Over the past ten years, the number of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher in Kentucky has increased by 20%. This is especially impressive considering the financial battles the state has fought over the same period. With decreases in higher education funding and increases in tuition rates, Kentucky schools are still attracting students and awarding thousands of degrees each year. Efforts from statewide organizations and individual schools are increasing online offerings, improving overall access to education. As a result, Kentucky distance learners and students nationwide have many solid online programs to choose from.
But before we dive into our list of best online colleges in Kentucky for 2016, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in Kentucky today.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Kentucky
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Kentucky had 80 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 24 public schools, 27 nonprofits and 29 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 16,563 at public schools, 4,625 at private nonprofits and 684 at private for-profits.
- 24 public
- 27 non-profit
- 29 for-profit
Tuition-wise, the College Board found that, in the ’15-’16 school year, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public schools was $9,570, while the out-of-state average was $21,960.
As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that Kentucky awarded $92.6 million in need-based grants and $110.9 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 17% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education.
Overall, Kentucky has strong in and out-of-state tuition and a sizable amount of state-run aid. As for ongoing improvements, the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority is an organization that stands out for their efforts to improve students’ access to higher education. The organization administers financial aid programs and distributes information about educational opportunities throughout the state.
The State of Online Higher Education in Kentucky
The NCES estimates that at least 19.7% of students enrolled in Kentucky’s Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 79.4% were reported to be undergraduates and 85.9% were found to be living in Kentucky.
Several statewide organizations put forth efforts each year to continue to boost these numbers. The Distance Learning Advisory Committee (DLAC) coordinates support services, policies and programs to support distance education at all Kentucky colleges and universities. The committee also oversees planning and recommendations for the operation of the Kentucky Virtual Campus (KYVC).
Administered by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), the KYVC offers online studies, professional development and supplemental studies. Its mission is to increase access to education across the state. Through KYVC, distance learners can choose from 40 fully online degree and certificate programs. These are brought to students through a collaboration with eight Kentucky universities and 16 community and technical colleges. The Virtual Campus also provides first-class, consistent virtual classroom experiences for schools across Kentucky by managing a statewide contract for software used by all institutions for online coursework.
Offering unique Learn On Demand or traditional Learn By Term scheduling, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System allows distance learners to take online courses through any of the 16 Kentucky community and technical schools. The collaborative offers over 700 online courses and many fully online degrees.
Kentucky is also a member of the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus, an initiative that lets students sift through an impressive directory of online programs throughout the southeast U.S. SREB also has strong aid initiatives. Services like the Academic Common Market/Electronic Campus and the Regional Contract Program for Health Professions let students fully enroll in a selection of out-of-state programs while paying in-state rates. While the program selection is small and the admissions criteria strict, for qualified students these are incredible opportunities.
These initiatives, which open so many doors for its distance students, capture the support of online colleges in KY.
Best Online Colleges in Kentucky
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Kentucky. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in KY, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Kentucky or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||Brescia University||Owensboro||$$$$$||717 Frederica St|
Owensboro, KY 42301-3023
Brescia University, located in the city of Owensboro, is one of the best online colleges in Kentucky. The school offers a liberal arts education guided by Catholic values and emphasizes the importance of serving others. BU is the only Catholic university in western Kentucky and was founded by nuns to serve soldiers returning from World War II. The university offers seven online bachelor's degree programs in accounting, psychology, integrative studies, theology, social work, business, and political science. Students can also choose from several associate degrees and three master's degrees. Most courses can be taken in an eight-week, accelerated format. Distance learners engage with their professors through mandatory live chat sessions each week, enabling students and their teachers to carry out discussions and presentations online. Coursework is accessible through the Moodle learning management system.
|2||Midway University||Midway||$$$$$||512 E. Stephens St|
Midway, KY 40347-1120
Midway University was first established as the Kentucky Female Orphan School and was founded by a Christian minister in 1849. Located about 15 miles northwest of Lexington, this university prepares students for careers by providing them with a liberal arts education that is guided by Christian ideals. Midway currently offers more than 20 online majors, including degrees in business administration, criminal justice, and health care administration. Distance learners can also choose from 12 different education-related majors, covering a range of specializations from middle school English to learning and behavior disorders. Midway's focus on education degrees make it stand out among online colleges in KY. Students can also take general education courses online. Online programs start at five different dates throughout the year, and most courses are just eight-weeks long.
|3||Murray State University||Murray||$$$$$||218 Wells Hall|
Murray, KY 42071-3318
Located in the southwest corner of Kentucky, Murray State University is just 20 miles from the Land Between the Lakes national recreation area, providing on-campus students with opportunities for hiking, boating, fishing, and camping. Distance learners at Murray State can pursue online business degrees in business administration, computer information systems, and logistics and supply chain management. These programs are offered in cooperation with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), which is a unique program that benefits online schools in KY. Students take their lower-level courses remotely through KCTCS and then finish their degrees online through Murray State. Distance learners have access to a variety of services, including library databases and technical help through the school's service desk. Murray State students can also take advantage of internships, service learning, and study abroad programs.
|4||Asbury University||Wilmore||$$$$$||1 Macklem Dr|
Wilmore, KY 40390-1198
Located in the small city of Wilmore, Asbury University's history is rooted in spirituality. This multi-denominational Christian liberal arts university prepares students to serve society and the Church. AU's handbook for community life outlines lifestyle expectations for its students, which include standards for morality, honor, and civic obligations. This online school in KY offers five bachelor's degree programs in instructional design, elementary education, leadership and ministry, organizational management, and ministry management. Students can also pursue associate and master's degrees online. Asbury's online courses combine asynchronous and real-time instruction; the main technology used for course delivery is Discovery (AU's learning management system), which offers live sessions through Adobe Connect. Distance learners receive a variety of support and services including access to electronic resources through the library, technical assistance from the help desk, and individualized advising.
|5||Eastern Kentucky University||Richmond||$$$$$||521 Lancaster Ave|
Richmond, KY 40475-3102
Eastern Kentucky University is located in Richmond within the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Students interested in earning a bachelor's degree from an online college in Kentucky can enroll at EKU and pursue a major in a variety of programs, including police studies, paralegal studies, and emergency medicine. Most distance programs can be completed entirely online, but the paralegal program has a residency requirement; a minimum of 10 semester credits (or the equivalent of legal specialty courses) must be completed through traditional classroom instruction. Several of EKU's online majors are related to firefighting, including bachelor's degrees in fire, arson, and explosion investigation; fire protection administration; and fire protection and safety engineering technology. EKU's main library provides online students with access to electronic research materials and delivers books to regional campuses.
|6||Western Kentucky University||Bowling Green||$$$$$||1906 College Heights Blvd|
Bowling Green, KY 42101-1000
Western Kentucky University has four campus locations in Bowling Green, Glasgow, Owensboro, and Elizabethtown. It also houses a science and math academy for gifted Kentucky high school students. Among online colleges in Kentucky, WKU stands out due to its many resources for online students. The university's student resource portal allows distance learners to access library services, technology services, an online writing lab, presentation coaching, online webinars, and more. The university offers 10 bachelor's degrees that can be completed entirely online, including criminology, health care administration, and sociology. Students who already have an associate degree can also enroll in online bachelor's degree-completion programs in nursing, business administration, and health information management, among others. Additionally, students can choose to enroll in a hybrid program and take a combination of online and in-person courses at any of WKU's four campus locations.
|7||University of Kentucky||Lexington||$$$$$||South Limestone|
Lexington, KY 40506-0032
The University of Kentucky is the state's flagship public university. It was founded in 1865 and is located in Lexington. UK offers an online bachelor's degree in medical laboratory science, which is designed to help certified medical laboratory technicians advance in their careers. Most of the university's online programs are at the master's level, including degrees in research methods in education, arts administration, and manufacturing systems engineering. KU offers a distance learning library service that is staffed by a full-time librarian whose sole purpose is to assist distance learners at UK; this resource sets it apart from other online colleges in Kentucky. Online students have access to research consultation sessions (through phone, chat, email, or in person) and copyright and EndNote assistance. KU also offers a host of hybrid programs, which require both online and face-to-face coursework.
|8||Morehead State University||Morehead||$$$$$||University Blvd|
Morehead, KY 40351
Morehead State University is located in Rowan County and was founded in 1887 as a religious institution. Today, MSU is a public university that has established additional regional campuses in Mt. Sterling, West Liberty, Ashland, and Prestonburg. Students with an associate degree can enroll at MSU and complete a bachelor's degree online. Degree-completion programs include accounting, general business, computer information systems, nursing, and more. Coursework at this online college in Kentucky is accessible through the Blackboard learning managements system. MSU also provides special services to veteran students, including application fee waivers, priority registration, class credit for experience gained while serving in the military, a special veteran's resource center on campus, a student group for veterans, and counseling resources. A number of benefits are also offered to the spouses and dependents of veterans.
|9||Northern Kentucky University||Highland Heights||$$$$$||Nunn Drive|
Highland Heights, KY 41099
Northern Kentucky University is a public university located in Highland Heights, just a few miles southeast of Cincinnati. More than 15,000 students currently attend NKU, both on-campus and online. NKU offers online undergraduate degrees in business information systems, library informatics, and communication studies. Distance learners at this online college in Kentucky can also enroll in degree-completion programs in the fields of nursing and respiratory care. Students who want to further customize their educational experience can opt to pursue one of 15 online minors or areas of concentration, such as women's and gender studies, pop culture, and religious studies. Coursework for online classes is available through the Blackboard learning management system. Distance learners have access to a variety of services, including an online writing center.
|10||Campbellsville University||Campbellsville||$$$$$||1 University Dr|
Campbellsville, KY 42718-2799
Campbellsville University is a private Christian school in the central region of the state. It ranks among the top online colleges in Kentucky. Founded by Baptists in 1906, Campbellsville now serves students of all denominations. Support for online students at Campbellsville includes an office of online education, which has a dedicated staff that helps students plan their degree programs. Campbellsville offers online associate, bachelor's, and master's degree programs. Bachelor's programs include social work, business administration, criminal justice administration, pastoral ministries, and an RN to BSN degree-completion program. A certificate in Christian ministry is also available to online students. All programs are Christ-centered and designed to prepare students for lives of service. Campbellsville is recognized as a military- and veteran-friendly university and offers reduced tuition rates for active duty military members.
|11||University of Louisville||Louisville||$$$$$||2301 S 3rd St|
Louisville, KY 40292-0001
The University of Louisville is one of the best online colleges in Kentucky and enrolls more than 22,000 students each year. A top public research university, the school was founded in 1798 and is among the oldest universities west of the Allegheny Mountains. The university offers five bachelor's degree programs online, including a degree-completion program in nursing. The university also has online master's degree programs, graduate certificates, and teaching endorsements. The bachelor's of science in organizational leadership and learning has four concentrations to choose from: training and development, leadership and organizational development, career and technical education, and health care leadership. This program is unique among online colleges in Kentucky in that it is competency-based, allowing health care professionals to receive credit for existing knowledge and experience. Online coursework at UofL is accessible through the Blackboard learning management system.
|12||Kentucky State University||Frankfort||$$$$$||400 East Main Street|
Frankfort, KY 40601-2355
Kentucky State University is located in Frankfort and was established in 1890 when it was first chartered as a land grant university for black Americans. The school remains committed to civic engagement and serving the community to this day. KSU offers three bachelor's degree programs that can be completed entirely online. Students can pursue bachelor's of arts degrees in criminal justice, psychology, and public administration. The school also offers an online master's degree in special education. Some online classes at KSU are available as interactive videoconference courses, which are accessible at classroom sites in many regional high schools, technical schools, colleges, and government offices. Regularly-scheduled interactive television courses are delivered using two-way videoconferencing, allowing students to directly interact with their professors. Online students at KSU also have access to 24/7 tutoring. In addition to having the lowest student-to-faculty ratio in Kentucky, KSU's online programs have the lowest tuition of any online school in KY.
|13||Union College||Barbourville||$$$$$||310 College St|
Barbourville, KY 40906-1499
Union College, located in the heart of Appalachia in Barbourville, was established in 1879. The school strongly emphasizes Appalachian culture and heritage. Distance learners at Union can choose from six online undergraduate programs in business administration, general management, law enforcement, general studies, substance abuse, and an RN-to-BSN program. Students with an associate degree from a Kentucky community college can enroll in Union's online programs and earn a bachelor's degree in just two years; however, students without an associate degree can still earn their degree entirely online. Up to 90 credits can be transferred from other sources, as long as 30 of the last 36 credits are completed at Union. Additionally, Union's tuition rates are some of the most affordable among online colleges in KY, and textbooks for many courses are available for free.
|14||Kentucky Wesleyan College||Owensboro||$$$$$||3000 Frederica Street|
Owensboro, KY 42301
Kentucky Wesleyan College is a private institution located in the city of Owensboro. The school was founded in 1858 by the Methodist Episcopal Church. KWC provides students with a liberal arts education rooted in the Methodist tradition and boasts a low student-to-teacher ratio of 12:1. KWC offers fast-track online undergraduate degrees in a variety of fields, including graphic design, business administration, and criminal justice & criminology. Class sessions begin every two months throughout the year and each session lasts seven weeks. Full-time students at this online college in KY take two courses each term. Students can transfer up to 90 semester hours from four-year colleges and 60 semester hours from two-year colleges. Services for online students include academic advising, technical assistance, library access, and disability support.
|15||Lindsey Wilson College||Columbia||$$$$$||210 Lindsey Wilson St|
Columbia, KY 42728-1223
Lindsey Wilson College, located in Columbia, KY, is a private Methodist school that provides its students with a liberal arts education. LWC's affiliation with the Methodist church strongly guides its mission to provide students with a Christian learning environment. LWC's six online undergraduate programs include majors in business administration, criminal justice, human services & counseling, nursing, sustainability & energy applications, and user experience design. Four master's degrees can also be completed entirely online. Many courses are offered in an accelerated eight-week format, allowing students to earn their degrees quickly. Courses at this online college in Kentucky are accessible through the Blackboard learning management system. LWC is recognized as a military-friendly school and provides special services for veterans including a veterans affairs coordinator, and credit for military training; LWC also participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Kentucky
Below you’ll find our list of the most affordable online schools in Kentucky. We’ve gathered the schools offering the best online programs in the state and ranked them here by lowest tuition, for those students wanting the most bang for their buck.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Kentucky State University||Frankfort||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Northern Kentucky University||Highland Heights||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Murray State University||Murray||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||Morehead State University||Morehead||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||Eastern Kentucky University||Richmond||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||Western Kentucky University||Bowling Green||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||University of Louisville||Louisville||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||University of the Cumberlands||Williamsburg||School profile||$$$$$|
|9||Kentucky Wesleyan College||Owensboro||School profile||$$$$$|
|10||Midway University||Midway||School profile||$$$$$|
|11||Campbellsville University||Campbellsville||School profile||$$$$$|
|12||Asbury University||Wilmore||School profile||$$$$$|
|13||Brescia University||Owensboro||School profile||$$$$$|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Kentucky
For Kentucky residents entering University of Kentucky as freshmen. A minimum GPA of 3.5 is required, and an ACT score of 31+ or SAT of 1360+. Selection is competitive, based on academic achievement. Award amount is $2,500 per year for 4 years.
The Grawemeyer Scholarship covers full tuition plus a stipend for room and board at the University of Louisville. Applicants must be Kentucky high school graduates entering the university as freshmen. A GPA of 3.75+ and an ACT of 31+ or SAT of 1360+ is required.
Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KHEAA)
For Kentucky high school graduates who will attend college in-state. The amount of this award is determined by a student’s high school GPA and SAT/ACT scores. A minimum GPA of 2.5 is required. Funds are provided by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.
Mary Jo Young AP Scholarship
This scholarship is for Kentucky residents enrolled in dual credit courses at a college within the state. An ACT score of 18+ or GPA of 2.5+ is required. Award amount is $420 for one course or $840 for two courses. Additional reimbursement for textbooks is available. Funds are provided by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.
National Merit Finalist Scholarship
Administered by the University of Kentucky, this scholarship is for National Merit, Achievement, or Hispanic finalists who designate UK as their first-choice school. Award covers full tuition plus a stipend for room, board, expenses, and a study abroad opportunity.
Otis A. Singletary Scholarship
For freshmen entering the University of Kentucky with a GPA of 3.5+ and an ACT score of 31+ or SAT of 1360+. Selection is competitive, based on academic achievement. Award covers full tuition plus a stipend for room, board and expenses.
Kentucky residents who will enter the University of Kentucky with a GPA of 3.3+ and an ACT score of 26+ or SAT of 1170+ are automatically considered for the Provost Scholarship. Selection is competitive. Award amount is $1,500 per year for 4 years.
Raymond A. Kent – Navy V-12/ROTC Scholarship
This scholarship is available to students enrolled at the University of Louisville who are direct descendants of an individual who served in the V-12 Program or Naval ROTC at the University of Louisville. Selection is based on financial need and academic merit.
Rodney Williams Legacy Scholarship
The Rodney Williams Scholarship is available to students whose parent or grandparent graduated from the University of Louisville. Applicants must be freshmen entering University of Louisville with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. One-time awards of $1,000 are distributed to 12 students each year.
For students currently enrolled in a Kentucky Community and Technical College System school who will earn their associate’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.5 and then transfer to the University of Kentucky. Award covers partial tuition for two years of study at UK.
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