Is There an HBCU in Kentucky?

Want to attend an HBCU in Kentucky, but don't know what options you have? Here's what you need to know about HBCUs in Kentucky.
portrait of Bianca Gonzalez
Bianca Gonzalez
Read Full Bio


Bianca Gonzalez is a queer Latina brain cancer survivor who writes career readiness and corporate social responsibility content through the lens of accessibility and inclusion. You can find her at
Published on August 31, 2023
Edited by
portrait of Cameren Boatner
Cameren Boatner
Read Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Cameren Boatner is a diversity, equity, and inclusion editor at BestColleges. She's a Society of Professional Journalists award winner for her coverage of race, minorities, and Title IX. You can find her work in South Florida Gay News, MSN Money, Deb...
Reviewed by
portrait of Pamela “Safisha Nzingha” Hill, Ph.D.
Pamela “Safisha Nzingha” Hill, Ph.D.
Read Full Bio

Reviewer & Writer

For over 20 years, Pamela "Safisha Nzingha" Hill, Ph.D., has worked in higher education in both student development and academic affairs. Dr. Hill is a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant; Afrocentric scholar; activist; journalist; educator; ...
Learn more about our editorial process

Kentucky has two historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs): Kentucky State University and Simmons College of Kentucky.

There are less than 2,500 enrollees between the two HBCUs in Kentucky. So, if you're looking for a tight-knit community, one of these options might suit you. However, if you want to attend a larger HBCU, you might need to look outside of Kentucky.

There are over 100 historically black colleges across the country. Many will provide a much larger university-based alumni network, although HBCUs have a collective alumni network as well. Read on to learn about the two HBCUs in Kentucky and some other colleges for BIPOC students in the state.

Kentucky State University

Kentucky State University (KSU) was created in 1886 under its original name, "the State School for Colored Persons." It became a land grant institution in 1890. Today, its 882-acre campus centers on environmental emphasis and features a 311-acre agricultural research farm and a 306-acre environmental education center.

It is a small school with less than 2,000 students enrolled, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). At KSU, 93% of students are 24 and under. For the 2023-24 school year, tuition is $4,044 for residents and $6,067 for out-of-state students. KSU calls itself the most diverse public institution in the Commonwealth.

KSU is located in Frankfort, where you can visit the Kentucky River or enjoy local bourbon distilleries.


Kentucky State offers 25 majors divided among three colleges. Popular program offerings at KSU include:

  • Business administration
  • Education
  • Liberal arts
  • Psychology
  • Journalism

You can choose in-person or online learning with synchronous and asynchronous formats. KSU offers many programs completely online.

Student Support Services

KSU has a testing center and an office for students with disabilities. You can also participate in leadership development opportunities.

Simmons College of Kentucky

Formed after the Civil War, Simmons College was the first college in Kentucky to allow Black students to enroll. Members of the Kentucky State Convention of Colored Baptist Churches first proposed establishing Kentucky's first college for Black citizens in 1865.

Located in Louisville, Simmons College is a private, four-year institution with a small student population of slightly under 250 students. The college also has a high percentage of non-traditional students, with 52% of attending students over the age of 25, according to NCES data. In the 2022-2023 academic year, tuition was $8,000 per semester.


The school offers five bachelor of arts and three bachelor of science programs. Simmons College offers many courses on an on-demand basis. Some of the most popular programs include:

  • Business entrepreneurship
  • Religious studies
  • Sociology

Student Support Services

Simmons provides students with food and other necessities through Talon's Food Services. The college also has career development services and technology assistance.

Should You Attend an HBCU in Kentucky?

Many students attend HBCUs to get closer to their culture and have a stronger sense of belonging. But Kentucky has restricted education for Black communities in the past.

The 1904 passage of the Day Law outlawed African American and white students from attending schools within a 25-mile radius. At the time, Berea College was the only integrated college in Kentucky and was fined $1,000.

Today, state lawmakers are introducing bills restricting critical race theory in K-12 schools, but colleges and universities in Kentucky still offer critical race theory.

There are a few other schools in Kentucky that aren't HBCUs but still support Black students.

Berea College

Berea College was founded in 1855 by abolitionists and reformers, making it the first interracial and coeducational college in the South.

It was the only racially integrated college in Kentucky and the South for just under 40 years until the state forced segregation with its Day Law, making it an all-white institution until Kentucky ended racial segregation in schools in 1950.

Today, Berea College is one of Kentucky's most selective institutions, with a 33% acceptance rate for fall 2021. Still, the school prioritizes supporting economically disadvantaged students. Since 1892, every student enrolled at Berea has paid $0 for tuition. Graduates from the class of 2020-21 had an average educational debt of $4,712.

University of Louisville

UofL is one of only 80 U.S. universities to be recognized as both a Research 1 and Community Engaged university.

The school's 1st UP program builds community, provides workshops, and offers one-to-one coaching to first-generation students. Its READY mentoring program is designed to help first-generation students adjust to the transition into college. You can earn completion grants through both programs that count toward your bill.

Spalding University

Spalding University is a Louisville-based Catholic university and the world's first certified compassionate university.

On MLK Day in 2021, the school announced its online training and professional development program in antiracism called Restorative Practices for the Antiracist Journey. SU's Collective Care Center is one of the only behavioral health clinics in the country to specialize in race-based trauma and stress treatment.