Given the state’s large area and small population, students in South Dakota may find distance-learning programs to be a practical alternative to packing up and moving to a far-off college town. The number of degree programs and courses available online from South Dakota postsecondary schools is growing, with seven 4-year public colleges and universities in the state currently offering distance learning options. The largest among them is South Dakota State University in Brookings, which offers a variety of associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees online, as well as minors and certificate programs.
Among the six private, not-for-profit online colleges in the state are Augustana College in Sioux Falls, the University of Sioux Falls and Mount Marty College in Yankton. In addition, there are four 2-year public technical institutes and one private 2-year community college in South Dakota with online coursework offerings.
An excellent way to get a better understanding of what a state has to offer in the way of postsecondary education is to take a look at the colleges and universities located in its cities. With approximately 165,000 residents, the largest city in South Dakota is Sioux Falls. The next two sections highlight the current higher education environment in the Sioux Falls area.
The local public school system and college landscape in Sioux Falls is heavily supported by the community, and local businesses regularly form partnerships with schools in both the public and private sectors. Sioux Falls is recognized for its outstanding healthcare facilities, and it is within a day’s drive from most Midwest cities. The beautiful climate and true four seasons make it a great place to live and go to school.
The largest city in South Dakota, Sioux Falls is home to 11 public colleges and universities. Six South Dakota universities comprise the South Dakota Public Universities and Research Center (or University Center, for short), a partnership that gives students access to a wide variety of programs from Black Hills State University, Dakota State University, Northern State University, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota, all in Sioux Falls. The goal of the partnership is to provide area residents access to quality public education, “with a special focus on providing opportunities for non-traditional and adult learners.” UC also works with area businesses to help meet workforce needs. Students can study business, technology, social sciences, communication and health sciences from universities that are consistently ranked among the best in the region by U.S. News & World Report. Killian Community College offers affordable associate degrees and certificate programs for careers that include early childhood education, business management, medical administrative services and healthcare coding.
At University Center, both resident and non-resident students pay the same rate, making distance education affordable even for those living elsewhere. The six-university partnership offers correspondence (mail-delivered) courses, online classes and hybrid programs. Each university hosts its own distance education office to provide custom support to each student.
At the University of Sioux Falls, a Christian liberal arts college, distance learners can take advantage of online professional development courses to fulfill continuing education requirements. All courses are interactive and taught by expert instructors.
The costs associated with a college education are substantial, whether attending school in South Dakota or any other state, and students need to be fully aware of all of the expenses they are bound to encounter. First among these expenses is tuition. The range in tuition costs is wide and depends primarily on the type and location of the school in question. Generally speaking, tuition costs for South Dakota colleges are among the most affordable in the United States. Recent statistics rank South Dakota 11th in the nation in terms of average tuition rates, with average resident tuition costs at $8,723 per student annually in 2012.
Separate from tuition and fees are a variety of expenses that commonly fall under the heading of room and board. Living expenses in South Dakota are low compared to the nation as a whole, at 6–10 percent below the national average, depending on the location. The following chart provides cost of living (COL) statistics for Sioux Falls, one of the state’s most notable towns (compared to the national average of 100).
|Urban Area||Composite Index||Housing||Groceries||Utilities||Transportation||Health Care||Misc.|
Return on investment (ROI) analyses factor in the career and salary potential of a college’s graduates. Specifically, many take the cost of attending a college for four years, subtracted from the average lifetime earnings of that school’s graduates. This post-diploma metrics helps students gauge the value of a degree from that institution. In South Dakota, the following colleges came out on top for ROI in 2013:
Full and proper institutional accreditation should be a basic requirement for a student choosing a college or university degree program. In addition, receipt of federal financial aid for students depends on a school’s accreditation status by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. The primary regional accrediting agency for colleges and universities in South Dakota is the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Schools in South Dakota typically have multiple accreditations. In addition to regional accreditation for an entire institution, specific programs, colleges, or departments tend to hold specialized or programmatic accreditation. Programs at the University of South Dakota, for example, have been accredited by various agencies, such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
South Dakota, with its wide open spaces and sparse population, is the ideal place for individuals seeking an online college education. Access to quality college degree programs, regardless of geographic location, has provided many South Dakotans with educational opportunities they could only dream of in the past. That is why colleges and universities in the state, both public and private, have begun offering distance-learning alternatives to their already well-established curricula. Like elsewhere, only a few South Dakota colleges deliver online programs whose exceptional quality lifts them above their peers. Check the list below to learn which schools are recognized as the Best Online Colleges in South Dakota for 2015-2016.
|RANK||COLLEGE||Score||Student-Teacher Ratio||Financial Aid||Cost||MORE INFO|
|1||South Dakota State University||99.03||17:1||92%|
The online school at South Dakota State University is quite extensive, with classes offered in a variety of different fields. You can obtain an associate, bachelor's or master's degree through SDSU, so the school is a wise choice for students looking for one of the bigger online colleges in South Dakota.
|2||Northern State University||97.71||19:1||97%|
With master's, bachelor's and associate degrees available online, Northern State University is great for students looking at online colleges in South Dakota. Degrees can be earned in anything from teaching to marketing and even gerontology, and NSU features the biggest guaranteed four-year scholarship in the Midwest.
|3||Black Hills State University||95.85||20:1||92%|
Black Hills State University offers quite a few distance learning programs that are mostly focused on teaching and education. The school even offers unique accelerated programs for students to get out of school and into their careers faster. Out of all the online colleges in South Dakota, Black Hills should definitely be a consideration for future educators.
|4||University of South Dakota||89.04||17:1||93%|
Since the University of South Dakota is one of the biggest online colleges in South Dakota, it comes as no surprise that their list of available online programs is quite large. Every degree is accredited, and while some programs require you to spend time on campus, others can be completed fully at home.
|5||Dakota Wesleyan University||88.85||11:1||100%|
Dakota Wesleyan University only offers two online degree programs, but what they lack in quantity, they make up for in quality. Both their MBA and RN degrees are accredited and excellent at putting students on the right path toward a successful career in the business or medical world. DWU is worth a look when researching online colleges in South Dakota.
Presentation College is high on the list for online colleges in South Dakota when it comes to medical degrees. Nursing, medical coding and radiology are just a few of the medical degrees that can be obtained online from this awesome Catholic school, so it is definitely worth looking into.
The first step for a student looking to enroll in an online college is to determine their specific need-set, and find a school that best matches it. Students should consider such factors as ultimate career goal and the level of degree required to achieve that goal, program costs in time and money, impact on family and lifestyle, program graduate employment rates and many others. The search tool below is designed to allow users to easily filter out those programs that don’t fit their academic needs to find the ones that do.
How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?
Dakota Wesleyan University has always been a place of community; now DWU offers the adult learner a unique opportunity to become part of the DWU community in a digital format.
The DWU digital campus is a place where the adult student will learn with their peers juggling career, family and personal commitments while remaining dedicated to the challenge of earning a degree. The programs’ asynchronous manner allows students to participate in class discussions, submit coursework and communicate with faculty and classmates anytime during the day or night. More than just a place to go to class online, the digital campus serves as a community in which to develop relationships with peers and faculty members both in and outside of the class environment.
Our distinct tradition of delivering personalized education grounded in our values of learning, leadership, faith and service are present in these online programs. Our commitment to engaging discussions of ethics, values and compassion will remain at the forefront of our online degree programs.
What makes your online programs so valuable to students?
In addition to the focus on community, the M.B.A. and the Bachelor of Science in nursing are highly practical programs.
For those who have already earned a baccalaureate degree, DWU’s Master of Business Administration program is open to all academic disciplines and professional backgrounds creating a learning experience rich in diversity and perspective. The entrepreneurial and strategic leadership focus of this program is enhanced by a values-driven emphasis that is informed by an active and applied Christian worldview. The DWU M.B.A. is designed for those in small to medium-sized businesses. The program is appropriate for working adults and those who wish to be full-time students.
For registered nurses aspiring to continue their education with an RN-B.S. nursing degree, students will have the opportunity to earn credit for their professional RN experience and complete this degree in as few as 12 months. This degree builds upon previous knowledge and provides the opportunity for students to develop abilities and skills related to the roles of a bachelor's-prepared nurse.
The RN-B.S nursing program includes core nursing courses which focus on enhancing skills in leadership and management; decision making and problem solving; nursing research and evidence-based practice; health promotion; health assessment; service to community; in-depth study of pharmacology; and care of families, populations and communities.
Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?
In the next five years Dakota Wesleyan University will continue to provide programs for adult learners and that diminish the distance between learning and application. DWU plans to add at least one undergraduate program and one graduate level program while also adding personnel in teaching, technology and student support. DWU looks forward to connecting with more alumni who wish to advance their education while developing new partnerships with organizations and professionals. We believe our online programs play a pivotal role in the contributions DWU will offer to South Dakota and our region.
Beyond five years DWU will closely monitor emerging technology’s impact on higher education and adjust accordingly. We will take advantage of new opportunities to share our commitment to student-centered education and our values of learning, leadership, faith and service.
There is a lot for the novice student to do to become accustomed to the online education process, such as understanding the ins and outs of their school’s learning management system, how to access lectures and course materials, and how to interact with instructors and other students. Fortunately, there are plenty of other resources available on the internet that students in South Dakota can access to help support their academic endeavors. These include databases, tutorials, financial and time management tools, science and math calculators, graphics design sites and job search engines. Below is a small sample of the types of online resources available online to South Dakota students.