Kentucky’s Best Research Universities of 2021

Interested in attending a STEM school in Kentucky? Our ranking of top research universities for bachelor’s degrees displays schools that will best prepare you for STEM careers.

Kentucky’s Best Research 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 are Kentucky’s Colleges & Universities?

Kentucky’s Best Overall

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

A research university is a great option for students interested in obtaining STEM degrees. Research universities invest heavily in research, which consequently provides meaningful and extensive opportunities for its students and faculty to participate in research. There are 7 research universities in Kentucky, 5 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the best research universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a fully accredited university.
  2. It must offer doctoral degrees across the range of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
  3. It must report high levels of research activity based upon the number of research and/or practice doctorates awarded each year.
  4. It must have a graduation rate of greater than 50%.

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

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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5 Best Research Universities in Kentucky for Undergrads

  1. #1

    University of Kentucky

    #193 institution's historical influence
    #541 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    24K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/25

    Lexington, KY

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    What is University of Kentucky known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Law
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

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  2. #2

    University of Louisville

    #302 institution's historical influence
    #1277 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/25

    Louisville, KY

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    What is University of Louisville known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Law
    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Northern Kentucky University

    #1382 institution's historical influence
    #782 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    Highland Heights, KY

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    What is Northern Kentucky University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Bellarmine University

    #2243 institution's historical influence
    #849 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $42K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1160/25

    Louisville, KY

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    What is Bellarmine University known for?

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

    • Philosophy
    • Business
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Western Kentucky University

    #1019 institution's historical influence
    #559 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    98%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1105/23

    Bowling Green, KY

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    What is Western Kentucky University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO

Honorable Mentions

Spalding University

#3171 institution's historical influence
#1236 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$25K

Acceptance

93%

Graduation

58%

Student body

2K

Median SAT/ACT

1040/19

Louisville, KY

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What is Spalding University known for?

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

  • Psychology
  • Business
  • Education
  • Communications
  • Medical
  • Social Work
  • Biology
  • Nursing
  • Sociology

Most Influential Alumni

University of the Cumberlands

#3685 institution's historical influence
#580 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$10K

Acceptance

81%

Graduation

40%

Student body

11K

Median SAT/ACT

1035/21

Williamsburg, KY

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What is University of the Cumberlands known for?

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

  • Education
  • Psychology
  • Business
  • Religious Studies
  • History
  • Political Science
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice
  • Communications
  • Computer Science

Most Influential Alumni

Find the Best Research Universities in Kentucky for your Major

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