Kentucky’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

Kentucky’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in Kentucky if you reward schools for making the best use of their limited resources? Academic Stewardship asks how effectively schools manage their financial and human resources to gain the influence that makes them academically excellent. Schools that are exemplary in Academic Stewardship are doing everything in their power to help students and faculty achieve their full potential.

Colleges and universities in Kentucky deserve to be recognized when they do more with less. It’s impressive when a large wealthy school can spend money lavishly on expensive buildings and programs. But it’s even more impressive when a small school with limited means is able to train and inspire students that the larger wealthier schools tend to ignore.

The American Association of Colleges and Universities reported in late 2021 that almost 75 percent of higher-education professionals at US colleges and universities felt financial constraints prevented their schools from effectively attracting students. Distracted by the size and amenities of larger schools, prospective students tended especially to be overawed by the big research universities.

Kentucky’s smaller colleges, especially its liberal arts colleges, need effective ways of communicating their value to a world that celebrates “bigger is better” and “you need the best.” Unfortunately, most college ranking companies, such as U.S. News & World Report, define “best” in a way that devalues schools with smaller budgets and fewer students even when these schools do remarkable work in advancing their students’ education. By and large, college rankings penalize schools that serve underserved populations.

Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell, who for years now has criticized conventional college rankings for misrepresenting what’s good and valuable in education, we decided to construct a new ranking metric that highlights those schools that do more with less. That metric—called the Academic Stewardship metric—takes away both the size and the wealth advantage of schools, and focuses instead on how well schools use the resources available to them to advance the education of their students.

How We Measure the Academic Stewardship of Kentucky’s Colleges and Universities

Kentucky's Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship
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As a metric, Academic Stewardship is defined by a precise mathematical formula, which can be found in our Academic Stewardship white paper. Measuring the Academic Stewardship of Kentucky’s colleges requires measuring two forms of stewardship: 1) Stewardship of financial resources (using the money they have responsibility without waste) and 2) Stewardship of human resources (doing their best to help students, faculty, and administration to flourish). Together, these two types of stewardship form what we call  Academic Stewardship. If you want to learn more about the factors involved in Academic Stewardship, click the more button below.

  1. Stewardship of financial resources: To determine a school’s stewardship of financial resources, we factored in its undergraduate size, budget, endowments and reserves, as well as tuition and fees. All these data are available from the National Center for Educational Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. In addition, we factored in a school’s financial responsibility as gauged by the Federal Student Aid Office at the US Department of Education through its financial responsibility composite scores.
  2. Stewardship of human resources: To determine a school’s stewardship of human resources, we used our InfluenceRanking engine to track the influence of the school’s faculty and alumni but also to control for size of the undergraduate student body. We’ve found that measuring a school’s influence based on the contributions of faculty and alumni make in their fields of study but then also controlling for size of the undergraduate population is the single best indicator of academic excellence. We call this Concentrated Influence. Schools that rank highly in Concentrated Influence are schools that, given their available human resources, invest heavily in their students and faculty, and the results are demonstrable.
    • We measure the influence of colleges and universities based on the publications and citations of the schools’ faculty and alumni who are teaching in and working in areas related to their degrees. To do this, we take publicly available databases, such as Semantic Scholar, Crossref, and Wikipedia and use these to measure the influence of academics in their disciplines. Having measured the influence of persons, we then identify the schools that they’re affiliated with, adding up the influence scores of the faculty and alumni to measure the influence of the schools and their disciplinary programs. Finally, we control these influence scores by size of undergraduate student body so that schools do not score high in influence simply because of a size advantage. We lay out these methodological considerations on our methodology page.
  3. Academic Stewardship: Having measured a school’s stewardship of financial and human resources in the two previous points, we now divide the second measure by the first to define the Academic Stewardship metric. This metric spotlights smaller schools, with fewer financial resources and people, that invest wisely and do proportionately better in building influence than large wealthy schools. Many of these smaller, less wealthy schools are incentivized to make better use of their resources but would never get recognized in conventional school rankings, which directly or indirectly put a premium on the wealth of schools.

Academic Stewardship as so defined is connected to keeping tuition and other costs down, but it should not be confused with affordability or frugality. The schools that this metric ranks as exemplary academic stewards tend to be all over the map when it comes to tuition and other costs. At issue is the influence of schools given the financial and human resources they have on hand. If a school is going to charge more for tuition, then that needs to be reflected in the school having proportionately greater influence.

Why Academic Stewardship Matters to Students and Their Families

The benefits of attending a school with strong academic stewardship include:

  • A clear reason for why students are at the school in the first place. Without the distraction of amenities and luxuries, these schools are at once unpretentious but also passionately committed to their educational mission. The schools in this ranking are financially efficient and academically rigorous. By avoiding frills, these schools take the most direct path to accomplishing their mission of educating students.
  • Valuing character over prestige and self-indulgence. A school that’s a good steward of its resources doesn’t instill shame in its students over what they are missing (such as elite cuisine) but rather pride in what they have and making the most of it. These schools exhibit a culture of good stewardship, which tends to build good character in the students that attend these schools.
  • Avoiding the spoiled-student syndrome. It’s easy to think that offering students endless options and opportunities will enrich their time at school in every way. But spoiling people—whether in business, sports, or academics—has the opposite effect, causing people to take their advantages for granted and in the end achieving less than they might otherwise, a point well-documented in Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code. Schools exhibiting academic stewardship avoid this pitfall.
  • The best schools vs. the schools that help students to be their best. Students at schools demonstrating outstanding academic stewardship aren’t so much concerned about being at the “best” school, whatever that may mean, as about being at a school that helps them to be their best. These schools pay attention to their students, hoping that any glory goes to them rather than to the school. Small schools, and especially liberal arts colleges, help themselves by communicating this advantage to prospective students.
  • Emphasizing development over talent and achievement. Schools like Harvard and Stanford have their pick of academic talent, and their students have a long record of achievement even before they apply to such elite schools. But if a school doesn’t have the resources of a Harvard or Stanford, how does it build a great team of students? In that case, it must focus on student development. Colleges exemplifying academic stewardship emphasize student growth and development, ensuring that the schools are doing everything in their power to help students reach their full potential and thereby become their best selves.
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Kentucky’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

  1. #1

    Georgetown College

    Georgetown , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1161/24

    What is Georgetown College known for?

    Georgetown College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Physics
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    Transylvania University

    Lexington , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $43K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/26

    What is Transylvania University known for?

    Transylvania University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Education
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Kentucky State University

    Frankfort , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    30%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    975/20

    What is Kentucky State University known for?

    Kentucky State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Education
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Centre College

    Danville , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1255/29

    What is Centre College known for?

    Centre College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • History
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Religious Studies
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Berea College

    Berea , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    33%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1194/25

    What is Berea College known for?

    Berea College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Physics
    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Murray State University

    Murray , KY

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1142/24

    What is Murray State University known for?

    Murray State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Earth Sciences
    • History
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Morehead State University

    Morehead , KY

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1085/23

    What is Morehead State University known for?

    Morehead State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Law
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    Eastern Kentucky University

    Richmond , KY

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    98%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    12K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1080/23

    What is Eastern Kentucky University known for?

    Eastern Kentucky University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Earth Sciences
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • History
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Anthropology

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    Western Kentucky University

    Bowling Green , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    98%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    14K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1105/23

    What is Western Kentucky University known for?

    Western Kentucky University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Education
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Medical
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    University of Louisville

    Louisville , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/25

    What is University of Louisville known for?

    University of Louisville’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Law
    • History
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    Northern Kentucky University

    Highland Heights , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    12K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    What is Northern Kentucky University known for?

    Northern Kentucky University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Law
    • History
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    University of Kentucky

    Lexington , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/25

    What is University of Kentucky known for?

    University of Kentucky’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Anthropology
    • Medical
    • History
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Law

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #13

    Brescia University

    Owensboro , KY

    Tuition + fees

    $27K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    What is Brescia University known for?

    Brescia University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
  14. #14

    Sullivan University

    Louisville , KY

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Graduation

    25%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Sullivan University known for?

    Sullivan University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Computer Science
  15. #15

    Campbellsville University

    Campbellsville , KY

    Tuition + fees

    $25K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    8K

    What is Campbellsville University known for?

    Campbellsville University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • Nursing
    • History
    • Economics
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

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Kentucky’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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Colleges and Universities in Kentucky

Between community colleges, technical schools, and universities, Kentucky has 24 public schools. The community colleges and technical schools average $4,000 for tuition, and tuition for public universities ranges from $8,000 to $12,000. Those looking to attend private colleges can choose from 26 schools, of which 21 are religiously affiliated. The cost to attend private schools tends to be higher, reaching $42,000 in Kentucky, but there are some affordable options with tuition rates as low as $9,000.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

The largest and top-rated public university is the University of Kentucky, which has over 30,000 students and costs about $12,000. Political science, chemistry, and literature are all possible majors. Students who attend either the University of Louisville or Western Kentucky University will become part of a friendly basketball rivalry. Both of these universities also offer varying fields of study, including mathematics, communications, business, and history. In addition, Kentucky encourages graduating education students to apply for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, which awards $5,000 to $17,500 toward Federal Stafford loans to those remaining the profession.

There is something for everyone in The Bluegrass State. Kentucky is home to the famous Kentucky Derby, the Daniel Boone National Forest, and the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. Students wanting to study where Abraham Lincoln and Muhammad Ali both called home have 50 higher learning institutions from which to choose.

Kentucky has it all — associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Check out the top programs and find which institution is the right one for you.


What are Kentucky’s Colleges & Universities?

Kentucky’s Best Overall