Best Online Colleges in Kentucky
| TBS Staff
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Home to outstanding private and public institutions of higher learning, Kentucky offers online programs that meet the needs of employers around the world.
Earning an online bachelor's degree in Kentucky is a convenient, flexible option for first-year and returning students. Working professionals and individuals looking to change career paths also benefit from the programs found at accredited online colleges in Kentucky. Kentucky offers undergraduate and graduate programs through roughly 70 community and technical colleges and universities.
Nationally ranked schools, like University of Kentucky (UK) and University of Louisville (UofL), provide online undergraduate and graduate degrees in healthcare, manufacturing, and technical fields. Other leading colleges and universities in Kentucky have outstanding academic programs that train enrollees for careers in the automotive industry, agritechnology, and aerospace design and production.
Local students at online colleges in Kentucky benefit from the state's low cost of living, historic parks, and sports and music traditions. This guide ranks the best online colleges in Kentucky and provides salary and career data.
|#1||University of Louisville Louisville, KY|
|#2||Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY|
|#3||Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY|
|#4||Brescia University Owensboro, KY|
|#5||Asbury University Wilmore, KY|
|#6||Northern Kentucky University Highland Heights, KY|
|#7||Midway University Midway, KY|
|#8||University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY|
|#9||Murray State University Murray, KY|
|#10||Campbellsville University Campbellsville, KY|
Featured Online Schools
The Best Online Colleges in Kentucky
The University of Louisville, founded in 1798, is a public university and a member of the Kentucky state university system. Its School of Medicine performed the first self–contained artificial heart transplant as well as the first successful hand transplant. The university teaches more than 20,000 students and offers degree programs in roughly 170 programs of study.
The University of Louisville offers several bachelor’s, master’s and certificate programs online. Bachelor’s degree options include nursing and criminal justice. Master’s degree offerings include social work and special education. Certifications include data mining and information security.
Online student resources include disability services and an online library with librarian live chat and access to multiple online journals and scholarly article databases.
Western Kentucky University, founded in 1906, has roots that go back to the Glasgow Normal School, established in 1875. The Glasgow Normal School transferred to what is now Western Kentucky University. The university offers over 100 degree programs spanning six academic colleges, including the state’s first Honors College. The university also has a study abroad program.
Western Kentucky University offers a wide variety of online associate, bachelor’s, master and certificate programs. Associate degrees include early childhood education and interdisciplinary studies. Bachelor’s degree options include criminology and sociology. Master’s degree offerings include biology and nursing. Certifications available include manufacturing and Lean Six Sigma.
Resources for online students include disability services, counseling, financial services, online tutoring, an online writing center, technical support, test preparation, career services and an online library with librarian live chat and access to scholarly article, journal, eBook and streaming media databases.
Eastern Kentucky University offers more than 160 degree programs across five academic colleges, with 25 of those degree programs available online. Established in 1906, the university began awarding degrees in 1925 and awarded its first doctoral degrees in 2010.
Eastern Kentucky University offers a variety of associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and certificate programs online. Associate degrees include science paramedicine and police studies. Bachelor’s degrees include emergency medicine and homeland security. Master’s degree programs include education and public administration. Doctoral degrees include occupational therapy and nursing. Certifications include safety management and paralegal studies.
Resources available to online students include an online library with librarian live chat, inter–library loan and access to a wealth of online article and video databases.
Brescia University, established in 1950, is a Roman Catholic university. The university grew out of two universities which merged in 1950: Mount Saint Joseph Junior College for Women and Owensboro. The university is named after the city of Brescia, the Italian city where the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph was originally established. The university has over 900 students enrolled in six academic colleges.
Brescia University offers several associate, bachelor’s, master and certificate programs through BUonline. Some of their more popular programs include associate degrees in business and graphic design, bachelor’s degrees in political science and psychology, master’s degrees in management and certificates in accounting.
Online student resources include technical support and an online library with librarians available via email, text message or over the phone as well as access to a variety of scholarly articles and journal databases.
Asbury University, founded in 1890, is a private, Christian college. Asbury University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees and is a member of the Christian College Consortium. Asbury boasts an enrollment of 1,700 students around the globe.
Accelerated online bachelor’s degree completion programs are available in elementary education, leadership and ministry, organizational management, and instruction design, as well as an online associate of science degree.
Asbury University’s Digital Storytelling program, which combines online courses with short–term in–person instruction allows students to complete a blended Master’s in Communications. Students without an undergraduate degree in media also must attend a two–week to four–week on–campus session.
Online courses at Asbury University feature asynchronous elements and real–time collaborations.
Northern Kentucky University is a liberal arts university established in 1968. The university was originally the University of Kentucky’s northern campus, but splintered off as its own four–year college in 1968. The school has over 13,000 students in attendance and six academic colleges.
Northern Kentucky University offers several online bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, specialist and certificate programs. Bachelor’s degrees include history and library informatics. Master’s degree programs include education and nursing. Doctoral degrees include nursing, while specialist degrees include multiple topics in education. Certifications include cybersecurity and business informatics.
Online student resources include an online library with access to a librarian via text message, instant messenger or over the phone.
Midway University, established in 1847, is unique in that its Day College is reserved for female students only and is the only university in Kentucky with an all–female college. This stems from the university’s founding as a school for female orphans. The Day College offers majors within business, equine studies, nursing and teacher education. The Christian liberal arts university is co–ed otherwise, offering classes on weekends, evenings and online for its roughly 1,100 adult learners.
Midway University offers a variety of associate and bachelor’s degrees online. Associate degree options include business administration, while bachelor’s degree offerings include business administration, criminal justice, marketing and several topics in education.
Resources available to online students include online tutoring, online job boards, technical support and an online library with access to an assortment of online scholarly article, journal and eBook databases as well as library materials by mail.
The University of the Cumberlands, established in 1889, is a Southern Baptist university. The university awarded its first graduate degree in 1988, which led to its graduate college becoming a critical component of the university today. In 2006, the university began offering graduate degrees entirely online, beginning with education degrees to its more than 3,000 students. Doctoral and specialist degrees are also available with more on the horizon.
The University of the Cumberlands offers several bachelor’s, master, doctoral and specialist programs online. Bachelor’s degrees include psychology and criminal justice. Master’s degree options include business administration and information systems security. Doctoral degree offerings include leadership and clinical psychology, while specialist degrees include education.
Online student resources include an online job board and an online library with access to over 50,000 online periodicals, a wealth of streaming media and more than 80 full text research databases.
Murray State University has a variety of online bachelor’s, masters and certificate programs. Online bachelor’s degree programs include business administration and integrated studies. Online master’s degree programs include agriculture and organizational communication. Online certification options include professional writing and nonprofit leadership.
Online student resources include technical support, career services, counseling, disability services, an online writing center with toll–free Grammar Hotlines and an online library with access to a variety of online databases, academic journals and government document databases, as well as librarians available via live chat, text message and over the phone.
The Russel Creek Baptist Association founded Campbellsville University in 1906. The university, open to students of all denominations, has over 3,000 students. Over 90% of these students receive financial aid. In addition, the university is a NAIA Gold Star Champions of Character Institution, one of only a handful in America.
Campbellsville University offers several online associate, bachelor’s, master and certificate programs. Associate degrees include business administration and criminal justice. Bachelor’s degrees include social work and nursing. Master’s degrees include sport management and multiple topics in education, while certificates include Christian ministry.
Resources for online students include an online library with librarian live chat and access to a wide variety of online databases, eBooks, electronic journals and much more.
Located in Barbourville, Union is among the top online schools in Kentucky. The college offers six undergraduate programs in business administration, general management, general studies, law enforcement, nursing, and substance abuse. The school also offers graduate programs in business, administration, and athletic administration.
Most distance learning programs feature eight-week courses and students are able to begin their studies at six different points throughout the year. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Union accepts transfer students who are in good standing at an accredited postsecondary institution with a minimum GPA of 2.0. Applicants must also submit college transcripts and ACT or SAT scores if they have completed fewer than 24 credits.
Morehead State University first opened its doors in 1887 as a Christian–based teacher’s college, but the state bought it out in 1922. The school has four academic colleges and provides more than 220 degree programs, more than 20 of which are available online.
Morehead State University offers several online bachelor’s, master and certificate programs. Online bachelor’s degree programs include business administration and computer information systems. Online master’s degree programs include educational technology and social science, while online certifications include special education.
Online student resources include an online job board, 24/7 online tutoring, online mock job interviews, online health services and an online library with librarian live chat, free delivery for library materials and access to over 100 databases.
UK is the state's largest postsecondary institution. The school offers a variety of online undergraduate and graduate degrees spanning 10 different colleges and schools. UK even offers an online master's degree in manufacturing systems engineering that allows professionals to increase their knowledge and advance in their careers while still working full-time.
Online classes use several different technologies to deliver content, including discussion boards, learning management platforms, video streaming, web conferencing, and email. Some courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Distance learners at UK also benefit from various student services, including academic advising, a digital library, financial aid assistance, a disability center, career guidance and counseling. The services and programs offered make the university stand out as one of the best online schools in Kentucky.
Kentucky Wesleyan offers six programs completely online, making it one of the most popular online schools in KY. These programs and courses are ideal for adult learners, especially those with personal and professional obligations that keep them from attending on-campus classes on a full-time basis.
Kentucky Wesleyan's distance learning programs feature seven-week classes with start dates every two months, allowing students to earn their degrees as efficiently as possible. Most classes are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Students may choose from online bachelor's degrees in business administration, criminal justice, general studies, graphic design, psychology, and religion. Most students graduate in three to four years, and all programs accept transfer credits from regionally accredited colleges and universities.
Like other online colleges in Kentucky, LWC is a great option for those who want to earn their degree online while receiving the same high-quality education as their on-campus peers. The school offers fully six programs in business administration, criminal justice, human services, and nursing, along with graduate degrees in business, counseling, and educational leadership.
The college's online bachelor's degrees feature eight-week courses. Transfer students with an associate degree from a Kentucky college may complete earn their bachelor's in just 18 months. About 95% of all LWC students receive some form of financial aid, such as grants, subsidized loans, and scholarships. Victory Media designated LWC as a Military Friendly School due to the services it offers military veteran learners. All distance learners pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency.
KWC offers an online bachelor's degree in history that is ideal for students preparing to enter law school. Graduates commonly go on to secure placement in some of the nation's top law programs and graduate schools, making it one of the more distinct online colleges in KY.
Applicants must submit their high school diploma or college transcripts, a personal essay, and ACT or SAT scores to be considered. They must also provide two or three character references from their pastors, church leaders, teachers, employers, or youth ministers. The college only accepts those with high school or college GPAs of at least 2.0 and ACT scores of 18 or above. Student who attend KWC must adhere to a code of ethics based on Christian principles.
KSU, the state's smallest public four-year school, offers online bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice, psychology, and public administration. It also offers an online master's degree in special education and a doctorate in nursing practice, along with three online certificate programs.
All online courses are delivered through Blackboard, which provides students access to lectures, course materials, discussion boards, and assignments. Students benefit from most of the same services available to on-campus learners, including financial aid assistance, an online bookstore, a digital library, online tutoring, and a course management system. All part-time online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Like many online schools in Kentucky, KSU's distance learning programs are ideal for working adults, state government employees, military personnel, and others who have considerable responsibilities outside of their coursework.
Online Colleges in Kentucky Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.
Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.
While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.
The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.
The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.
Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.
Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology
About Our Ranking Factors
Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.
Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.
We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.
In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.
If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.
We thank you for your readership and trust.
Employment in Kentucky
The top industries in Kentucky include manufacturing, healthcare, and agritechnology. Kentucky also hosts major aerospace and automotive design and assembly plants, which provide thousands of local jobs each year.
Kentucky has received $555 million in investments into the healthcare industry since 2014, adding nearly 6,500 jobs. Manufacturing companies in the commonwealth maintain facilities across Kentucky, while its location makes it a hub for logistics and distribution services that span the country.
The Kentucky unemployment rate continues to decline as COVID-related restrictions ease. The unemployment rate in Kentucky reached 5% in March 2021, which is close to the pre-COVID low of 4.1% in January 2020. The mean annual wage in Kentucky was about $46,000 in May 2020, with those in managerial and administrative positions earning higher pay.
The cost of living in Kentucky sits significantly lower than the national average. While the overall cost of living index is 83.6 (based on a national average of 100), residents benefit from a housing cost index at 63.3 and lower-than-average expenses for transportation, utilities, groceries, and healthcare.
The following information details the highest-paying roles in Kentucky employing more than 1,000 individuals that are available to bachelor's degree-holders. Salary information is specific to Kentucky, while job growth data pertains to the United States as a whole.
|Career||Annual Median Salary (2020)||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)|
|Architectural and Engineering Managers||$123,620||3%|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||$122,360||10%|
The following data reflects the highest-paying roles employing more than 15,000 professionals in Kentucky. Salary figures apply specifically to Kentucky, while job growth data refers to the entire United States.
|Career||Annual Mean Salary (2020)||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||Education Required|
|General and Operations Managers||$92,650||6%||Bachelor's|
|Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives||$69,130||2%||High School Diploma or Bachelor's Degree|
|Project Management Specialists||$71,880||6%||Bachelor's|
|First-Line Supervisors of Production and Operating Workers||$62,610||0%||High School Diploma|
|Accountants and Auditors||$70,710||4%||Bachelor's|
Online Associate and Graduate Degrees
An online associate degree prepares students to continue on to bachelor's degrees, and bachelor's degrees provide a pathway to graduate programs. With the transition to online-only education during the COVID-19 pandemic, online degrees have expanded in scope and breadth.
Students can access over 140 online degree programs through the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Online associate degrees include business administration programs with tracks in human resource management and general management.
Learners can also earn online associate degrees in criminal justice, with concentrations in corrections, law enforcement, or security and loss prevention. Additional online associate degrees include logistics and operations management and medical information technology, both of which align with careers in Kentucky's major industries.
Online graduate programs integrate synchronous and asynchronous components to meet the needs of learners from diverse backgrounds. For example, prospective students looking to earn an online master's degree in business administration can apply to Western Kentucky University (WKU) or UK. The criminal justice online master's degree at UofL allows enrollees to explore criminal punishment, cybercrime, and juvenile justice.
Accreditation for Online Programs of Study
Always ensure that your prospective school holds national or regional accreditation. Accreditation attests to the quality and types of programs an institution offers. This recognition is important for all programs, including those found online.
Students should look into the accreditation status of potential institutions as they explore their options. Accreditation status can affect financial aid, transfer opportunities, and reputability to potential employers. National accreditation often indicates a school provides more technical and career-oriented programs, while regional accreditation is conferred to institutions with more academically rigorous offerings.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best college is the one that meets your needs for personal fulfillment and professional growth. However, University of Louisiana and University of Kentucky rank among the best state programs.
Kentucky is home to public colleges such as University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and Kentucky State University. Additional public colleges include Western Kentucky University, Northern Kentucky University, Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead State University, and Murray State University.
Colleges and universities in Kentucky offer outstanding academic programs. If its schools provide programs that suit your personal and professional aspirations, Kentucky is a great place to be.
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