Best Public Colleges in Kentucky 2022

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 2022

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.


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.

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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.

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

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great! 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 in their fields of study.

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

To rank the influence of schools, we first determine the influence of scholars and professionals based on the number of citations and publications they have had over the past 10 years. In addition to publications and citations, we consider the web links to and from these sources, and the page views of those sources. We then match the influential people to their alma maters and institutions of employment, so that their influence is attributed to those schools. Our machine-learning Influence Ranking algorithm produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data. If you are interested in exploring how and why we rank by influence, explore our methodology in more depth.

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Best Public Colleges in Kentucky 2022

  1. #1

    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

  2. #2

    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

  3. #3

    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

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  4. #4

    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

    REQUEST INFO
  5. #5

    Northern Kentucky University

    Highland Heights , KY

    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

  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

    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

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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 utiulized 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

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