-degree track for nursing.
Furthermore, the college enables learners to personalize their degree plan with a variety of minors. Options include leadership studies and entrepreneurship. Pre-professional training prepares learners for occupations such as dentistry, pharmacy technology, and physical therapy. On top of conventional admissions criteria such as GPA and ACT or SAT scores, ALC requires applicants to sit for a personal interview.
The University of Kentucky supports over 33,700 students, making it the largest higher education institution in the state. Founded in 1865 as an agricultural and mechanical school, UK now boasts over 200 comprehensive academic programs across 16 colleges.
Bachelor's programs cover fields such as biosystems engineering, public health, and integrated strategic communication. Students can enroll in a management program, augmenting their studies with minors in economics and business analytics. UK delivers an online bachelor of business administration program that boasts fully asynchronous classes and a customizable curriculum. At the graduate level, students may pursue degrees in urban and environmental design, medical sciences, and creative writing. The university also provides a variety of remote master's programs, including applied statistics and healthcare systems leadership.
Prospective first-year students need to meet general admissions criteria, which are based on statewide academic readiness indicators. Transfer candidates must have a minimum 2.0 GPA. The university offers low, residency-based tuition prices and financial aid. Award opportunities include the Bluegrass Spirit Scholarship for high-achieving, out-of-state learners.
Established as the Kentucky Female Orphan School in 1847, Midway University now offers coeducational academic programs to 1,700 students each semester. The academic catalog contains bachelor's programs in psychology, education, marketing communications, and mathematics. Students may pursue an equine studies degree, with concentration options for scientific research, management, and equine rehabilitation.
Midway operates an interdisciplinary studies program that targets working professionals who want to complete their baccalaureate education. The university also offers master's programs in nursing, business administration, and education. In lieu of traditional academics, students can earn their credentials online through accelerated, eight-week classes powered by Moodle.
First-year candidates should expect to meet recommended minimum requirements, which include a 2.5 GPA and 18 ACT score (or SAT equivalent). Undergraduate transfer students need at least a 2.0 GPA. Midway ignores residency status when calculating tuition. Students may pay per semester or by credit. The university offers a variety of merit-based award programs.
Murray State University operates more than 110 academic programs across five regional campuses. The school delivers online learning opportunities through Blackboard, including individual asynchronous courses and fully remote degrees. Online students can explore bachelor's programs in computer information systems, public and community health, and agribusiness. Graduate candidates may earn an online master's degree in mass communication or postsecondary education administration. Distance learners enjoy low, per-credit tuition prices and scholarships for online students.
For students who prefer traditional academics, Murray State provides comprehensive degrees in fields such as applied health sciences, engineering, and accounting. The university also offers a variety of education programs, including online co-teaching training and alternative certification tracks. Furthermore, working professionals may complete their bachelor's degree through a flexible integrated studies program. Candidates can either pick from established curricular pathways or tailor their own degree plan.
Undergraduate admission standards include a minimum 2.0 GPA and an 18 on the ACT or 960 on the SAT.
Morehead State University opened its doors in 1887 as a small teacher training school. Today, the institution delivers comprehensive undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 10,000 students.
Students can enroll in bachelor's programs in technology management, industrial education, astrophysics, and criminal justice. They may also pursue a global studies degree to prepare for leadership positions within government agencies and international nonprofit organizations. Learners can engage in research with faculty mentors through the Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program.
Master's programs cover fields such as music education, clinical and counseling psychology, and space systems engineering. Graduate students may also earn a doctoral degree in education. Concentration options include educational technology leadership, adult and higher education, and PreK-12 administration.
Prospective freshman students must submit an online application, official high school transcripts, and standardized test scores. To qualify for unconditional enrollment, learners need to score at least 18 on the ACT or 860 on the SAT. Graduate candidates need at least a 2.5 GPA.
In addition to its flagship campus in Richmond, Eastern Kentucky University maintains four satellite locations and enrolls about 16,000 students overall. The school offers undergraduate majors in several fields, including animal studies, construction management, forensic science, and social justice. Learners may pursue a bachelor of special education in learning and behavior disorders, which embeds some of the field experience needed for teacher certification. Graduate programs include master's of applied mathematics, creative writing, and occupational therapy. Candidates may also earn a doctorate in psychology.
Students who prefer online education can enroll in academic programs powered by Blackboard. Undergraduate online options consist of associate degrees in paralegal and police studies, as well as bachelor's degrees in homeland security and nursing. Distance learners can obtain graduate degrees that prepare them to work as school librarians and rural health family nurse practitioners.
Prospective first-time students need a minimum 2.5 GPA and adequate ACT or SAT scores. EKU charges tuition based on residency status and program type. Financial aid opportunities include foundational awards such as the Governor's School for the Arts Music Scholarship.
Georgetown College is a private liberal arts institution that supports 1,600 students. The school boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of 11-to-1 and delivers over 40 undergraduate programs. In addition to affordable tuition that ignores residency status, GC provides generous financial aid opportunities that include competitive scholarships for fine art, health sciences, and pre-law students. Transfer residential candidates benefit from scholarship programs based on GPA.
The academic catalog contains bachelor's programs in athletic training, biochemistry, religious studies, and healthcare administration. Students may pursue a diplomacy and international commerce major, which prepares them for careers as lawyers, import/export specialists, and foreign diplomats. The college also delivers a dual-degree track that enables candidates to earn their public administration bachelor's and master's degree in about five years.
GC specializes in graduate education programs that include advanced certificates for licensed teachers. Students without teaching credentials may pursue a master of education leading to initial state certification. Most of these programs are available online and do not require thesis work.
Based in Lexington, Transylvania University was founded in 1780 as the first higher education institution in Kentucky. Transy now enrolls 1,000 students in 46 undergraduate programs. On top of traditional majors, the university enables students to craft their own majors with the endorsement of faculty from two different programs.
Bachelor's programs cover fields such as writing, rhetoric, and communication; health and exercise science; and anthropology. Students may pursue a bachelor's in chemistry, picking from either a generalist track or concentrations in teaching and biochemistry. Transy also delivers pre-professional programs in law, public health, and engineering. Candidates may augment their major studies by taking on a complementary minor.
The school operates a test-optional admissions process, allowing candidates to decide whether ACT and SAT scores accurately reflect their academic potential. As a private university, Transy does not factor residency status for tuition. All students may apply for financial assistance, which can include merit scholarships based on GPA and standardized test performance.
Spalding University, based in Louisville, supports approximately 2,300 students each semester. The institution boasts a 10-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and offers affordable tuition prices based on program type. In addition to federal aid and state grants, SU provides institutional awards such as the need-based Muhammad Ali scholarship and the Heartland scholarship for out-of-state candidates.
Undergraduate students can enroll in programs for graphic design, psychology, social work, and athletic training. They can pursue a nursing degree, picking from either an RN-to-BSN track or an accelerated option for second-degree candidates. SU also offers a bachelor of criminal justice with concentrations such as law enforcement, corrections, and forensics and electronic crimes.
At the graduate level, programs include clinical psychology, occupational therapy, and writing. The university also delivers a master of education for experienced teachers and a master of teaching leading to alternative initial state certification. Students can earn a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees online through asynchronous classes powered by Moodle.
Prospective first-year students must submit an online application, official school transcripts, and ACT or SAT results.
Founded in 1876 as a teacher training and business school, Western Kentucky University now delivers comprehensive academic programs to over 20,000 students. Learners can choose from several undergraduate majors, including workforce administration, meteorology, health sciences, and computer information technology. Students may enroll in a unique recreation administration program that offers concentrations in facility and event management, sport services, and commercial tourism.
The university also offers a flexible interdisciplinary studies program for working professionals who want to complete their four-year degree. Graduate offerings emphasize the education field and include teaching endorsements and advanced certificates. WKU delivers online education through Blackboard.
Freshman applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA and adequate ACT or SAT scores. They must also fulfill the state-mandated pre-college curriculum requirement. To enroll as a transfer student, candidates need at least 24 credits earned with a 2.0 GPA. Financial aid packages include departmental awards based on major and the Targeted Non-Resident Scholarship for candidates with at least a 3.0 GPA.
Bellarmine University enrolls 3,800 students in over 60 academic programs. The school offers a flat tuition rate and over $19 million in scholarships to freshman candidates each year. Other financial aid opportunities include multicultural awards for students of color and transfer scholarships for applicants with a minimum 2.0 GPA.
The academic catalog contains undergraduate majors such as actuarial science, computer engineering, theology, and health services and senior living leadership. Students can earn a bachelor's in psychology, picking from concentrations in human resources or human clinical counseling. BU also delivers a comprehensive communication program that enables candidates to focus their studies on subfields such as sports broadcasting, advertising and public relations, and television and radio production.
Graduate programs focus on education, health sciences, and business. Additionally, BU provides noncredit courses and online certificates for working professionals who want to pursue career advancement.
BU generally accepts first-year students with at least a 2.5 GPA and a 21 ACT or 1060 SAT score.
Located in Owensboro, Brescia University was established in 1925 as a women's junior college. Today, the institution provides coeducational academic opportunities to 1,300 students. Candidates may pursue over 50 academic majors and minors, including bachelor's programs in theology, graphic design, accounting, and political science. Learners can also earn a social studies degree that leads to initial teacher certification for grades 8-12. Additionally, Brescia operates a bachelor of social work program that meets standards established by the Council on Social Work Education.
Graduate students can pick from four options, including master's programs in social work, speech-language pathology, and clinical psychology. The master of business administration features options for campus-based academics or fully online education. Brescia also offers online programs in fields such as management, integrated studies, and general education.
Admissions materials include an online application, official school transcripts, and ACT or SAT scores. Students who graduated from high school at least three years prior to applying do not need to submit standardized test results.
Kentucky State University, based in Frankfort, is a public, historically black institution of higher education. The school supports 1,800 students and delivers associate, bachelor's, and master's programs. Local high school juniors and seniors can jumpstart their college education by pursuing dual-credit coursework.
Undergraduate students may choose from several bachelor's programs, including Africana studies, business administration, applied mathematics, or biology. Candidates can also earn a computer science degree, focusing their studies on either information security or digital gaming entertainment and simulation. Additionally, KSU provides a variety of nursing programs, including an associate option and a bachelor's track for working RNs. The university delivers nine graduate programs and facilitates distance education through Blackboard.
To enroll as a freshman student, applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA. They also must score at least 18 on the ACT or 960 on the SAT. On top of affordable tuition, KSU offers scholarships based on academic performance.
Kentucky Christian University was founded in 1919 as a public teacher training school. Today, the institution offers comprehensive degree options to 700 students each semester. In lieu of campus-based academics, candidates may enroll in online programs facilitated by the Sakai platform.
KCU offers bachelor's degrees in advanced biblical studies, biology, and teacher education. Students can also earn a social work degree, with minor options in counseling psychology and child and family studies. The university provides master's programs in advanced practice registered nursing, teacher leader education, and Christian leadership.
Freshman applicants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA and earn at least a 180 on the ACT (or SAT equivalent). Candidates submit an online form, official transcripts, and a personal essay detailing their academic journey and career goals. KCU offers some of the lowest tuition rates among Kentucky universities. The school also provides financial aid, including merit scholarships for state residents and out-of-state students.
The University of the Cumberlands provides accessible liberal arts education that prepares students for successful careers and lifelong roles as servant leaders in their communities. Approximately 11,700 students attend the school, taking advantage of affordable tuition prices and generous financial aid. Opportunities include the merit-based music and Christian leadership scholarships, along with awards for transfer students who possess a minimum 2.5 GPA.
The academic catalog features traditional majors such as information technology sciences, physics, public health, and criminal justice. Students may enroll in a religious studies program, picking from options in youth and family ministries, global missions, and Christian planting. For individuals who prefer remote education, UC offers online programs in general studies and human services. Distance learners can also earn a bachelor's degree in athletic coaching.
Advanced academics include master's programs in clinical mental health counseling, digital forensics, and strategic management. UC offers traditional and executive MBA degrees. Graduate candidates benefit from distinct research funding and fellowship opportunities.
Based in Crestview Hills, Thomas More University is regularly ranked among the best colleges in the South. The school enrolls 2,000 students in 43 undergraduate and five graduate programs.
The school offers a number of undergraduate majors, including sports and entertainment marketing, environmental science, and management information systems. TMU operates a biology program with concentrations in marine biology and biochemistry. Students can also enroll in a business administration program, which comes with a dual-degree option that enables candidates to simultaneously earn their bachelor's and master's in five years. Graduate programs cover fields such as athletic training, ethical leadership, and teaching.
Freshman candidates need a minimum 2.5 GPA and either a 20 ACT, 1030 SAT, or 66 CLT score. To attend as a transfer student, applicants need at least 12 college credits earned with a 2.0 GPA. TMU charges affordable tuition based on program type. All learners can apply for financial aid, which includes institutional scholarships based on academic performance and area of study.
Established in 1906, Campbellsville University offers comprehensive academic programs to 12,000 students every semester. The school offers over 90 degree options, including undergraduate credentials for sociology, pastoral ministries, art and design, and criminal justice administration. CU provides a variety of business administration programs, enabling candidates to pick from emphasis areas such as accounting, entrepreneurship, and human resource management. The university also delivers pre-professional training for future engineers and healthcare specialists.
CU caters to the needs of its diverse student population by facilitating flexible online education through Moodle. Offerings include master's degrees in music education, TESOL, and management and leadership. Distance learners can also earn sport management credentials that prepare them for careers as facility operations directors and contract analysts.
All students benefit from low tuition rates that ignore residency status. Financial aid includes diversity scholarships and awards for academic excellence. Learners may also obtain departmental funding through opportunities like the Howell Environmental Science Scholarship.
Kentucky Wesleyan College was founded in 1858 as a training school for Methodist preachers. Today, the institution welcomes students of all backgrounds and offers undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts.
Academic majors include health sciences, zoology, art education, and political science. Students can pursue a bachelor's degree in fitness and sports management, developing the skills needed to work as exercise physiologists and rehabilitation therapists. The 120-credit program embeds hands-on learning through internships coordinated with local business and medical centers.
In addition to traditional academics, KWC facilitates a dual-degree track with the University of Louisville. This accelerated program enables dedicated students to earn their bachelor's credentials and juris doctor in six years. The college also provides online degree options through the Desire2Learn Brightspace platform.
Prospective first-year students submit an online application, official school transcripts, and ACT or SAT scores. Learners pay affordable tuition prices based on enrollment status. KWC offers a variety of financial aid, including grants and scholarships specifically for transfer students.
Located in Columbia, Lindsey Wilson College offers undergraduate and graduate degrees to over 2,500 students every semester. LWC delivers associate programs in engineering mechanics, criminal justice, and health science. Undergraduate candidates may earn bachelor's degrees in media studies, biology, digital arts, and psychophysiology. The college also offers a pre-licensure nursing program and an accelerated BSN track for active RNs.
At the graduate level, programs cover fields such as counseling and human development, business administration, and technology management. Ph.D. candidates can enroll in the counselor education and supervision program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. The 72-credit curriculum prepares students for careers as clinical researchers and program directors.
The school requires dual-enrolled high school students and first-year applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores. Transfer candidates must meet a 2.0 minimum GPA requirement. LWC charges tuition prices based on program type, with lower rates available to distance learners. Financial aid includes merit awards such as the Wesley Scholarship for high-achieving students pursuing a Christian ministries major.
BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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