Although fairly large in area, South Dakota is among the nation's smallest states in terms of population. The state had 31 accredited post-secondary institutions operating in 2013. That number includes public and private colleges and universities, as well as career and vocational training schools. Approximately 75,000 undergraduate and graduate students were enrolled in certificate and degree programs in South Dakota that year, placing the state at 42nd in total number of post-secondary schools and 44th in total number of students when compared to the nation as a whole. The list below provides a glimpse of the education options available to South Dakota residents:
|College Type||Number in South Dakota|
|Private not-for-profit (religious affiliation)||8|
|Private not-for-profit (no religious affiliation)||3|
Top Cities in South Dakota for Postsecondary Education
South Dakota's colleges and universities are chiefly located in and around its most populous towns. The following lists provide a breakdown of the most active college communities in the state:
Most Popular South Dakota College Cities by Student Totals
- Brookings (13,000)
- Sioux Falls (10,100)
- Vermillion (9,600)
- Rapid City (7,600)
- Spearfish (5,300)
South Dakota Cities with the Most College Campuses
- Sioux Falls (11)
- Rapid City (5)
- Aberdeen (2)
- Mitchell (2)
- Yankton (2)
South Dakota Online College Programs
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 distant college town. The number of degree programs and courses available online from South Dakota postsecondary schools is growing, with nine four-year colleges and universities in the state offering distance learning options. South Dakota State University, for example, offers a number of associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees online, as well as minors and certificate programs. Online students can pursue a degree in fields such as general studies (A.A. or B.S.), nursing (RN to B.S.), or Educational Administration (M.Ed.), to name a few.
College Costs: Tuition and Living Expenses
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:
- South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
- South Dakota State University
- University of Sioux Falls
- University of South Dakota
- Dakota State University
Merit-Based and Need-Based Scholarships
Student financial aid is a must for most individuals seeking a college education. Financial aid comes from a number of sources, primarily in the form of loans, grants and scholarships. Student loans and grants are most often obtained through either federal or state government programs. In 2012, 62 percent of South Dakota undergraduates received federal funding, placing the state in the bottom 20 percent.
Scholarships offer students an additional means for funding their college educations. Merit-based and need-based scholarship programs are available on the local, state and national levels, and through public and private associations and organizations. Scholarships for South Dakota students are offered by sponsors such as the following:
- 3M and the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium
- American Indian Science and Engineering Society
- American Society of Civil Engineers
- Casey's General Stores, Inc. (Future Farmers of America)
- Dakota Corps
- Foundation of the Better Business Bureau
- Horatio Alger Association
- Korean American Scholarship Foundation - Midwestern Regional Chapter
- Medical Group Management Association - Midwest Section
- MetLife Foundation (Future Farmers of America)
- Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation
- South Dakota Board of Regents
- South Dakota Retailers Association
- Vincent L. Hawkinson Foundation
Accreditation for South Dakota Colleges and Universities
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 may have the third fewest students in online programs, but those who do take advantage of the state's distance learning options enjoy some of the most affordable programs in the country. But affordability isn't everything. Read our interview with Dakota Wesleyan University about what sets them apart.
Dakota Wesleyan University
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.
Ranking: Most Affordable Online Colleges in South Dakota
Any prospective student who is interested in online distance learning should consider an online college in South Dakota. These fully online programs are available through accredited four-year institutions in South Dakota. Numerous online schools in South Dakota grant degrees and certifications that are identical to those granted on campus. Not only are the degrees equivalent, but the faculty, admissions, and tuition costs are comparable as well. South Dakota online colleges are abundant, so to ease the search we’ve cataloged all of the best programs and listed them in one place. Discover all of the possibilities provided by online programs in South Dakota!Click here to see our methodology.