Best Public Colleges in Kentucky 2024

Badge for BEST IN KENTUCKY PUBLIC COLLEGES

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in Kentucky provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Best Public Colleges in Kentucky

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  1. University of Kentucky
  2. University of Louisville
  3. Western Kentucky University
  4. Eastern Kentucky University
  5. Northern Kentucky University
  6. Murray State University
  7. Morehead State University
  8. Kentucky State University
  1. University of Kentucky
  2. University of Louisville
  3. Western Kentucky University
  4. Eastern Kentucky University
  5. Murray State University
  6. Northern Kentucky University
  7. Kentucky State University
  8. Morehead State University
  1. Western Kentucky University 98%
  2. Eastern Kentucky University 98%
  3. University of Kentucky 94%
  4. Morehead State University 90%
  5. Murray State University 85%
  6. Northern Kentucky University 80%
  7. University of Louisville 75%
  8. Kentucky State University 65%
  1. University of Louisville 19 to 1
  2. Western Kentucky University 19 to 1
  3. Northern Kentucky University 18 to 1
  4. Murray State University 17 to 1
  5. University of Kentucky 16 to 1
  6. Eastern Kentucky University 15 to 1
  7. Morehead State University 15 to 1
  8. Kentucky State University 14 to 1
  1. University of Louisville $12,174
  2. University of Kentucky $11,247
  3. Western Kentucky University $10,992
  4. Northern Kentucky University $10,008
  5. Eastern Kentucky University $9,452
  6. Morehead State University $9,082
  7. Murray State University $8,040
  8. Kentucky State University $7,700
  1. University of Louisville $13,524
  2. University of Kentucky $12,311
  3. Western Kentucky University $12,140
  4. Morehead State University $10,260
  5. Eastern Kentucky University $9,900
  6. Northern Kentucky University $9,900
  7. Murray State University $8,982
  8. Kentucky State University $7,560
  1. Kentucky State University
  2. Morehead State University
  3. Murray State University
  4. Northern Kentucky University
  5. Eastern Kentucky University
  6. Western Kentucky University
  7. University of Louisville
  8. University of Kentucky
  1. Morehead State University
  2. Kentucky State University
  3. Northern Kentucky University
  4. Murray State University
  5. Eastern Kentucky University
  6. Western Kentucky University
  7. University of Louisville
  8. University of Kentucky
  1. Kentucky State University 65%
  2. University of Louisville 75%
  3. Northern Kentucky University 80%
  4. Murray State University 85%
  5. Morehead State University 90%
  6. University of Kentucky 94%
  7. Eastern Kentucky University 98%
  8. Western Kentucky University 98%
  1. Kentucky State University 14 to 1
  2. Eastern Kentucky University 15 to 1
  3. Morehead State University 15 to 1
  4. University of Kentucky 16 to 1
  5. Murray State University 17 to 1
  6. Northern Kentucky University 18 to 1
  7. University of Louisville 19 to 1
  8. Western Kentucky University 19 to 1
  1. Kentucky State University $7,700
  2. Murray State University $8,040
  3. Morehead State University $9,082
  4. Eastern Kentucky University $9,452
  5. Northern Kentucky University $10,008
  6. Western Kentucky University $10,992
  7. University of Kentucky $11,247
  8. University of Louisville $12,174
  1. Kentucky State University $7,560
  2. Murray State University $8,982
  3. Eastern Kentucky University $9,900
  4. Northern Kentucky University $9,900
  5. Morehead State University $10,260
  6. Western Kentucky University $12,140
  7. University of Kentucky $12,311
  8. University of Louisville $13,524

Colleges and Universities in Kentucky

Students who wish to attend traditional and online colleges in Kentucky have plenty of excellent options. Traditional students and distance learners alike have an array of affordable, accessible, and reputable undergraduate and graduate degrees to choose from.

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. Online students pay the same in state tuition rates when enrolling in these public options.

Prospective students planning 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. There are, however, some affordable private 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. The University of Kentucky has over 30,000 students and costs about $12,000. UK offers a wide range of traditional and fully online programs in areas like political science, chemistry, and literature.

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 highly regarded graduate and undergraduate degrees in fields like mathematics, communications, business, and history.

Eastern Kentucky University is also among the top public colleges in Kentucky, with more than 14,000 students enrolled in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs.

In addition, Kentucky encourages graduating education students to apply for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. This financial aid program awards $5,000 to $17,500 toward Federal Stafford loans to those remaining in 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. Both traditional and online Students wanting to study in a state that Abraham Lincoln and Muhammad Ali 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 brick-and-mortar and online schools the state of Kentucky has to offer.


What are Kentucky’s Colleges & Universities?

Kentucky’s Best Overall

What is the difference between public and private colleges?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models. Public colleges and universities are owned by the state and receive both state and federal funding to operate. Private colleges and universities are private companies with private funding. If you’re looking at the pros and cons of private vs. public colleges, 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 bachelor’s 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. Attending a college in-state is usually the cheapest option. Private universities and colleges can be very competitive with their funding opportunities, so do not simply believe that private colleges are always going to be more expensive. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually. But in the end, the cost of college comes down to each student’s academic and financial situation.

Kentucky's Best Public Colleges Badge
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This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees. We’ve identified 8 public universities in Kentucky. To be included in our list of the best public colleges in Kentucky, shcools must receive direct funding from the state, be fully accredited, and offer a broad range of bachelor’s degress.

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Best Public Colleges in Kentucky 2023

  1. #1

    University of Kentucky

    Lexington , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    32K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1175/25

    Career Outlook for degree at University of Kentucky

    Cost of Degree: $12,859
    Expenses: $20,206
    Starting Salary: $54,000
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    University of Kentucky’s Online Degrees

    Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts in Communication
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Health Science
    Degree Concentrations
    • Medical Laboratory Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Liberal Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts in Information Communication Technology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BA in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  2. #2

    University of Louisville

    Louisville , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1160/24

    Career Outlook for degree at University of Louisville

    Cost of Degree: $12,520
    Expenses: $19,160
    Starting Salary: $48,600
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    University of Louisville’s Online Degrees

    Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Accountancy
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA/BS in Communication
    • Required Credits: 121
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 121
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Organizational Leadership & Learning
    Degree Concentrations
    • Counseling and Human Relations Track
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Healthcare Leadership Track
    • Career & Technical Education
    • Counseling & Human Relations
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Healthcare Leadership (term or flex option)
    • Leadership
    • Training & Organization Development
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA/BS in Sociology
    • Required Credits: 121
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Sport Administration
    • Required Credits: 123
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  3. #3

    Western Kentucky University

    Bowling Green , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    98%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    20K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1080/22

    Career Outlook for degree at Western Kentucky University

    Cost of Degree: $11,112
    Expenses: $14,336
    Starting Salary: $38,600
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Western Kentucky University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Organizational Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Workforce Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Computer Information Technology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Criminology
    • Required Credits: 121
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Family And Consumer Sciences
    Degree Concentrations
    • Family Studies
    • Child Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BIS in Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Sociology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Community
    • Environment And Development
    • Family-Gender And Sexuality
    • Inequality And Social Change
    • Research Methods
    • Required Credits: 121
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Dental Hygiene
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Healthcare Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Information Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Sciences
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    98%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    17K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1060/22

    Career Outlook for degree at Eastern Kentucky University

    Cost of Degree: $9,844
    Expenses: $13,160
    Starting Salary: $39,300
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Corrections & Juvenile Justice Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Emergency Medical Care
    Degree Concentrations
    • Emergency Services Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Child & Family Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Child Development
    • Required Credits: 120-125
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Health Services Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Global Hospitality and Tourism
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in General Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Communication Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Psychology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Geral Psychology
    • Autism Spectrum Disorders
    • Forensic Psychology
    • Child & Family Psychology
    • Workplace Psychology
    • Psychiatric Rehabilitation
    • Brain & Cognitive Sciences
    • Substance Abuse
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Occupational Safety
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Fire Protection Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Fire, Arson and Explosion Investigation
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Homeland Security
    Degree Concentrations
    • Disaster management
    • Intelligence studies
    • and Security operations
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Political Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Risk Management & Insurance
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Finance
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Paralegal Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Sport Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Marketing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Police Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  5. #5

    Northern Kentucky University

    Highland Heights , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/23

    Career Outlook for degree at Northern Kentucky University

    Cost of Degree: $10,592
    Expenses: $14,548
    Starting Salary: $41,800
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
    What is Northern Kentucky University known for?

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    Northern Kentucky University’s Online Degrees

    BA/BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Human Services and Addictions
    • Required Credits: 121
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA/BS in Psychological Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Management
    • Marketing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Integrative Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in History
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • General Business
    • Global Supply Chain Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Organizational Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  6. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/24

    Career Outlook for degree at Murray State University

    Cost of Degree: $9,432
    Expenses: $15,655
    Starting Salary: $42,300
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Murray State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Agricultural Science
    Degree Concentrations
    • Agribusiness
    • Agriscience Technology
    • Required Credits: 169
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA/BS in Human Services
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Cybersecurity and Network Management
    Degree Concentrations
    • Cybersecurity
    • Wireless Communications
    • Network and Systems Administration
    • Required Credits: 102-104
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Integrated Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  7. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    11K

    Career Outlook for degree at Morehead State University

    Cost of Degree: $9,560
    Expenses: $13,043
    Starting Salary: $37,000
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
    What is Morehead State University known for?

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    Morehead State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in General Business
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Technology Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BUS in University Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  8. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    37%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    955/17

    Career Outlook for degree at Kentucky State University

    Cost of Degree: $9,004
    Expenses: $12,571
    Starting Salary: $31,300
    Cost Recoup Time: 13 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Kentucky State University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Psychology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
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Kentucky’s Best Public College in Your Area of Interest

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utilized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. University of Kentucky
  2. University of Louisville
  3. Western Kentucky University
  4. Eastern Kentucky University
  5. Murray State University
  6. Morehead State University

Check out our directory of public colleges throughout the U.S. for a look at the top public colleges in every state.

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