Kentucky’s Best Private Colleges and Universities of 2021

Private colleges, unlike large public institutions, can be a great option for students wanting a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Here is our list of the best private colleges in Kentucky.

Kentucky’s Best Private Colleges and Universities of 2021

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.

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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.

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What is a public college? And what is the difference between a private and public college?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models — one is a private company with private funding; the other is owned by the state and receives both state and federal funding to operate. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of private vs. public college, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a four-year degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a four-year public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually.

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This list is composed entirely of private colleges and universities that offer four-year undergraduate degrees. We’ve identified 19 private universities in Kentucky; 9 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the best private universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a private, non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It must offer a broad range of bachelor’s degrees.
  4. It must have a graduation rate of greater than 40%.

How do we determine Kentucky's best private colleges and universities?

The best colleges pound for pound!

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call Concentrated Influence. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

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Best Private Colleges & Universities in Kentucky

  1. Transylvania University
    #1

    Transylvania University

    #593 institution's overall influence
    #299 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/26

    Lexington, KY

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    What is Transylvania University known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. Berea College
    #2

    Berea College

    #1249 institution's overall influence
    #81 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $45K

    Acceptance

    33%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1194/25

    Berea, KY

    View profile

    What is Berea College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Centre College
    #3

    Centre College

    #1064 institution's overall influence
    #773 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $43K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1255/29

    Danville, KY

    View profile

    What is Centre College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. Spalding University
    #4

    Spalding University

    #3145 institution's overall influence
    #1236 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $25K

    Acceptance

    93%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/19

    Louisville, KY

    View profile

    What is Spalding University known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Asbury University
    #5

    Asbury University

    #2086 institution's overall influence
    #1272 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1190/24

    Wilmore, KY

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    What is Asbury University known for?

    Asbury University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • History
    • Business
    • Social Work
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Bellarmine University
    #6

    Bellarmine University

    #2258 institution's overall influence
    #849 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $42K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1160/25

    Louisville, KY

    View profile

    What is Bellarmine University known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. University of the Cumberlands
    #7

    University of the Cumberlands

    #3645 institution's overall influence
    #580 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    41%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/21

    Williamsburg, KY

    View profile

    What is University of the Cumberlands known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Georgetown College
    #8

    Georgetown College

    #2563 institution's overall influence
    #514 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1161/24

    Georgetown, KY

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    What is Georgetown College known for?

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

    • Education
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. Thomas More University
    #9

    Thomas More University

    #7343 institution's overall influence
    #694 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/22

    Crestview Hills, KY

    View profile

    What is Thomas More University known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

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