South Dakota is home to a number of major landmarks – from Mount Rushmore to Crazy Horse, the Black Hills to the Badlands – but it’s a destination for scholars, too.
The state has a number of top-notch colleges and universities, with robust online degree programs and affordable tuition rates.
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These and other factors make South Dakota an excellent place to pursue higher education.
Overview of Higher Education in South Dakota
There are 22 degree-granting institutions in South Dakota, according to a 2018-2019 report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Of those, 12 are public schools, 7 are non-profit private schools and 3 are for-profit private schools.
The NCES reports that in-state tuition at one of South Dakota’s 4–year public institutions is $8,772, well below the national average. Out-of-state students will pay around $12,465 – the lowest of any U.S. state, and less than half of the national average! – making the state an extremely affordable place to pursue higher education.
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Students who choose a degree field that is not available at a South Dakota institution should first consider other western states. Thanks to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), they can enroll in degree programs at any of the 16 participating states and territories for no more than 150% of the in-state tuition rate.
About Online Colleges in South Dakota
A 2018 report by the NCES found that 23% of undergraduate students in South Dakota were enrolled in a fully online degree program, and another 18.5% were participating in a hybrid program, attending some classes online and some on campus.
Those numbers continue to rise as universities focus on growing their course offerings at accredited online colleges. According to the South Dakota Board of Regents, the number of distance education courses offered in the state rose 93.9% from 2019 to 2020! Altogether, there were over 60,000 enrollments in distance-based courses in Fall 2020, generating almost 160,000 credit hours.
One of the state’s top online programs can be found at South Dakota State University (SDSU). SDSU offers online Associate Degrees in Agricultural Science, Construction, Data Science, Sociology and General Studies; Bachelor’s Degrees in 10 subjects, including Early Education, Geography, and Nursing; and more than a dozen graduate programs, from Agricultural Education to Public Health.
Students who wish to pursue an undergraduate or graduate certificate may also do so online. Students at University of South Dakota (USD) can choose from more than 50 online programs, including a Bachelor of Business Administration and a variety of graduate level programs.
The online programs provided through the state’s six public universities – including SDSU and USD – are connected through the Electronic University Consortium (EUC) of South Dakota. The EUC acts as a single point of contact for information about and access to these top distance learning programs. Overseen by the South Dakota Board of Regents, each online course must adhere to a strict Quality Assurance Rubric.
South Dakota’s private institutions also offer excellent distance education opportunities. Dakota Wesleyan University, Augustana University and University of Sioux Falls, for example, offer a variety of online courses and degree programs.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in South Dakota
In South Dakota, in order to receive federal, state and even some private financial assistance, you must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The FAFSA form is fairly straight-forward. You will need to answer specific questions about income, assets and other financial matters for yourself as well as your parents (unless you’re considered “independent”). They will use this information to determine how much and what type of aid you qualify for.
Be sure to complete the FAFSA as early as possible. It becomes available each year on October 1st, and many funds are distributed on a first come, first served basis. The ideal forms of aid are grants and scholarships, because they do not have to be paid back.
The state of South Dakota offers several grants and scholarships to residents, including:
- Need Based Grant Program – Based on FAFSA information
- Build Dakota Scholarships – Full-ride for students entering high-need workforce programs at South Dakota’s technical institutes; Must commit to living and working in the state for three years following graduation
- Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship—Must commit to work in a critical teaching need occupation in South Dakota for five years following graduation
- Dakota Corps Scholarship – Must commit to work in a critical need occupation (as specified) in South Dakota for as many years as you received the scholarship, plus one year
- South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship – Merit based aid; Up to $6500 over four years
- Jump Start Scholarship – For students who graduated from a public high school in three years or less
- Ardell Bjugstad Scholarship – For freshman Native American students pursuing Agribusiness, Agricultural Production, Agricultural Sciences, or a Natural Resources degree
- Annis Irene Fowler/Kaden Scholarship – For first-time freshmen at BHSU, DSU, NSU or USD who will major in Elementary Education
- Marlin R. Scarborough Memorial Scholarship – For juniors at state public universities
Follow the link for each program to find out which schools participate, what additional requirements exist, and how to apply.
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There are also private assistance programs that award students based on academic or athletic skill, financial need, field of study or even unusual hobbies or interests. Here are a few available to South Dakotans:
|Scholarship Name||Scholarship amount|
|Associated General Contractors of South Dakota Highway Heavy Utilities Chapter Scholarship||Multiple awards|
|Black Hills Home Builders Association (BHHBA) Scholarship||(Up t0 11) $500-1000|
|Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow Scholarship||(25) $1000|
|The South Dakota Solid Waste Management Association Scholarship||Varies year to year|
You can find more scholarship opportunities by using search sites like Fastweb.com, where you enter your basic information and the site matches you with aid programs for which you may be eligible.
Finally, don’t forget to check with the financial aid office at the school of your choice. They can tell you about any exclusive assistance programs they offer.
List of Online Colleges in South Dakota
|Online Colleges in South Dakota||Annual Tuition||Application Fee|
|Dakota State University||$8,927||$20|
|National American University||$13,989||$0|
|South Dakota State University||$8,172||$20|
|University of South Dakota||$8,457||$20|
South Dakota has more to offer than remarkable landmarks. With outstanding schools, an impressive list of online degree programs, some of the lowest tuition rates in the nation and exceptional financial aid opportunities, South Dakota is the perfect place to pursue your postsecondary education.