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Colleges in Kentucky

Why go to College in Kentucky?

Kentucky’s numerous institutions offer programs in the most popular undergraduate and graduate fields. The wide selection of majors and concentrations, matched with reasonable tuition at public universities, makes Kentucky a great state to attend college.


Census.gov currently estimates Kentucky’s population at almost 4.5 million, with almost 10% of the state’s residents located in the two biggest cities, Lexington and Louisville. Much of the state is rural farm land.


Kentucky’s spring and fall climates are mild; summer is hot and humid. In the winter, snow is common, but more so in Kentucky’s northern counties.

Number of Higher Learning Institutions

Kentucky contains 165 institutions of higher learning. Louisville, Kentucky’s most populous city, features the largest number of colleges and universities in the state. The state’s smaller cities feature community colleges and religiously-affiliated schools.

Sporting Events

The state lacks any professional sports teams; college athletics dominate Kentucky. Louisville and the University of Kentucky have successful basketball programs and face each other every year in the Battle of the Bluegrass.


Lexington and Louisville are Kentucky’s most popular cities for nightlife. Both cities contain many unique clubs and bars, like Lexington’s Parlay Social and Louisville’s The Thirsty Pedaler. Many of the state’s rural counties remain ‘dry,’ prohibiting the sale of alcohol.

What Options are Available for Colleges in Kentucky?


The largest colleges in Kentucky provide a traditional experience where the fraternity and sorority systems influence much of the campus culture. The majority of rural colleges and universities reflect the state’s conservative-political and religious values. The ideal student is already a Kentucky resident, someone who can take advantage of in-state tuition. For Kentucky residency, students must have lived in the state for at least 12 months. By becoming a state resident, students receive an almost 50% tuition discount.

Online Programs

Online schools in Kentucky offer academic programs identical to their on-campus counterparts. These programs allow students the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral-level degrees online. Distance learning courses may include pre-recorded lectures, discussion board requirements, and timed quizzes.

The ideal student for online colleges in KY is a resident with career or family commitments. Online programs sometimes offer cheaper tuition than on-campus programs, and distance learners don’t have to pay commuting costs, on-campus fees, or meal plan costs.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs require students to complete coursework online and on-campus. A student attending an online school in KY may need to visit campus for a science lab, group project, or test, but the rest of the assignments will be completed online. Hybrid programs are commonly cheaper than on-campus programs and provide an on-campus feel while being more flexible. The amount of coursework that is completed online will vary between programs.

Popular Degree Programs in Kentucky

Kentucky is known for its agriculture and manufacturing industries, but some of the most popular programs in the state are not related to farming or engineering. Below, is an outline of two of the most common programs.

  • Pre-Law and Legal Studies

    Pre-law and legal studies are two similar majors that prepare students for careers in the legal field. Law school is the end goal for many students who earn a bachelor’s in the field. Others pursue careers as paralegals.

  • Elementary Education

    Nearly 400,000 people have moved to Kentucky in the last 15 years, so the state’s need for elementary school teachers has grown. Earning a bachelor’s in elementary education from one of the online schools in KY prepares graduates to work in private and public school settings. The best online schools in Kentucky for elementary education offer state licensure.

Education Trends in Kentucky

Kentucky allocates more tax revenue than the national average towards higher education. The rest of the statistics fall in line with U.S. averages, except for adults over 25 with a bachelor’s degree, where Kentucky is five points under the average.

  Kentucky United States
Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census
Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student $6,898 $6,954
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 7.7% 5.8%
Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree 7.5% 8.1%
Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree 13.1% 18.5%
Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher 9.2% 11.2%

Paying for College in Kentucky

Kentucky, like every state, creates a different pricing structure for out-of-state and in-state residents. Kentucky two-year college tuition costs $1,000 more than the national average, but the four-year college tuition average is similar to the national level. Financial aid is available to help control the cost of higher education, and students tend to pay less for housing in Kentucky.

Tuition Prices

The cost of a four-year public postsecondary education in Kentucky closely aligns to the national average. However, the cost for a public two-year postsecondary education is 42% higher than the national average. These statistics do not reflect additional college fees such as books, housing, and transportation.

Financial Aid

By filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), students can see what financial aid options are available to them. The application determines your aid eligibility, which includes federal grants and loans. When applying for aid, all men under the age of 26 must also register with the Selective Service System.

States also offer a variety of scholarships and grants. The Kentucky Lottery provides scholarship funding to colleges. Loans are also a form of financial aid, but they must be repaid with interest.

Cost for Online Programs in Kentucky

Students attending accredited online schools in KY use the FAFSA to apply for financial aid. When awarding financial aid, the majority of online colleges in KY do not discriminate between students on-campus and online learners. There are scholarships available to out-of-state students as well.

Students attending online colleges in Kentucky benefit from not having to pay fees related to transportation and housing. Even if you pay out-of-state tuition, online colleges in Kentucky can still be a cheaper option than attending on campus.

Cost of Living by Region

Below, are the median rent and home prices for Kentucky’s two largest cities: Lexington and Louisville. The prices are compared against three other U.S. cities famous for their colleges and universities. Both Lexington and Louisville offer affordable housing options compared to larger cities.

Scholarships for Kentucky College Students

Ann Crawford Alexander Memorial Scholarship

$1,000; eligible only to Lexington High School graduates or homeschooled students in Fayette County. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and have earned 12 credit hours at a college or university in Kentucky.

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Kentucky Colonel's Better Life Scholarship

$2,500; this scholarship requires applicants to demonstrate financial need, have at least one child under the age of 12, and have Kentucky residency.

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Kentucky Go Higher Grant

$1,000; eligible to Kentucky residents ages 24 and older who attend school part time. Recipients receive the grant in one lump sum.

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Kentucky Teacher Scholarship Program

$2,500; awarded every semester that a student remains in school; only Kentucky residents with financial need may apply. Students who accept the scholarship agree to teach in Kentucky schools after earning their degree.

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Metlife Foundation Scholarship

$2,000; awarded in one lump sum, this scholarship requires recipients to major in areas related to agriculture.

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Can all Scholarships be Used for Online Programs?

The vast majority of scholarships apply to students attending online colleges in Kentucky. When researching scholarship opportunities, check the fine print regarding scholarship requirements. A scholarship may require you to attend classes on campus or earn a specific major.

Employment Outlook in Kentucky

The majority of Kentucky’s nonagricultural workers work in administrative positions, manufacturing, or sales. The state’s top employers represent some of the nation’s largest healthcare providers and automobile manufacturers. It is within these industries that workers earn the highest salaries. Kentucky’s annual mean salary is $8,000 less than the national average, and the state suffers from relatively high unemployment. However, Kentucky residents benefit from a lower cost of living.

  Kentucky United States
Source: BLS and BLS
Unemployment Rate, May 2017 5.4% 4.3%
Annual Mean Wage, May 2016 $41,760 $49,630

Top Employers and Industries in Kentucky

Top Industries in Kentucky

  • Office and Administrative Support: Employees in this industry provide general clerical work in an office setting. Positions include office support specialists, administrative assistants, and office support clerks.
  • Production: This industry includes all manufacturing, assembly, and technician positions. Construction workers and other professionals, such as electricians and plumbers, are part of this industry.
  • Sales: The sales industry comprises over three dozen related careers, including cashiers, telemarketers, product demonstrators, and insurance salespersons.

Top Employers in Kentucky

  • Humana Inc.: 10,000 employees
  • St Elizabeth Healthcare: 7,000 employees
  • Toyota Motor Mfg Kentucky Inc: 6,974 employees

Accreditation for Colleges in Kentucky

When researching schools in Kentucky, it’s important to consider the school’s accreditation status. Accreditation proves that a school meets certain standards. Regional and national certification are most common. Regional accreditation refers to schools that are accredited by one of six accreditation agencies and is seen as more prestigious by many employers. The U.S. Department of Education supports these agencies and routinely monitors their work. Regionally accredited schools in Kentucky receive their accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Vocational, trade, and online-only schools commonly have national accreditation. This type of accreditation is important for online schools in Kentucky. The three most reputable national accreditation agencies are the Distance Education & Training Council, Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, and the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. If you discover that a potential online college carries accreditation from a different agency, research it before enrolling.

Resources for Students in Kentucky

  • Kentucky.gov: Kentucky’s state government website contains many links and resources that cover topics such as researching colleges, choosing a major, and applying for scholarships.
  • Kentucky Adult Education: Kentucky Adult Education helps students research colleges and provides resources about career certification courses. Many working professionals take certification courses to advance their careers and earn higher salaries.
  • Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education: This state government agency works to improve access to postsecondary education, as well as the quality. The site has many links to programs that benefit students who return to school after time away due to career or family responsibilities.
  • Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA): The KHEAA offers many student resources, including homework help and advice on paying back student loans.
  • Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation (KHESLC): The KHESLC connects students to federal and state opportunities for students attending college in Kentucky. There are also many resources for parents who wish to start financial planning for their children’s college education.
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