25 Best Colleges in Kentucky

Are you ready to find your fit?

Is going to college worth it? Tuition rates keep rising, students keep taking on more debt, and people are worried about whether going to college will actually help you get a job.

Well, if you’re thinking about going to college in Kentucky, then there’s some good news: the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education has put hard limits on tuition increases at public colleges.

Most of the new jobs that have been created during the recovery from the Great Recession require college degrees. Even if they are getting more expensive, college degrees are still an enormous advantage in the job market. So whether you’re a high school senior wondering about next year, or a working adult, going to college is probably worth it. And if you’re considering going to school in Kentucky, whether in-state or out-of-state, then this is the list for you. Additionally, check out our Best Online Schools in Kentucky.

And it’s a great place to go to school. With highly ranked public research universities, as well as historic and dynamic private schools, there’s really something for everyone in the Bluegrass State. That’s true with regard to colleges, but also the state’s culture. Just a quick glance at the many achievements and institutions in Kentucky should convince you of that: the Kentucky Derby, bluegrass music, bourbon whiskey, Kentucky Fried Chicken, college basketball, as well as a storied literary tradition that includes the famous books Uncle Tom’s Cabin and All the King’s Men, to name just two.


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What are the best colleges in Kentucky?

We’ve put together a list of the best colleges in Kentucky by factoring in both academic quality, student body diversity, and return on investment, so you know that the education that you get will be meaningful, at a campus where you can thrive, and that it will pay off in the job market. After all, we don’t want you to graduate, saddled with debt, and unable to find a good job. Our data comes from the IPEDS database, courtesy of the National Center for Education Statistics.

 
 

Rankings

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  1. Berea College
    Location

    Berea, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Berea College is in the small town of Berea, Kentucky. The college is near the Appalachian Mountains and about 35 miles south of Lexington. Berea College was founded by abolitionist John Gregg Fee in 1855. The first classes began in 1866, only a year after the Civil War ended. John Gregg Fees dream was to have a place where all students were welcome and able to pursue their degree without worrying about the upfront costs or having to worry about dragging student loans around for the rest of their life.

    Features

    Starting in 2002, all students receive a laptop to do their coursework. In Fall of 2016, there were 1621 undergrads onsite studying over 32 degree programs and participating in over 70 different student organizations on campus. Students and faculty work together closely as seen in the schools 10:1 ratio. Top declared majors are:

    Biological and Biomedical Sciences Visual and Performing Arts Business Social Sciences

    Notables

    Berea College is one of 8 mandatory work-study program schools in the United States. For the school to provide free tuition for the students, accepted students must work at least 10 hours a week on campus while pursuing their degree. Additionally, all students are responsible for their own room and board and all students under the age of 23 must live on campus. As of this writing, students are not permitted to have off campus jobs during the academic school year.

  2. Centre College
    Location

    Danville, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Centre College was founded in 1819 by the Presbyterian Church (USA) in rural Danville, Kentucky. It is a top 50 liberal arts college. Students are guaranteed a study abroad or research opportunity. The College also guarantees that the student will be able to graduate in 4-years. The college will pay for any coursework beyond four years.

    Features

    At Centre College, students are encouraged to participate in collaborative research. This is easy to accomplish with a student population of 1400 undergraduates, an average class size of 18, and the student-faculty ratio is 10.5 to 1. There are 26 majors available. The most popular are:

    Economics Biology History International Global Studies Political Science

    Notables

    For those who like engineering. Centre College has a dual degree engineering program with Columbia University, University of Kentucky, Vanderbilt University and Washington University in St. Louis. If engineering is not what you are looking for, there are plenty of opportunities to study abroad over 80% of the students do so at least once during their academic career. But when you are at the home campus, you will probably see the portrait of former Chief Justice Fred Vinson, also known as Dead Fred) show up at the local sporting or campus event.

  3. University of Kentucky
    Location

    Lexington, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Kentucky is in Lexington, Kentucky the horse capital of the world. It was founded by John Bryan Bowman as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky in 1865. It is one of two land grant universities whose charge is to create solutions for the local community. Today, if you count the entire student population, it is the largest institution in Kentucky almost 30,000 students. With over 350 student clubs, Greek life and NCAA Division I sports, there is always something happening on campus.

    Features

    Today, there are over 22,000 are undergraduate students. It has 16 colleges that support over 93 undergraduate degrees and 120 master degrees. There are 15 libraries on campus. Even with such a large student body, the university has found a way to keep the student faculty ratio 12-1. However, nearly a third of the classes have less than 20 students expect large class sizes. Top majors at this school:

    Biology Marketing Physical Education: Teaching Coaching Nursing Psychology

    Notables

    The University of Kentucky sits on 814 acres 80 miles south of Cincinnati and 200 miles northeast of Nashville. One point of note is their NCAA team, the wildcats. They became known as the Wildcats after a game against Illinois in 1909. Someone made a comment that the Kentucky football players played like wildcats. Their current Mascot originated in 1976 when someone started showing up at athletic events to entertain. Nowadays, the wildcat mascot does it all, academic and athletic events.

  4. University of Louisville
    Location

    Louisville, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Louisville is in Louisville, Kentucky, the largest metropolitan center in Kentucky. It has three campuses: The 287 acre Belknap is located 3 miles from downtown and has most of the academics housed there. The Health sciences center is located downtown Louisville in the medical complex. All health programs are located here. The third campus is Shelby on 243 acres and located in eastern Jefferson County.

    Features

    This NCAA division I school has amazing opportunities for students in this 17th largest US city on the Ohio River. The Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and the museums are just a few of the opportunities in this area of over 1 million people. On campus, students can experience over 400 student organizations but should expect class sizes since about one-third of the classes are under 20 seats. However, the University can maintain a 16:1 student-faculty ratio. So, it is possible to get to know your department faculty. Popular majors include:

    Business, Management Marketing Parks, Recreation, Leisure and Fitness Engineering Health Professions

    Notables

    The school was technically founded in 1798 by 8 men attempting to build the Jefferson Seminary. It finally opened in 1813 only to close in 1829. The Louisville Medical institute opened in 1837 and inherited part of the seminary property in 1844. In 1846, University of Louisville was created by Kentucky legislature merging the medical school, college and new law school. In 1970, the university joined the state system of higher education. Since then it continues to expand to new heights.

  5. Spalding University
    Location

    Louisville, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Spalding University was founded in 1814 by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Louisville, Kentucky. It was the first 4-year catholic college for women. Over 100 years later in 1973, the institution became a co-educational environment. In 1984, the Spalding College changed its name to what its knowns as today, Spalding University. The name might have changed but its original commitment to charity, compassion and an active leader in the community.

    Features

    This small 6-acre campus in the heart of the SoBro neighborhood of Louisville has a tight knit community of over 920 undergraduates and a student-faculty ratio of 14 to 1. Popular majors include:

    Nursing Psychology Health service preparatory studies Business

    Notables

    The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth was founded by Mother Catherine Spalding. It is accepting of everyone, just like the SoBro Neighborhood, the sisters look to build a well-blended community. Spalding University is known as the 1st certified compassionate university in the world.

  6. Alice Lloyd College
    Location

    Pippa Passes, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Alice Lloyd College was founded in 1917 to address the healthcare, education and agricultural situation in Pippa Passes, Kentucky. Because many students couldnt afford their education, she instituted a mandatory student work program. By 1923, the tiny little school received junior college status. In 1982, Alice Lloyd College received accreditation to grant 4-year degrees. Today, it has grown but has stayed true to the students and community needs. It is one of 8 work colleges in America. Full-time students work up to 20-hours per week as a requirement for graduation. Free education is guaranteed to students in the central Appalachian service area.

    Features:

    Alice Lloyd College provides the opportunity for 18 degree programs and 8 pre-professional programs. Currently, there are 616 students on this rural campus of 175 acres. It is a tight knit community that strives to brighten the areas lives and to pursue goodness just as Pippa Passes did in the verse drama written by Robert Browning. Popular majors include:

    Biology Sociology History Accounting Elementary Education

    Notables:

    Alice Lloyd College is privately funded no direct state or federal funding. Most of the alumni return to their local communities either right after their 4-year education or after their finish their professional degree requirements. However, they have not forgotten their undergraduate education. The college remains debt free even with all the renovation and expansions.

  7. Transylvania University
    Location

    Lexington, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Transylvania University is in Lexington, Kentucky. It was originally intended as a seminary established by the Virginia Assembly and strongly supported by then-governor Thomas Jefferson in 1780. It is the 16th college in the United States. By 1799 with the addition of the medical and law schools, it became the first university west of the Appalachian Mountains.

    Features

    Today, Transylvania has an affiliation with the Disciples of Christ with 40 majors and over 50 student organizations. The total enrollment is 1050 and students enjoy the 11:1 student-faculty ratio. Over 70% of the classes have less than 20 students in them. Popular majors include:

    Psychology Business Biology Spanish Language Literature Accounting

    Notables

    In 1780, Virginia and Kentucky was one state in the union. Much of Kentucky had not been explored. In terms of history, this is where Daniel Boone was still leading pioneers over the Appalachian Mountains. They originally called the area surrounding what is now known as Lexington, Transylvania. It means across the woods. Today, Lexington, Kentucky, has over 300,000 people in the metropolitan area. So, students have opportunities to experience all that a large metropolitan area offers.

  8. Bellarmine University
    Location

    Louisville, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Bellarmine University is a Catholic University located in Louisville, Kentucky. It was founded in 1950 under the sponsorship of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville and the Conventual Franciscan Fathers. In 1968, Bellarmine merged with Ursuline College (a womens Catholic college) to become a co-ed institution. The first graduate programs began in 1975. In 2000, Bellarmine rebranded to be called Bellarmine University. The university is located 5 minutes from downtown and has over 150 partnership locations where one can study globally.

    Features

    Bellarmine University is within walking distance of the famous Bardstown Road Corridor. It offers undergraduate and graduate programs to the student population. Over 2600 students are undergraduates. They enjoy a student-faculty ratio of 12 to 1 and an average class size of 20. There are over 150 programs to study and you can enjoy NCAA Division II varsity sports and NCAA Division I Lacrosse. Popular Majors are:

    Nursing Business Psychology Kinesiology and Exercise Science Biology

    Notables

    The property that it is currently on has an interesting history. It was part of a loyal land grant from King George II to James McCorkle for his service in the French and Indian War. After the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson, governor of Virginia gave it to the Griffin Family. By the Civil War, the war-torn Griffin family sold it to Catholic church. The Catholic Church used it for several endeavors prior to opening Bellarmine University in 1950.

  9. Union College
    Location

    Barbourville, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Union College is a private, 4-year college in Barbourville, Kentucky. Union was founded in 1879 by A. H. Harrit and 35 local resident stockholders looking to create better opportunities to support their families and community. In 1886, the Kentucky conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church purchased the college. It is known as the first Kentucky college located in the mountains. Since then the tiny town of Barbourville has grown to over 3,100 people and is located 17 miles east of interstate 75.

    Features

    Union College has over 900 undergraduate and over 200 graduate students. With a campus of this size, you get to know the community through over 30 different student organizations and athletic events. In the classroom, there is opportunity to study over 40 different degrees. Students enjoy a 15 to 1 student-faculty ratio. Popular majors at Union College include:

    Business Administration Accounting Athletic Training Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration Biology Psychology

    Notables

    Union colleges learning environment does not just exist on the rural campus. It also is connected to other state, regional, and national networks. If you need something at the library that Union College doesnt have, the college is connected to a vast network to transfer the media to campus for you. Another form of learning occurs through the 15,000 community service hours that the campus community performs annually.

  10. Georgetown College
    Location

    Georgetown, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Georgetown College is the first Baptist college west of the Allegheny Mountains in Georgetown, Kentucky. It was founded by Silas Noel in 1829. The local community of Georgetown raised over $20,000 and provided 52 acres of property the former Rittenhouse Academy site. Due to the Civil War and local depressions, the college has survived almost 200 years. However, it is within the last 50 years that it has solidified its position in the community as a local center for community pride.

    Features

    Georgetown College has just under 1,000 undergraduates in attending. Over 91% live on campus. So, you will see familiar faces participating in over 50 different student groups, Greek life, athletics and volunteer organizations. Inside the classroom, students experience a 13 to 1 student-faculty ratio in their programs. Popular majors include:

    Business Commerce Biology and Biological Sciences Kinesiology and Exercise Science Psychology

    Notables

    Georgetown College is located 12 miles north of Lexington, 70 miles east of Louisville and 75 miles south of Cincinnati. The college has also increased from 52 acres to over 100 acres to support its growing student population. In 2014, Georgetown College elected their 24th president, Dr. M. Dwaine Green. So, there is a sense of expectation for even better things to come.

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