Best Kentucky Colleges & Universities

Become Team
Become Team
September 22, 2021

Kentucky's higher education system includes eight public universities, 16 colleges within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, and 25 accredited independent institutions. That translates to plenty of higher education options for Kentucky students, but it's important for aspiring students to do their research to ensure they pick the school that's right for them. This page offers tools and data that can help, including rankings that list Kentucky's best overall colleges, information about financial assistance programs, and data that shows the real cost of college in Kentucky.

Kentucky College Leaderboard: Rankings

Searching for the right school can be daunting, so we've made the task easier by rounding up the top colleges in Kentucky to give prospective students an idea of the state's best academic offerings. Rankings are determined by a combination of factors, such as tuition, access to financial aid, graduation rate and student-teacher ratio. Even if students don't see their perfect fit here, they can use the list to gauge the quality of other Kentucky colleges. See which Kentucky colleges and universities made the cut for the academic year.

Rankings Methodology Minimum Qualifications
  • Located in Kentucky
  • Public or private not-for-profit
  • Institutionally accredited
  • At least 10 total programs
Ranking Metrics
  • Median annual alumni earnings 10 years after entering the college
  • In-state tuition and fees for undergraduates
  • Student/teacher ratio
  • 6-year graduation rate
  • % of students receiving institutional financial aid (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Average amount of institutional aid awarded per student (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Availability of placement services upon completion
  • Availability of academic/career counseling services
  • Availability of employment services
  • 3-year student cohort loan default rate
Data Sources

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): National Center for Education Statistics

Latest 'Final Release' data available as of Fall 2016 College Scorecard: U.S. Department of Education

2-Year Programs

West Kentucky Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 38% 99.83 $27,200 14:1 1% N/A 11 99 Yes No
Madisonville Community College View School Profile $ 30% 99.74 $26,800 14:1 22% N/A 11 61 Yes No
Gateway Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 34% 99.6 $26,300 12:1 9% N/A 13 70 Yes Yes
Maysville Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 30% 99.41 $22,300 11:1 9% N/A 10 67 Yes Yes
Henderson Community College View School Profile $ 21% 99.2 $24,600 10:1 22% N/A 5 28 Yes Yes
Somerset Community College View School Profile $ 25% 98.9 $25,800 18:1 8% N/A 11 84 Yes Yes
Owensboro Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 30% 98.72 $25,000 13:1 4% N/A 10 82 Yes Yes
Jefferson Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 11% 98.4 $26,200 16:1 1% N/A 11 101 Yes Yes
Bluegrass Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 18% 98.01 $22,600 16:1 2% N/A 14 98 Yes Yes
Ashland Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 20% 97.9 $24,000 14:1 7% N/A 9 58 Yes Yes
Hopkinsville Community College View School Profile $ 19% 97.51 $26,600 19:1 10% N/A 11 43 Yes Yes
Hazard Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 28% 97.44 $21,600 15:1 19% N/A 10 62 No Yes
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 25% 96.73 $22,100 15:1 6% N/A 7 54 Yes No
Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 20% 88.51 $29,200 15:1 5% N/A 7 47 Yes Yes
Elizabethtown Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 23% 87.28 $27,200 18:1 4% N/A 13 66 No Yes
Big Sandy Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 16% 86 $23,000 18:1 18% N/A 9 57 No No

4-Year Programs

Georgetown College View School Profile $$$$ 60% 99.72 $43,000 9:1 100% 89% 3 42 Yes No
Berea College View School Profile $$$ 66% 98.84 $34,400 10:1 100% 34% 0 50 Yes Yes
Bellarmine University View School Profile $$$$ 62% 98.72 $44,900 12:1 100% 83% 0 54 Yes Yes
Transylvania University View School Profile $$$$ 74% 98.44 $41,100 11:1 100% 83% 0 40 Yes No
Centre College View School Profile $$$$ 87% 98.14 $45,000 10:1 97% 72% 0 29 Yes No
University of Louisville View School Profile $$ 52% 98.06 $37,700 12:1 56% 74% 5 121 Yes Yes
University of Kentucky View School Profile $$ 58% 96.03 $41,500 18:1 59% 72% 3 185 Yes Yes
Murray State University View School Profile $ 54% 95.88 $35,500 16:1 70% 80% 12 101 Yes Yes
Thomas More College View School Profile $$$$ 49% 94.51 $45,800 15:1 98% 93% 1 43 No No
Asbury University View School Profile $$$$ 76% 94.15 $34,100 12:1 93% 69% 12 57 Yes No
Brescia University View School Profile $$ 46% 94.12 $36,800 14:1 89% 49% 9 30 Yes No
Kentucky Wesleyan College View School Profile $$$ 36% 92.82 $36,600 12:1 100% 61% 3 38 Yes No
Midway College View School Profile $$$ 51% 92.61 $36,600 15:1 96% 58% 9 26 Yes Yes
Western Kentucky University View School Profile $$ 50% 92.37 $34,600 18:1 37% 93% 44 132 Yes No
Campbellsville University View School Profile $$$ 44% 92.24 $32,100 13:1 90% 73% 8 58 Yes Yes
Union College View School Profile $$$ 36% 91.39 $32,500 13:1 100% 75% 2 47 Yes No
University of the Cumberlands View School Profile $$ 45% 91.19 $33,300 16:1 100% 66% 23 58 No No
Eastern Kentucky University View School Profile $$ 37% 91.19 $33,100 15:1 41% 74% 15 128 Yes No
Spalding University View School Profile $$$ 38% 91.02 $40,000 14:1 97% 46% 0 40 No No
Northern Kentucky University View School Profile $$ 37% 91 $36,100 16:1 51% 91% 16 86 No Yes
Morehead State University View School Profile $$ 43% 89.22 $31,800 18:1 70% 84% 15 85 Yes No
Kentucky State University View School Profile $ 14% 88.27 $26,600 12:1 61% 48% 2 29 Yes Yes
Kentucky Christian University View School Profile $$ 41% 88.18 $28,000 12:1 99% 48% 2 20 No No
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary View School Profile $$ 55% 87.78 N/A 11:1 43% 65% 1 15 Yes No
University of Pikeville View School Profile $$ 28% 86.9 $30,400 16:1 99% 100% 0 22 Yes Yes
Alice Lloyd College View School Profile $$ 36% 86.54 $33,400 17:1 79% 36% 0 18 Yes No
Lindsey Wilson College View School Profile $$$ 32% 86 $28,000 16:1 99% N/A 4 36 Yes No

Search & Compare Colleges in Kentucky

Many variables come into play when it comes to choosing the right college. Prospective students can use this search tool to find and compare colleges in Kentucky that fit with their academic, financial and lifestyle needs. Sort through the options to filter for variables such as cost, degree level and student population, and make side-by-side comparisons to find the perfect college match.

College Readiness and Support Programs in Kentucky

Every year, the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) provides the state's students with millions of dollars in scholarships and grants to help make higher education more accessible. Along with need- and merit-based financial aid, KHEAA also provides students and parents with planning tools, timelines, career guides, loan repayment information and other resources to help ease some of the stress that comes with planning for college and life after graduation. Students can start their search for college planning and assistance with these three KHEAA programs:

KHEAA College Connection Newsletters

Every month, KHEAA publishes its College Connection Newsletters, which provide students and parents with relevant, timely information to help prepare for and navigate through college. Readers can find pre-college checklists, scholarship opportunities, tips for writing entrance essays, financial aid information, and news about local higher education programs. KHEAA keeps a year's worth of past issues on its website, and readers can sign up for email notifications when new editions are posted.

15 to Finish

Kentucky launched its 15 to Finish campaign in order to help college students graduate on time. The campaign provides resources and advice to help students attain the goal of taking 15 credits per semester, which will allow them to finish their degrees in two or four years, depending on the degree program. The campaign pushes to make 15 credits per semester the standard, full-time course load, because students who finish their degrees on time incur less debt and are able to join the workforce sooner.

Close the Deal

Kentucky's Close the Deal program was created to encourage high school students to seek higher education, whether through a one-year certificate program or a four-year degree. High schools with historically low college admission rates partner with business and community leaders to help prepare students for contemporary workforce demands and education after high school. These leaders work with students to set and meet college and career goals, and then guide them through the admissions and financial aid processes. State education professionals also participate to help school guidance counselors improve their college and career advising.

Cost of College in Kentucky

Looking solely at tuition and fees can give students a skewed picture of the cost of attending college. By reviewing recent financial aid statistics, such as how many students receive assistance and how much money is awarded on average, prospective students can get a more thorough understanding of college costs. Take a look at the charts below to see how Kentucky colleges compare with national tuition rates and financial aid disbursement.

* Institutional aid represents grant and scholarship funds directly awarded by a postsecondary institution.

* Financial aid data represents 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Most Affordable Colleges in Kentucky

A quality education doesn't necessarily mean breaking the bank. Along with financial aid programs, Kentucky has multiple colleges with low tuition and fees. Combine these two factors, and you've got the most affordable colleges in Kentucky. Check out these top six, based on net price, and see where Kentucky ranks nationally for affordability.

Indiana College Net Price vs. National Average

Annual Net Price
INDIANA $17,744

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Kentucky Colleges With Highest-Paid Alumni

Students often need to borrow money to help pay for college, but the pain of post-graduation debt can be eased by landing a well-paying job within a few years of earning a degree. These Kentucky colleges turn out the state's highest-paid alumni 10 years after they entered college.

Kentucky Alumni Salaries vs. National Average

Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After Entering College
KENTUCKY $35,643

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Colleges in Kentucky With Least Alumni Debt

Whether it's because of low tuition, significant financial aid packages, comprehensive planning tools, or a combination of all three, some colleges leave their students with a little more change in their pockets when graduation rolls around. Check out which colleges in Kentucky have the lowest alumni debt.

Kentucky College Grad Debt Vs. National Average

Median Federal Student
Loan Debt After Graduation
KENTUCKY $23,021

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Kentucky Cost of Living: College Expenses Beyond Tuition

Sometimes prospective students find their perfect college - the right program at the right price - only to find that the area's high rents, expensive utilities or pricey groceries make attending school unfeasible. Fortunately for Kentucky students, the state's cost of living is generally lower than the national average, especially for housing. Prospective students can look at the table below to get a breakdown of the cost of living in Kentucky and its largest metro areas.

area composite index housing groceries utilities transportation health care misc.
Statewide Average 89% 75% 92% 100% 102% 92% 93%
Ashland 82% 58% 95% 98% 100% 90% 84%
Bowling Green 90% 79% 92% 106% 95% 91% 92%
Lexington 91% 78% 92% 85% 97% 96% 101%
Louisville 91% 79% 90% 90% 99% 89% 98%
Madisonville 90% 73% 96% 120% 96% 96% 91%

Source: The Council for Community and Economic Research

Accreditation for Kentucky Colleges and Why It's Important

When looking for colleges, it's important that students ensure their institution of choice is accredited. Accreditation is an optional evaluation process schools undergo to prove that they meet specified quality standards. Unaccredited schools have either not been through these rigorous quality-assurance tests and evaluations or have not met their standards, and may be subpar in one or more areas, like curriculum development or teacher qualifications. Also, students who attend unaccredited institutions aren't eligible for federal financial aid. Regional accreditation is granted to an institution as a whole. Kentucky's regional accrediting body is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Individual programs within an institution can also be accredited. For example:

Popular College Cities in Kentucky


Like Louisville, Lexington has a little bit of everything when it comes to colleges. While the city has fewer schools overall to choose from, students here can still pick between a private college, a public university and a public community college. All three schools are tightly clustered in downtown Lexington, so students get the ultimate mix of metropolitan life and close-knit college community.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

LexingtonUniversity of Kentucky Public $14,333 $41,500
Founded in 1865 with only 190 students, the University of Kentucky now has a student body of over 26,000 students, making it the largest college in the state. UK has more than 200 academic programs offered through 16 colleges and professional schools, giving students plenty of routes to pursue. In addition, some 450 student organizations allow students to get involved in extracurricular activities and build relationships with peers.
LexingtonTransylvania University Private not-for-profit $20,488 $41,100
This private liberal arts college is the oldest in Kentucky. Transylvania University is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), but welcomes students of all faiths and cultural backgrounds. The school has just over 1,000 students, most which receive some form of financial aid. Transylvania University boasts small class sizes along with 38 majors and 37 minors from which to choose. Students who don't find the right major fit even have the option to build their own.
LexingtonBluegrass Community and Technical College Public $7,188 $22,600
One of the state's largest community colleges, Bluegrass offers students six physical locations in addition to online course options. The school has been in operation for more than 75 years and aims to provide students with technical education and workforce training. Students can choose from over 200 degree, diploma and certificate areas of study.

With its seven public and private schools, Louisville has the most nonprofit colleges in Kentucky. Very few Kentucky colleges are public, but Louisville is home to two: one university and one community college. This means that Louisville students shouldn't have to look far to find a school that fits with their lifestyles and academic goals. The University of Louisville, Jefferson Community and Technical College, and Bellarmine University are three of Louisville's most popular accredited colleges, and are all located within minutes of downtown Louisville and the Ohio River.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

LouisvilleUniversity of Louisville Public $13,834 $37,700
A public, four-year university with some 22,000 students, the University of Louisville is a nationally-recognized metropolitan research university with three campuses in the city, plus online options. U of L students can choose from 12 colleges and schools and over 170 fields of study to earn their associate, bachelor's, graduate and professional degrees.
LouisvilleJefferson Community and Technical College Public $6,662 $26,200
Jefferson Community and Technical College is the largest school within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, and lets students choose between six locations, as well as online courses, to make the experience as convenient as possible. Students can enroll in workforce training and technical programs designed to lead to high-skill, high-wage careers. JCTC offers more than 70 programs of study with 300 degree, diploma and certificate options, and credits are transferable to many of Kentucky's four-year universities.
LouisvilleBellarmine University Private not-for-profit $23,487 $44,900
Bellarmine is an independent Catholic college that specializes in liberal arts studies. The student population is just under 4,000 students, half of whom ranked in the top 25 percent of their high school classes. The school offers degrees in 50 majors as well as study abroad and varsity sport opportunities. While Bellarmine is rooted in its Catholic tradition, it also aims to follow in the footsteps of monk Thomas Merton, who believed in recognizing the diversity of cultures and faiths.

Source: College Scorecard

Kentucky College Resources

Prospective students can continue researching Kentucky's higher education opportunities by checking out these resources:

College Access Program Grant

This need-based grant provides financial assistance of up to $1,900 to undergraduate students who attend eligible Kentucky schools.

Kentucky Adult Education

A resource for adult learners within the Kentucky higher education system, this site includes information about educational programs and tips for successfully joining the workforce.

Kentucky Community and Technical College System

Learn about each school and its offerings on this hub page for Kentucky's community and technical colleges.

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Provides information on Kentucky colleges and universities, as well as planning tools and guides for prospective college students and parents.

Kentucky Department of Education - Career Readiness

Provides information and advice geared toward helping technical students transition into the workforce.

Kentucky Department of Education - Scholarships and Grants

Get information on scholarships and grants available to Kentucky students.

Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship

Through this scholarship program, Kentucky high schoolers can earn money for college by getting good grades and test scores. Any student with a minimum 2.5 GPA can earn money, and award amounts increase with higher grades.

Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority

A multitude of useful guides, tools, articles and other resources for high school and college students and their families.

Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation

Created to give additional financial support to students whose college expenses aren't completely covered by state, school and federal financial aid.

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer