Best Colleges in Kentucky

The higher education experts at have reviewed top 4-year colleges in the state of Kentucky. Start planning for your future today.
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Updated on July 6, 2023
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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

  1. Berea College - Berea, KY
  2. University of Louisville - Louisville, KY
  3. Asbury University - Wilmore, KY
  4. Simmons College of Kentucky - Louisville, KY
  5. Centre College - Danville, KY
  6. Northern Kentucky University - Highland Heights, KY
  7. Alice Lloyd College - Pippa Passes, KY
  8. University of Kentucky - Lexington, KY
  9. Midway University - Midway, KY
  10. 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.

Best Accredited Colleges in Kentucky

Best Colleges in Kentucky

  1. Berea College

    Berea, KY



    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.

  2. University of Louisville

    Louisville, KY



    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.

  3. Asbury University

    Wilmore, KY



    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.

  4. Simmons College of Kentucky

    Louisville, KY



    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.

  5. Centre College

    Danville, KY



    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.

  6. Northern Kentucky University

    Highland Heights, KY



    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.

  7. Alice Lloyd College

    Pippa Passes, KY



    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.

  8. University of Kentucky

    Lexington, KY



    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.

  9. Midway University

    Midway, KY



    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.

  10. Murray State University

    Murray, KY



    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.

Click here to see the best community colleges in Kentucky.