There’s more to Kentucky than bluegrass and horses. One of the four states constituted as a commonwealth, Kentucky entered the Union in 1792, just in time for ratification of the Constitution. As with much of the Midwest region, the French were the first Europeans to move into the Kentucky territory, then occupied by Shawnee, Iroquois, and Cherokee tribes. Throughout its history, Kentucky’s highly calcified soil has yielded excellent farming conditions and today ranks fifth nationally in goat farming, eighth in cattle production, and fourteenth in corn-based products. Still, its the state’s diversified economy that has kept it competitive in the 20-21st centuries, with growth in the automotive industry, energy sector, and, yes, bourbon. (To be precise, 95% of the world’s bourbon.) Education has also been a major component to Kentucky’s profile, with eight public universities, sixteen community colleges, and a range of private options. In recent years, the state’s online distance education programs have vastly expanded, with twenty in-state colleges and universities offering a wide range of degrees and certificates.
In-state tuition is often applied to public schools offering online programs. Many online programs require some face-to-face time, or more numerous support services at their brick and mortar locations. Intensive study experiences — often on the weekends or in several week long bouts — enable many online students to accelerate their time until graduation. And students looking at online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees where degrees can be taken partially, or mostly online). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state.
There are 10 public colleges that offer online degrees in Kentucky: Owensboro Community and Technical College, Somerset Community College, West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, Morehead State University, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Western Kentucky University, Murray State University, University of Louisville, and Eastern Kentucky University. The largest of these is Murray State, offering 29 total tracks, including 22 masters in a diverse range of fields: Education, Business, Criminal Justice, and Sports Administration, among others. EKU comes in a close second: 27 degrees, including 16 bachelors, 9 masters, and 2 doctorates. EKU’s online undergraduate school primarily covers Psychology and Criminal Justice, and graduate programs can be found in Healthcare and Education. From there, Owensboro Community, Southeast Kentucky Community, and Morehead State each offer over a dozen tracks.
There are 10 private colleges in Kentucky that offer online degrees: Lindsey Wilson College, Midway College, Campbellsville University, Brescia University, University of the Cumberlands, Spalding University, Asbury University, Georgetown College, and Thomas More College. The largest of these is Cumberlands: 5 bachelors, 9 masters, and 4 doctorates. Cumberlands’s undergraduate offerings cover Business, Healthcare, and Criminal Justice, and graduate highlights include an MBA, MEd, and doctorates in Leadership, Education, Counselor Education And Supervision, and Clinical Psychology. Brescia is the second largest private option, with 4 associates, 6 bachelors, and a Master of Science in Management. Its 6 bachelors are the most among private schools, in Accounting, Business, Theology, Psychology, Addictions Counseling, and Integrated Studies.
Featured Online Schools
For a variety of reasons, a student may look to move to the state of their online college program whether specifically required by the program or not — be it for a job, location desirability, school benefits, etc. Different states have different policies, however, and some of them can be rather demanding. Kentucky’s is relatively straightforward and set by the Council on Postsecondary Education. (For the full-length requirements, visit here; otherwise, The University of Louisville has an FAQ breakdown.) In essence, all students wishing to qualify for in-state tuition must have established residency/domicile in Kentucky, which students are responsible for proving. (Note that, unlike in many states, Kentucky has no 12-month-straight requirement.) Proof of residence may include employment records, utilities bill, etc., but items like a driver’s license or voter registration generally are not accepted as sole proofs.
The average tuition per-year for a four-year public school in Kentucky is $9,567 (2015-16), compared to a national average of $9,142. That’s a 4% increase year-over-year and a 16% five-year change, compared to respective national averages of 3% and 13%. While these numbers are on the relative higher end, Kentucky in-state students still fare far better than many others across the country, where public tuition can reach over $15,000, and has increased as much as 50% over the last five years. Nor do students need to worry about significant increases year-to-year: though students can expect tuition to rise some, the number never rises more than a few hundred dollars. (In other words, it’s stable and relatively predictable, particularly when taking inflation into account.)
There are 5 schools in and around Lexington that offer online degrees: Georgetown College, Midway College, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Asbury University, and Eastern Kentucky University, which is the second-largest distanced education provider in the state, with 27 total online degrees. Its 16 online bachelors are the most in Kentucky, available in a wide range of Psychology concentrations (Forensic, Brain and Cognitive, Child and Family, Substance Abuse, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Workplace), Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, and a number of Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology tracks. From there, Midway and Asbury each offer 8 online degrees. For those willing to occasionally travel, Louisville is home to U of L and Spalding University, offering online options; to the west, Morehead State is an option, and to the south, Campbellsville University, Somerset Community College, and the University of the Cumberlands are within range. Thomas More College offers MBA tracks in Cincinnati.
Both The University of Louisville and Spalding University offer online degrees within the city limits. U of L offers 5 bachelors tracks – Organizational Leadership And Learning, Justice Administration, Rn To Bsn, Communication (BS and BA) – and 8 masters in Human Resources And Organization Development, Justice Administration, Higher Education, Higher Education, Special Education, Engineering Management, Civil Engineering, and Social Work. Spalding offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Rn To Bsn). For those willing to occasionally commute, Lexington has 5 schools offering online programs, including Eastern Kentucky University (degrees in Psychology concentrations), Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, and several Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology tracks. Thomas More College offers MBA tracks in Cincinnati, and Western Kentucky University offers 29 online degrees in Bowling Green.
In Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University offers 29 online degrees, the most in the state of Kentucky, with 3 associates, 4 bachelors, and 22 masters degrees. Associate tracks range from Water Resource Management, to Early Childhood Education, to Interdisciplinary Studies; and bachelors are available in Organizational Leadership, Sociology, Consumer & Family Sciences, Interdisciplinary Studies, and more. In nearby northern Tennessee, Austin Peay State University offers 12 degrees online; slightly farther south, Nashville’s Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt, Remington College, Trevecca Nazarene, Lipscomb University, Welch College, and Nashville State Community College all offer online degrees. To the west of Bowling Green, Lindsey Wilson College, Campbellsville University, and Somerset Community College are distance education options.
Cost of Living: 90.5%
Top Industries: Education, Automotive, Tech
Local Online Degrees: 12
Cost of Living: 95.1%
Top Industries: Logistics and Shipping, Healthcare
Local Online Degrees: 9
Cost of Living: 88.2%
Top Industries: Education, Healthcare
Local Online Degrees: 10
Cost of Living: 85.7%
Top Industries: Healthcare, Financial Services
Local Online Degrees: 4
Cost of Living: 90.2%
Top Industries: Healthcare, Financial Services
Local Online Degrees: 8
Cost of Living: 87.5%
Top Industries: Agriculture, Healthcare
Local Online Degrees: 10
The Best Online Colleges in Kentucky
1. Western Kentucky University
Online Programs: 29
Founded in 1906, Western Kentucky University has a total enrollment of 20,000, with an undergraduate population of 17,000. Ranked highly by Forbes, Washington Monthly, and US News, Western Kentucky is among the top public schools in the region, in addition to being an excellent choice for veterans. Its 29 online degrees are the most in the state, including 3 associates, 4 bachelors, and 22 masters in a wide range of fields: Education, Child and Family Studies, Sports Administration, Healthcare, Criminology, Business, and more. The school’s 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio is encourages an intimate, engaging learning environment, and nearly half of classes consist of fewer than 20 students. Through the Blackboard learning platform, students collaborate with group discussion boards, live chat rooms, and videoconferencing. Further, WKU more than 60% of full-time students receive some form of financial aid.
2. Eastern Kentucky University
Online Programs: 27
Founded in 1906, Eastern Kentucky University has an enrollment of about 16,500 students, with a flagship campus in Richmond and additional centers in Corbin, Hazard, Somerset, Danville, Lancaster, and Manchester. The university has been recognized by Forbes and US News as a top public school in the region, and Military Times EDGE magazine has ranked it first in the nation on for its veteran programs. It is the second largest university in Kentucky for online degrees, with 16 bachelors, 9 masters, and 2 doctorates in Nursing Practice and Occupational Therapy. Undergraduate track highlights include Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology, Homeland Security, Corrections & Juvenile Justice Studies, and a number of Psychology concentrations in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Child and Family Psychology, and Substance Abuse, among others. EKU is also a tight-knit educational setting: the 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports intimate, collaborative learning, and over 55% of classes consist of less than 20 students. 70% of students receive some form of financial aid, and the average need met is 80%.
3. University of Louisville
Online Programs: 13
The University of Louisville, founded in 1798, has a total enrollment of 21,300, with an undergraduate population of 15,800. Forbes, Washington Monthly, and US News rank Louisville highly among national public schools. Online, the school offers 5 bachelors in Organizational Leadership And Learning, Justice Administration, Nursing (Rn to Bsn), Communication (BS/BA); and 8 masters in Wellness Promotion, English, Middle Grades And Secondary Education, Education Technology, Adult And Higher Education, Information Systems, and Business Administration, among others. With a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, education is kept intimate and individualized, and more than 30% of classes have fewer than 20 students. (60% have fewer than 50 students.) Financial aid opportunities are available, as well: 60% of full-time undergraduates receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 63%. All online course work is designed for maximum flexibility, with working professionals and adult learners in mind.
4. Morehead State University
Online Programs: 16
Founded in 1887, Morehead State has a total enrollment of about 10,900, with 9,800 undergraduate students. One of the top public schools in the region according to US News, Morehead offers 16 degrees online, including 2 associates, 6 bachelors, and 8 masters. Undergraduate offerings cover several Business specializations, including Small Business And Entrepreneurship, Technology Management, and Imaging Sciences, among others. Graduate degrees include an MBA, an MSM in Information Systems, and MAs in Educational Technology, Adult And Higher Education, Wellness Promotion, and English, and more. Morehead State’s 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio encourages individualized, collaborative education, and more than 55% of classes consist of fewer than 20 students. Morehead also offers excellent financial aid opportunities: 76% of full-time undergraduates receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 65%.
5. Murray State University
Online Programs: 14
Founded in 1922, Murray State University has a total enrollment of 11,000, with an undergraduate population of 9,300. Forbes and US News each rank MSU among the top regional universities in the country, and the school now offers 14 online degrees, including 6 bachelors and 8 masters. Undergraduate highlights include tracks in Business Administration, Logistics And Supply Chain Management, Computer Information Systems, Telecommunications Systems Management, and an Rn to Bsn, among others. Masters degrees are available in Business Administration, Human Development And Leadership, Library Media Education, Information Systems, Occupational Safety And Health, Public Administration, and more. Murray State’s 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes a tight-knit, collaborative learning community, and nearly 60% of classes consist of fewer than 20 students. (Just 3% of classes include 50 students or more.) Further, 61% of full-time MSU undergraduates receive some form of aid.
6. Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College
Online Programs: 20
Founded in 1960, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College has campuses in campuses in Cumberland, Harlan, Middlesboro, Pineville and Whitesburg. It also has a robust distance education program, with 12 associates and 8 associate-to-bachelors offered online. SKCTC’s associate program is the second largest in Kentucky, with studies in Business concentrations (Accounting, Finance, Hospitality Management, Human Resource Management, and Informatics), Logistics & Operations Management, and more. Associate-to-bachelor tracks include Communication, Technical Studies, Workforce Leadership, Public Administration, Computer Information Technology, Justice Administration, and Telecommunications Systems Management, among others. All course work is designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate working professionals and adult learners. Other benefits include 24/7 tech support, an online bookstore, virtual library, and Blackboard, which encourages a dynamic learning atmosphere through group discussion boards, live chat rooms, and videoconferencing.
7. Brescia University
Online Programs: 11
Established in 1925, Brescia University is a private Roman Catholic university in Owensboro, Kentucky, with an enrollment of under 1,000. Despite its small dize, Brescia also has one of the best online programs in Kentucky, with 4 associates, 6 bachelors, and a Master of Science in Management available online. Undergraduate studies cover Business, Accounting, Psychology, Addictions Counseling, and Integrative Studies, among others. Under the Ursuline tradition of personal and social transformation through education, Catholic values and concepts are incorporated into the general curriculum, and a BA in Theology with an Emphasis in Pastoral Studies is also offered online. Further, Brescia’s 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes an intimate, collaborative, and religious-oriented educational experience; 92% of classes consist of fewer than 20 students. Financial aid opportunities are available, as well: 78 % of full-time undergraduates receive some form of aid.
8. Owensboro Community and Technical College
Online Programs: 19
Owensboro Community and Technical College, established in 1986, serves Daviess County, Hancock County, Ohio County, and McLean County. OCTC also has one of the largest online offerings in the state, with 12 associates and 7 associate-to-bachelors. The majority of associates available cover Business concentrations in areas like Accounting, Finance, Hospitality Management, Informatics, Office Systems, Real Estate Management, Telecommunication Systems Management, and Turf Grass/Landscaping Management, among others. Associate-to-bachelor options include Organizational Leadership, Workforce Leadership, Business Administration, Justice Administration, Information Technology, Technical Studies, and more. All course work is designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate working professionals and adult learners; over 60% of students are enrolled part-time. Additional resources include library services, enrollment assistance, distance learning tutorials, and Blackboard.
9. University of the Cumberlands
Online Programs: 18
The University of the Cumberlands, founded in 1888, has a total enrollment of about 6,300, with an undergraduate population of 2,900. Affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Cumberlands places a special emphasis on extracurricular learning and service, requiring all students to complete a minimum of 40 hours of community service hours before graduation. Cumberlands also offers an extensive online program, with 5 bachelors, 9 masters, and 4 doctorates. Undergraduate track highlights include Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Health Science, Human Services, and Psychology. Graduate highlights include an MBA, MS in Justice Administration, MS in Information Systems, MA in Christian Studies, and doctorates in Leadership, Education, Counselor Education And Supervision, and Clinical Psychology. The school’s 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports an engaging, collaborative educational setting, and 70% of classes have less than 20 students. Financial aid is also available: 85% of full-time undergrads receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 76%.
10. Asbury University
Online Programs: 8
Founded in 1890, Asbury University has a total enrollment of 1,900, with an undergraduate population of 1,700. US News ranks the school among the top regional universities in the country, and Asbury also offers 8 online degrees: BS in Business Administration, BS in Leadership and Ministry, BS in Elementary Education, and 5 masters in Teaching, Learning Behavior Disorders, and more. (All education degrees are accredited by the Kentucky Department of Education and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.) Asbury’s 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio is among the best on our list, encouraging an intimate, collaborative learning environment with individualized instruction; over 60% of classes consist of fewer than 20 students, and less than 1% have 50 students. All courses are designed for maximum flexibility, and students have access to tech support, library services, and academic advising.
11. Georgetown College
Online Programs: 4
Georgetown College, founded in 1829 as a private Christian school, has a total enrollment of 1,300, with just under 1,000 undergraduates. Online, Georgetown offers 4 masters in Behavior Disorders, Education, and Education/Teacher Leader. (All education degrees have been accredited by the NCATE.) With a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Georgetown emphasizes individualized instruction and a collaborative learning approach; 77% of students have fewer than 20 students. Financial aid opportunities are available, as well: 83% of full-time students receive some form of aid, and the average need met is an impressive 84%. Additional student resources include career services, academic advising, Moodle, library services, and more. As a Christian school, religious values are incorporated into each curriculum.
12. Henderson Community College
Online Programs: 15
Established in 1960, Henderson Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, with more than 2,200 students enrolled in academic, technical, and transfer programs, and more than 4,000 students in continuing education programs, serving Henderson, Union, and Webster counties. Its online campus offers 15 pre-professional associate tracks in a wide range of Business concentrations (Accounting, Management, Informatics, HR, etc.), IT concentrations (Computer Programming, Electronic Commerce, Network Administration), Dental Assisting, Medical Assistant, and Medical Laboratory Tec. All course work is designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate working professionals and adult learners. Additional resources include library services, enrollment assistance, distance learning tutorials, and Blackbo
13. West Kentucky Community and Technical College
Online Programs: 11
West Kentucky Community and Technical College, established in 2003, has a total enrollment of approximately 8,600, 60% of which are part-time; 4,500 are enrolled in online courses, which are offered in several Business concentrations (Accounting, Human Resource Management, Business Administration, Office Systems, and Management), Computer & Information Technologies, Logistics & Operations Management, Marine Technology, Criminal Justice, and more. (There are 11 total available online.) With a student-to-faculty ratio of 20:1, WKCTC focuses on an engaged, intimate educational experience. All course work is designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate working professionals and adult learners, and students have access to tech support, library services, distance learning tutorials, Blackboard, and more.
14. Campbellsville University
Online Programs: 9
Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University has a total enrollment of 3,200, with 2,700 undergraduates. Among the top ranked programs in the region, Campbellsville has also received recognition for value and up-and-coming colleges. Its online school offers 4 associates – Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Christian Ministries, and General Studies – and 5 bachelors in Business Administration, Criminal Justice, an Rn to Bsn, and more. The university’s 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports a vibrant, tight-knit learning community, and 60% of classes have fewer than 20 students. Through the Moodle learning platform, students collaborate through group discussion threads, live chat rooms, and video-confereding. Campbellsville also offers excellent financial aid opportunities: 89% of full-time undergraduates receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 76%. Additional resources include career services, tech support, and administrative services.
15. Somerset Community College
Online Programs: 10
Somerset Community College, established in 2002, serves several counties, including Casey, Clay, Clinton, Laurel, McCreary, Pulaski, Russell, Wayne, and Whitley. Somerset also offers 11 online associate tracks, all of which are Business concentrations: Accounting, Hospitality Management, Office Systems, Real Estate, Telecommunication Systems Management, Turf Grass/Landscaping Management, Finance, and Informatics, among others. With a total enrollment of 6,410, the school’s 24:1 student-to-faculty ratio creates a collaborative, peer-to-peer learning environment. All course work is designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate working professionals and adult learners. (Over half of Somerset’s students are part-time.) Additional resources include tech support, a transfer center, admissions assistance, and more.
Monitoring the accreditation of a university you are interested in attending is incredibly important. Accreditation ensures your credits can transfer that you can receive Federal financial aid, and most importantly that certain standards of educational quality are during your schooling. The highest accreditation standard for most programs in the United States is provided by regional accreditation agencies. The regional accrediting agency for Kentucky is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, as well as schools for US students in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America
Making sure that a University you’re hoping to attend is regionally accredited — or accredited by a real and respected accrediting agency — is one of the most important choices you can make in ensuring the quality of your education.
Three Steps for Securing Financial Aid
- Submit your FAFSA.
- Check to see if additional forms are needed at your university of choice.
- Search and apply for private scholarships.
Through the previous three steps most students find themselves offered some sort of federal grant, work study, private grant, scholarship, or stipend.
Great Kentucky Higher Education Resources
- Kentucky Department of Education The KDE offers a range of resources, including college and career advising, reports, and general information.
- Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education The KCPE coordinates change and improvement in Kentucky's postsecondary education system. Visit for new research, planning, and other resources.
- KnowHow2GOKy KnowHow2GOKy helps students of all ages and backgrounds prepare for college, with important information on education requirements, career tracks, and more.
- Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority The KHEAA provides information for students, families, veterans, and adult learners, including FAQs, a financial planning calculator, and advice about college selection.
- Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation The KHESLC is an independent municipal corporation expanding education in the state through financial aid opportunities.
- College Goal Kentucky College Goal Kentucky is a statewide resource helping to connect financial aid professionals and advisors with students and families.
- Central Kentucky Community Foundation The Central Kentucky Community Foundation has awarded over $1 million in scholarships, serving the Lincoln Trail Region.
- The Community Foundation of South Central Kentucky Residents visit for information on funds, grants, scholarships, and applications.
- Blue Grass Community Foundation The BGCF provides grant opportunities to students in Central and Eastern Kentucky.
- Community Foundation of West Kentucky The CFWK, with more than 225 funds available, provides $1.5 in grants each year.
- Community Foundation of Northern Kentucky The CFNK helps support education efforts in the region, in addition to health and social missions.
- Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky The Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky's site include FAQs and information on grant opportunities. Generally serving Clinton, Jackson, Perry, and and Leslie counties.
- Shelby County Community Foundation The Shelby County Community Foundation, formed in 1995, includes grant opportunities and more.
- Community Foundation of Henderson The Community Foundation of Henderson offers grants and scholarships, with 130+ charitable funds.
- Tri-State Foundation Serving Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, the Tri-State Foundation offers a range of scholarship funds for students in need of financial aid.
- Tri-State Foundation Serving Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, the Tri-State Foundation offers a range of scholarship funds for students in need of financial aid.
- Kentucky Adult Education KYAE offers a variety of resources of adult learners in the state to gain the skills required to transition to postsecondary education, function productively in the workforce, and support their families.
- Kentucky Community and Technical College System The Kentucky Community and Technical College System site includes information on all 16 two-year public colleges in the state.