Kentucky Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2015

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From small colleges nestled in the Appalachian mountains to major universities in the sprawling metro areas, more than 384,000 students were served by Kentucky’s 114 colleges, universities and career schools in 2013, making the state 24th in the nation for the number of colleges and 25th for the number of students enrolled. Kentucky offers public four-year colleges, private universities, community and junior colleges, trade and vocational schools, online colleges and religious institutions, all with the common goal of helping students reach graduation day and their personal goals.

College Type Number in Kentucky
Private for-profit 35
Public 25
Private not-for-profit (religious affiliation) 24
Private not-for-profit (no religious affiliation) 5

Top Cities in Kentucky for Higher Education

There is no doubt that Kentucky is a beautiful state, filled with everything from mountains to rolling farmland to long stretches of riverfront. There are large metro areas with numerous colleges to choose from, as well as small towns that are a short drive away from community colleges, satellite university campuses and the like. This is what students can expect from the various options available in Kentucky:

Highest Student Populations (Total)

  • Louisville (64,400)
  • Lexington (49,400)
  • Bowling Green (30,400)
  • Richmond (16,000)
  • Highland Heights (14,900)

Cities with the Most Colleges (Total)

  • Louisville (28)
  • Lexington (13)
  • Bowling Green (5)
  • Owensboro (5)
  • Florence (4)

Overview of Colleges in Louisville

Kentucky’s most populous city maintains a befitting collection of higher education facilities, with five four-year universities, one community college, two theological seminaries, and a handful of technical and business schools. The most well-known college in the city is the University of Louisville, a state-supported research university whose Health Sciences Center has received numerous accolades for its work with artificial hearts, hand transplants, and failing eyesight treatments. Its facilities are regarded as some of the finest research locations in the country, with hopes of contributing significant research to sickle-cell anemia, AIDS, cancer, and spinal-cord paralysis. The Jefferson Community and Technical College is the largest of Kentucky’s 16 community colleges (and second largest college in the region), with about 15,000 students across six campuses. Jefferson offers more than 70 two-year programs that lead to over 300 associate degree, diploma, and certificate options, plus its popular Workforce Solutions program, which works in conjunction with businesses and industries to create customized education and professional development programs.

Distance Learning Options in Louisville

The University of Louisville offers several distance learning programs for those interested in earning their degree online, including both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. These off-campus programs maintain the same UofL integrity as the on-campus experience. Online students can choose from a range of academic fields, such as communication, computer science, data mining, engineering, human resources, leadership, nursing, and social work. Alternatively, learners might prefer the online options from Jefferson Community and Technical College, which hosts hundreds of online classes for students in Louisville and all across the state of Kentucky.

Online Colleges in Kentucky

There was a time when online colleges were mainly private and for-profit, but those days are gone: Many traditional Kentucky colleges now provide full degree programs online, extending the academic experience to students who might not be able to spend the time in a brick-and-mortar classroom. Kentucky online colleges offer a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as certificates and continuing education opportunities. In fact, a majority of Kentucky colleges featured at least some online courses in 2013.

What College Really Costs

Students choosing to attend college anywhere might be prepared for the sticker shock that comes with higher education today. Tuition at colleges and universities in Kentucky cost an average of $12,000 for in-state residents in 2012, with higher rates for those who were living out of state at the time of enrollment. When compared to other states, Kentucky ranks 27th in the nation for resident tuition affordability.

There are usually fees associated with the college experience, and unfortunately, many students forget to include these in their financial assessments when choosing their educational path. Kentucky colleges averaged $1,200 in fees per student per year in 2012, bringing the average cost of college – tuition plus fees – to $13,273 per year.

Now that tuition and fees are established, what about other college expenses? Things like room and board, and other living expenses, such as school supplies and the like, should also be taken into account. It helps to attend a college where living costs are manageable. In Kentucky the cost of living is 10 percent lower than the national average. The table below takes a look at the cost of living (COL) for metropolitan areas in Kentucky, including how they compare to the national average (100%).

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Paducah -12.7% -24.2% -5.2% -3.5% -13.4% -9.7% -8.7%
Louisville -12.3% -21.3% -18.4% -0.9% -3.1% -12.8% -8.1%
Covington -12.2% -23.2% -14.0% 0.2% -0.1% -9.4% -9.7%
Bowling Green -9.3% -21.8% -6.7% 4.3% -3.3% -4.2% -6.0%
Lexington -7.2% -11.3% -13.1% -6.1% -2.4% -6.3% -2.9%

The value of a degree can be measured in multiple ways. Perhaps the most important in the context of finances is return on investment (ROI). Does your degree open doors to top careers and salaries? The following schools have the highest ROI in the state, with ROI measured by subtracting the cost of attendance for four years minus average lifetime earnings for graduates:

  • Northern Kentucky University
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Louisville
  • Bellarmine University
  • Spalding University

Paying for It: Financial Aid and Scholarships

The cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and all the other incidentals might be daunting, but federal funds can help significantly. Students can seek federal financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA. This form can determine eligibility and how much money a student might get from the government to help pay for a college education. Many students do receive at least some aid; in 2012, 76 percent of Kentucky students were awarded federal financial aid, which means Kentucky ranks 4th in the nation for students who have been given federal assistance.

For those students who can't swing college solely with federal assistance, there may be state and local help available. Some colleges also offer their own financial aid options. Scholarships are a route that many students take in order to finance their college experience. Students in Kentucky can find scholarships in a wide variety of places, including local governments, civic organizations, non-profit groups, private companies and more. Here is just a sampling of the organizations in Kentucky that may offer scholarship opportunities:

  • Kentucky Educational Excellence
  • Kentucky College Access Program
  • Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange
  • EMU National Scholars Program
  • Kentucky Tuition Grant Program
  • Kentucky Hemophilia Foundation
  • Epilepsy Foundation of Kentucky
  • Tourism Cares

Why Accreditation Matters

One of the most important considerations for a college student in Kentucky is accreditation. In order to earn accreditation, a college must prove that it meets certain quality standards of education, as set by a regional or national accrediting agency. This helps ensure that students are receiving a top-notch education, no matter where they choose to earn their degree.

Accreditation matters for students who want to receive financial assistance; federal funds are only released to schools that have current accreditation. In addition, most colleges only accept transfer credits from accredited schools, and some employers rarely consider applicants who graduate from programs that are not accredited. These are all excellent reasons to verify that the chosen school holds accreditation in good standing. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the primary accrediting body for educational institutions in Kentucky (

Learn More About Kentucky Schools

Those who want to earn undergraduate or graduate degrees or a certificate from Kentucky colleges and universities have a great deal to think about and plan for when it’s time to enroll. This guide is meant to help students begin that journey. Whether the choice is online education, a traditional classroom experience or a mixture of both worlds, Kentucky educational institutions can offer a wide variety of programs suitable for hard-working students. To learn more about the Kentucky college options, especially online programs, check out the profiles below.

In addition to the Most Affordable ranking, we wanted to highlight a few of Kentucky's outstanding online schools. We asked top administrators from Campbellsville University and Morehead State what their online programs were all about. See what they said below:

Online Departments in Kentucky
  • Campbellsville University +

    How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

    CU Online learning is meant to be convenient and flexible but still maintain the academic rigor one would expect with the Campbellsville University name. We offer our programs at one of the most competitive prices possible.

    What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

    CU Online meshes over 100 years of education experience with all the modern technologies students come to expect. Campbellsville employs the largest open source learning management system in the world, Moodle. CU is unique in that it offers all the academic programs firmly rooted in the Christian experience. Faculty not only try to teach disciplines but they also attempt to help build well rounded students for future success.

    Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

    CU Online education is on the verge of exponential growth and now is the perfect time to join the program. With more and more programs going fully online ranging from certificates to graduate degrees, CU Online looks to become the regional leader in providing, Christian, non-profit and regionally accredited education.

  • Morehead State University +

    How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

    Morehead State University offers quality educational programs in an online format utilizing state-of-the art instructional tools and instructional techniques. Faculty at Morehead State University are trained in the development and delivery of online instruction and benefit from a well-staffed online course support team. Faculty content experts partner with instructional designers and instructional technologists to develop and deliver top-notch online programs.

    What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

    Morehead State University provides online students with a quality education at an affordable cost. Student to teacher ratios are low and students benefit from the active involvement of both faculty and classmates in online courses. Online programs at Morehead State University enable busy professionals and place bound individuals the opportunity to participate in a quality educational program that otherwise might not be available to them.

    Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

    On an ongoing basis, Morehead State University seeks to understand the unique needs of online students. Morehead State University is reviewing program offerings to make sure they meet the needs of online students and is exploring alternative instructional methods, venues and delivery formats in order to meet the needs not only of today’s students, but the needs of tomorrow’s students as well.

Kentucky remains at the forefront of online distance education programs. Most four-year online colleges in Kentucky are fully accredited and grant the same degrees to online students as those earned on campus. Whether it’s a certification or a degree, higher education is available through online schools in Kentucky. And these programs utilize many of the same benefits as campus learning by providing the same professors and similar assistance with tuition. When comparing programs, value is often a major factor, so we’ve listed all of the fully online programs in Kentucky starting with the lowest tuition costs. Please make use of this list to aid in selecting the best Kentucky online college for you.

Click here to see our methodology.
Kentucky State University
Tuition and fees: $6,096 Enrollment: 3,214 Accredited: YES Website: Kentucky State University

Kentucky State University offers online degree programs through its Office of Continuing and Distance Education. Online undergraduate students can choose from Bachelor or Arts degree programs in psychology, criminal justice and public administration. An online Master of Arts degree program is also available in special education.

University of the Cumberlands
Tuition and fees: $6,368 Enrollment: 1,853 Accredited: YES Website: University of the Cumberlands

Drawing upon over 125 years of academic excellence, University of the Cumberlands (UC) is committed to providing convenient, flexible, and affordable online degree and certification programs designed to accommodate the distinct needs of adult learners. Our innovative course delivery provides students with access to cutting-edge technologies, excellent resources, and professional knowledge with real-world applicability while maintaining a traditional and personal approach to education. UC is proud to remain true to its 1888 heritage of delivering quality education that is both affordable and accessible in pursuit of the life-more-abundant.

Murray State University
Tuition and fees: $6,840 Enrollment: 9,972 Accredited: YES Website: Murray State University

Murray State University is one of the many online colleges in Kentucky offering undergraduate degree programs. The university has a transfer agreement with the Kentucky Community and Technical College Systems (KCTCS). Online students complete lower-level online courses for their degree through KCTCS, and then finish their upper-level online coursework through Murray State University.

Morehead State University
Tuition and fees: $7,284 Enrollment: 10,758 Accredited: YES Website: Morehead State University

Morehead State University offers online classes and degree programs through Blackboard Learning. Online students may participate in online discussions and chats, watch video conferences and collaborate on group projects. The university's online library services and other academic resources are available to online and traditional students.

Eastern Kentucky University
Tuition and fees: $7,320 Enrollment: 16,064 Accredited: YES Website: Eastern Kentucky University

Eastern Kentucky University is a regionally accredited institution that is a great options for students looking for online colleges in Kentucky. Many of the university's degree programs can be completed entirely online. Other programs may require students to meet residency requirements. Eastern Kentucky University offers six different start dates for online students.

Northern Kentucky University
Tuition and fees: $8,064 Enrollment: 14,912 Accredited: YES Website: Northern Kentucky University

Northern Kentucky University offers online undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a number of fields, including criminal justice, health science, communications and business. Online students can choose from eight different bachelor's degree, three undergraduate-level certificate, five master's degree, one specialist degree, one doctorate and five graduate-level certificate programs.

Western Kentucky University
Tuition and fees: $8,472 Enrollment: 21,080 Accredited: YES Website: Western Kentucky University

Western Kentucky University, also known as WKU, is a great choice for students interested in online colleges in Kentucky. WKU offers more than 50 degree and certificate programs that can be completed entirely online. Online students can choose from a wide range of associate's degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, undergraduate certificate, graduate certificate and undergraduate minors.

University of Louisville
Tuition and fees: $9,662 Enrollment: 17,692 Accredited: YES Website: University of Louisville

Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the University of Louisville offers online undergraduate degree, graduate degree and certificate programs. Students can choose from online programs in a number of popular fields, including nursing, computer science and special education.

University of Kentucky
Tuition and fees: $9,676 Enrollment: 21,861 Accredited: YES Website: University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky (UK) offers four degree and certificate programs that can be completed entirely online and 12 hybrid courses. Students interested in completing their entire degree or certificate program online can choose from graduate programs in library and information science, distance education, rehabilitation counseling and arts administration.

Mid-Continent University
Tuition and fees: $13,350 Enrollment: 2,790 Accredited: YES Website: Mid-Continent University

Mid-Continent University offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs through MCU Online. Online students can choose from associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs in science, business management, psychology and counseling, christian ministries and human resource management. MCU Online offers some of the lowest tuition rates of all online colleges in Kansas.

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Tuition and fees: $14,774 Enrollment: 959 Accredited: YES Website: The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary offers online programs through two online colleges in Kentucky, Southern Seminary Online and Boyce College Online. The Master of Divinity program can be completed almost entirely online except for a 16-day, on-campus component. Online associate's and bachelor's degree programs are also available.

Kentucky Christian University
Tuition and fees: $16,778 Enrollment: 568 Accredited: YES Website: Kentucky Christian University

Kentucky Christian University, also known as KCU, is one of the Christ-centered online colleges in Kansas that offers online degree programs. KCU currently offers two online degree completion programs. Students can choose from either a Bachelor of Science in General Business or a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies.

Brescia University
Tuition and fees: $19,140 Enrollment: 830 Accredited: YES Website: Brescia University

Brescia University offers a wide variety of online programs and courses through BUonline. Some of BUonline's most popular undergraduate programs include associate’s degree programs in business, liberal arts, or human's services and bachelor's degree programs in accounting, business and psychology. BUonline also offers a master's degree program in management.

Kentucky Wesleyan College
Tuition and fees: $20,365 Enrollment: 803 Accredited: YES Website: Kentucky Wesleyan College

Kentucky Wesleyan College offers online programs through KWC Online. KWC Online specializes in offering versatile programs for adult learners. Three Bachelor of Science programs are available in criminal justice, business administration and general studies. All three programs can be completed entirely online and are offered through a seven-week intensive format.

Midway College
Tuition and fees: $20,850 Enrollment: 2,021 Accredited: YES Website: Midway College

Midway College offers a variety of online associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs, as well open enrollment online courses. The open enrollment courses are open to all students and do not require students to be enrolled in certain degree programs. Online degree programs are available in medical assisting, medical coding, business, psychology, healthcare and a variety of other fields.

Lindsey Wilson College
Tuition and fees: $21,230 Enrollment: 2,370 Accredited: YES Website: Lindsey Wilson College

Lindsey Wilson College is one of the online colleges in Kansas that is offering criminal justice programs. The college offers an associate's degree program and a bachelor's degree program in criminal justice as well as other online classes in a variety of fields. Online courses are offered during the fall, spring, winter and summer semesters and terms.

Campbellsville University
Tuition and fees: $21,600 Enrollment: 3,782 Accredited: YES Website: Campbellsville University

Campbellsville University offers online programs in three different formats. The blended format combines on-campus and online courses, while the partially online format utilizes web applications. Some programs and courses are available entirely online. Associate's, bachelor's and graduate degree programs are available online, as well a certificate program in Christian ministry.

Georgetown College
Tuition and fees: $30,770 Enrollment: 1,375 Accredited: YES Website: Georgetown College

Georgetown College offers a Master's of Education degree program that can be completed online. Four Kentucky Teacher of the Year have graduated from the program. Online courses are designed to be flexible while still offering one-on-one attention from accomplished faculty members. In addition to the online degree program, Georgetown College also offers a variety of online undergraduate and graduate courses.