Kentucky, officially recognized as the Commonwealth of Kentucky, maintains a rich tradition in the area of higher education. The state’s postsecondary educational opportunities range from distinguished public and private universities to community and technical colleges, all committed to meeting the needs of a diverse student population. As an example of accessible education, students can choose from on-campus, hybrid or fully online courses and professional development programs, as well as short courses offered as mini-modules. Public universities also feature online master’s degrees in subjects such as sport management and literacy education.
As the state’s occupational education leader, the Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS) governs 16 colleges dedicated to providing 700 certificate programs and two-year associate degrees to more than 92,000 adult learners. Upon successful completion of an associate degree program, students can take advantage of the system’s baccalaureate transfer program and enroll in the state’s four-year institutions of higher learning.
The KCTCS offers nontraditional credit options for those adults with military service experience, as well as dual credit for high school students who are simultaneously enrolled in a system community college. Credit can also be earned through a work-based learning experience or a service learning program whereby the student earns academic credit while engaged in a community service activity.
|School||Number of Students|
|Jefferson Community & Technical College||13,503|
|Bluegrass Community & Technical College||12,367|
|Somerset Community College||7,537|
|West Kentucky Community & Technical College||7,202|
|Elizabethtown Community & Technical College||6,950|
The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education oversees a two-tiered system for its eight public universities that serve 102,731 students. The first tier comprises the state’s two top research institutions, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, both known for their medical curricula and selective admission process.
The second tier features regional universities, some of which offer curriculum-specific programs such as Eastern Kentucky University’s Forestry program or Cave Management at Western Kentucky University (WKU), which also boasts a nationally ranked School of Journalism & Broadcasting. The Department of Earth and Space Science at Morehead State University gives students the opportunity to work with NASA as well as other aerospace agencies. Institutions within the second tier also provide program offerings similar to those of other state system postsecondary institutions.
The state’s university system features more than 1,000 bachelor undergraduate and certificate programs in such fields as agriculture, business, education, finance, management, marketing, nursing and technology, with studies designed to meet the evolving needs of today’s business climate. Here is an overview of the largest campuses in the system.
|School||Number of Students|
|University of Kentucky||21,495|
|Western Kentucky University||16,500|
|University of Louisville||16,151|
|Eastern Kentucky University||13,851|
|Northern Kentucky University||13,116|
According to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s website, there are 32 licensed, nonprofit, independent or private institutions within the state, and 28 percent of the undergraduate student population attends a private, nonprofit college. Private, nonprofit institutions in the state are overseen by their individual governing boards, as well as the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, aiming to empower students with a commitment to social responsibility and diversity.
While many of the postsecondary educational institutions in Kentucky offer majors in business, liberal arts, medicine, science and technology, many feature programs in theological studies for students preparing for a career in the ministry. Among the private schools, Transylvania University — a liberal arts postsecondary educational institution located in Lexington — has the distinction of being the 16th oldest college in the United States.
Kentucky students can discover an abundant selection of distance learning options, at public colleges or private schools, whether nonprofit or for-profit. The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s Kentucky Virtual Campus (KYVC) program gives students access to online courses and professional development programs at any of the state’s 16 community and technical colleges and 8 state universities. Kentucky’s public university system also offers 40 fully online bachelor’s degree programs in such disciplines as business, communication, history, justice administration and nursing.
Based on data gathered from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s website, over 101,000 students were enrolled in distance learning programs during the 2010-2011 academic year, representing 35.2 percent of all postsecondary students. There are approximately 47 out-of-state postsecondary institutions licensed to operate in Kentucky, offering the nontraditional student fully online academic programs.
At the community and technical college level, the KCTCS oversees all online courses that are managed through the KYVC. Students have the opportunity to choose from two options for their mode of study, enrolling in Learn By Term or Learn On Demand programs of study available through the various KCTCS colleges.
The Learn By Term option operates on full semesters similar to the traditional college method, with two different approaches to earning a diploma, certificate or associate degree: a hybrid program where students can enroll in some online courses, or a fully online degree. Diploma programs include Desktop Publishing Specialist, Financial Assistant, Medical Records Assistant, Office Assistant and Small Business Management. The system also offers certificate programs in such areas as Accounting, Drafter Assistant, Computer Information Technologies, Medical Coding and Paralegal Technology. Choices for an associate degree include Business Administration with tracks such as Accounting, Finance and Management. Other fully online associate degree programs span Criminal Justice, Energy Management, and Information Management and Design.
The Learn On Demand program provides the option to complete the course of study online during either full semesters or modules that run 3-5 weeks in length. These “bite-size” modular classes are based on specific areas of study typically offered during a full semester, leading to the completion of either an associate degree or certificate program. Associate degrees within the “Learn On Demand” program include Arts, Business Administration, Nursing and Science, and there is also a Nurse Aide certificate.
Within the KYVC system, several four-year, public schools offer online associate degree and certificate programs such as Sullivan University’s associate degrees in Business Management, Marketing and Sales as well as a certificate in Medical Coding. WKU features two-year degree programs in Applied Science in Paramedicine, Interdisciplinary Studies and Office Management. NKU offers certificate programs in Business Informatics and Cybersecurity.
Many of the state’s four-year postsecondary universities feature fully online baccalaureate programs such as Communication and Justice Administration at UL, Family and Consumer Sciences and Organizational Leadership at WKU, and RN-to-BSN studies as well as Technical Management at Morehouse State University.
According to the Kentucky Economic Development Guide and BusinessClimate’s website, the state features a strong commercial environment for a variety of industries including auto manufacturing, aerospace and aviation, biotechnology and life sciences, food and beverage, manufacturing, and transportation and logistics. Some of the largest employers in the state include Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Fort Campbell, Ford Motor Company and Strategic Communications.
Prominent Fortune 500 corporations such as Ashland, General Cable, Humana, Kindred Health, Omnicare and Yum Brands call Kentucky home. Based on the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s website, the state ranked fourth in the country for industry creation and expansion in 2013.
University of KentuckyLexington, Kentucky
Western Kentucky UniversityBowling Green, Kentucky
University of LouisvilleLouisville, Kentucky
Jefferson Community and Technical CollegeLouisville, Kentucky
Bowling Green Technical CollegeBowling Green, Kentucky
Bluegrass Community and Technical CollegeLexington, Kentucky
Eastern Kentucky UniversityRichmond, Kentucky
Northern Kentucky UniversityHighland Heights, Kentucky
Somerset Community CollegeSomerset, Kentucky
Morehead State UniversityMorehead, Kentucky