South Dakota’s postsecondary schools have made considerable strides in terms of distance education. The state’s largest schools, South Dakota State and the University of South Dakota, offer multiple degrees entirely online, and several other colleges throughout the state offer their own extensive online options. In addition, South Dakota is part of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which affords online students an opportunity to access non-resident tuition breaks and a simplified transfer process ― something we explore in greater detail below.
But before we dive into the best online colleges in South Dakota, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in South Dakota today.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in South Dakota
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that South Dakota had 25 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 12 public schools, 8 nonprofits and 5 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 4,313 at public schools, 1,055 at private nonprofits and 273 at private for-profits.
- 12 public
- 8 non-profit
- 5 for-profit
Tuition-wise, the College Board found that, in the ’15-’16 school year, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public schools was $8,050, while the out-of-state average was $10,510, the lowest average amongst states.
As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that South Dakota awarded $200,000 in need-based grants and $4.5 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 2.3% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education. Over the same period, South Dakota was responsible for $565,000 in loan assumption/forgiveness efforts. South Dakota’s state and local government spending per student increased by 1.2% from 2011-2012; during that same period, grants per in-state undergraduate student increased a respectable 18.6%.
The State of Online Higher Education in South Dakota
The NCES estimates that at least 20.9% of students enrolled in South Dakota’s Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 79.3% were reported to be undergraduates and 71.6% were found to be living in South Dakota.
The South Dakota Board of Regents’ Distance Education Dashboard gives students and administrators an interactive glimpse into the enrollment numbers behind South Dakota’s distance initiatives. All told, the state had 14,050 students participating in 24,000 distance course in 2015, which translates to over 67,000 credit hours earned remotely, an increase of nearly 68% over the last five years.
The state’s premier collection of online colleges in SD offering distance programs is the Electronic University Consortium (EUC) of South Dakota. The network is made up of six schools, including major institutions like the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University. The EUC serves as a directory of dozens of programs and courses available across the six schools and prides itself on serving students in the name of “ultimate convenience.” This means, regardless of which of the six institutions students are enrolled in, they will have the option to pursue a number of distance courses they would otherwise never be able to pursue. Many of these courses are offered at reduced rates, especially for in-state students.
South Dakota is also part of the SARA regional education compact known as the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). The WICHE Internet Course Exchange (ICE) offers opportunities for state residents, through their local college or university, to access high quality distance programs offered at out-of-state WICHE institutions, often at greatly reduced rates.
Best Online Colleges in South Dakota
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in South Dakota. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in SD, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in South Dakota or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||South Dakota State University||Brookings||$$$$$||Administration Lane|
Brookings, SD 57007-1898
Offering several undergraduate program options, students at South Dakota State University can earn bachelor's degrees in subjects like early childhood education, geography, nursing, and general studies, with minors available in criminal justice, history, and sociology. Online learners are taught by the same faculty as on-campus students, using the Desire2Learn online learning portal. Degree completion time and credit requirements vary based on the program students choose. Classes are offered on the school's traditional academic calendar.
In addition to undergraduate degree programs, SDSU offers certification and master’s degree programs. SDSU is part of the Great Plains IDEA consortium for agriculture distance learning and includes the Military Academic Advancement Program.
|2||Northern State University||Aberdeen||$$$$$||1200 S Jay St|
Aberdeen, SD 57401-7198
Although primarily founded as an educational institution for teachers and industrial programs, Northern State University is one of several online schools in South Dakota that offers online undergraduate degree programs, non-degree courses, and graduate programs. In total, the school offers four master's degrees, eight bachelor's degrees, and two associate degrees. Available BA or BS degree programs include business, accounting, banking, and management. Graduate programs include banking, teaching and learning, music education, and leadership and administration.
Classes are taught online through Blackboard, and students have access to faculty via phone, laptops, and tablets. Online students can attend an on-campus orientation when enrolling, and collaborate with their peers online. Online students receive access to the same campus services as on-campus students, including advising, counseling, tutoring, the writing center, and veteran services. NSU also features a number of online programs for in-state high school students, including the “rising scholars” program and a dual-degree option. Online students are eligible for financial aid.
|3||Dakota State University||Madison||$$$$$||820 N Washington Ave|
Madison, SD 57042-1799
Located in Madison, the school offers the same courses on-campus that it teaches online with the same faculty during the same term, allowing professors and instructors to facilitate simultaneous collaboration between distance learners and on-campus students. Students receive the same instruction, course pacing, and peer interaction through online learning at DSU as they would in-person. DSU offers a number of online degree programs, including computer science, accountings, marketing, and health information technology.
One of the online schools in South Dakota with online offerings available to students nationwide, DSU uses the Desire2Learn course management system and provides in-person class options and at its Sioux Falls satellite campus. High school students can learn online at DSU through the college’s dual credit program.
|4||Presentation College||Aberdeen||$$$$$||1500 N Main|
Aberdeen, SD 57401-1280
Headquartered in the college town of Aberdeen, Presentation College is a small, private Catholic college with classes taught at other campuses in South Dakota and Minnesota as well as online. Unique among online colleges in South Dakota for its intimate size and religious affiliation, students can enroll at Presentation online and complete coursework to aid them in a career in the medical field. Presentation offers a number of online degree programs in specialties like surgical technology, radiology, medical coding, medical office administration and nursing.
Presentation's online curriculum mirrors its on-campus offerings, and the school’s aim is to educate the whole person with courses taught from a Catholic perspective. Although only recently offering online education, Presentation’s nursing school has been well-known in the area and accredited since the 1960s.
|5||University of South Dakota||Vermillion||$$$$$||414 E Clark St|
Vermillion, SD 57069-2390
University of South Dakota is the flagship institution of higher learning in the Mount Rushmore State. The public university was founded in the 1862 by the Dakota Territory, which was 27 years before South Dakota was established as a state. In the more than 150 years since its establishment, USD has grown in size and substance and now ranks among the best online schools in South Dakota.
USD offers more than 40 online undergraduate and graduate degree programs in areas including business, health science, social science, and education. The career-focused curriculum is taught by the same faculty that teaches on-campus. USD also provides off-campus sites for students desiring face-to-face education or services but that aren’t near the school's main campus.
USD online programs are designed to be affordable and flexible, with tuition priced at $271.35 per credit hour for associate degrees, $335 a credit hour for undergraduate students and $444.25 per credit hour for graduate student. Discounts are available for veterans, military members, remedial students, and state employees, and financial aid is also available for online students. Tuition may also vary depending on technical courses taken and certification programs.
|6||Black Hills State University||Spearfish||$$$$$||1200 University St|
Spearfish, SD 57799-9500
South Dakota’s rolling, rocky black hills are best known as home to Mount Rushmore, but one of the best online colleges in South Dakota is also located in the small mountain range: Black Hills State University in Spearfish is the third largest university in the state. Despite its western location, students statewide can earn a bachelor's or master's degree regardless of the state they reside in.
BHSU has hybrid and online programs for busy students who want a flexible learning schedule. The school also offers certificate, minor and master’s programs. Residents can earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration or general studies through the online portal Desire2Learn. Master's degree programs include a BS in strategic leadership, curriculum and instruction, secondary education, and sustainability.
Students have access to the same support and services as on-campus students, including live chat with faculty via Elluminate and the school library.
|7||University of Sioux Falls||Sioux Falls||$$$$$||1101 W 22nd St|
Sioux Falls, SD 57105-1699
The University of Sioux Falls is a private, Baptist-affiliated, liberal arts university and is one of the best online schools in South Dakota. USF offers online degree programs, including bachelor's and master's programs and professional certification programs. Bachelor's degree programs include accounting, business, healthcare administration, and nursing. Master's degrees offered include an MBA with available concentrations in management and healthcare, an M.Ed. with concentrations in administration, technology, and technology and customized learning.
USF specializes in professional development courses for working professionals. USF features a flexible schedule allowing students with families, full-time careers, and other time commitments to learn at their own pace. Courses can be completed at an accelerated rate of five weeks or over 12 week periods.
|8||Dakota Wesleyan University||Mitchell||$$$$$||1200 W University Ave|
Mitchell, SD 57301-4398
Founded in the late 1800s, Dakota Wesleyan University has emerged as one of the top online colleges in South Dakota. The small, private, Methodist university has existed longer than the state of South Dakota, and maintained its commitment to education. Although typically only having fewer than 1,000 students at its Mitchell campus, DWU has expanded with online program offerings. The 100 percent online courses at DWU include bachelor's programs with 8-week classes that can be completed in 24 months. Bachelor's programs include healthcare, transportation and business. Graduate degree programs include an MBA or M.Ed. DWU online students can transfer up to 63 credits into a program.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in South Dakota
Below you’ll find the top online colleges in South Dakota, ranked according to their tuition rate.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Dakota State University||Madison||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Northern State University||Aberdeen||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Black Hills State University||Spearfish||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||South Dakota State University||Brookings||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||University of South Dakota||Vermillion||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||Dakota Wesleyan University||Mitchell||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||University of Sioux Falls||Sioux Falls||School profile||$$$$$|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in South Dakota
The BUZZ Bonus scholarship is available to freshmen entering Black Hills State University. To be eligible, students must have an ACT score of 21 or higher, and rank within the top 33% of their graduating high school class. The maximum award amount is $1,000 per year for 4 years.
Open to freshmen entering Northern State University with a GPA of 3.0+. To be eligible, students must be high school seniors graduating from a South Dakota high school. Application materials include high school transcript, autobiography, three letters of recommendation, and a demonstration of financial need via the FAFSA. Award is $1,500.
Northern Wolf PACT Scholarship
The WolfPACT scholarship program is available to freshmen entering Northern State University. The award amounts vary based on academic performance. Students with an ACT score of 30 or higher qualify for the maximum award of $12,000.
Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship
The Phi Theta Kappa scholarship is open to transfer students entering the University of Sioux Falls. Applicants must have earned their associates degree; belong to the Phi Theta Kappa honor society; and be entering the university as juniors or seniors. The award is $3,000.
The Presidential Scholarship is open to students entering Augustana College. The recipients are selected based on academic performance. A GPA of 3.5+ and an ACT score of 27+ are required. The maximum award is $16,500 per year; the award may be renewed annually.
Presidential Scholarship from Dakota Wesleyan University
Dakota Wesleyan University offers the Presidential Scholarship to incoming freshmen with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and ACT score of 21 (SAT 980). Freshmen are automatically considered for this scholarship when accepted to the university. Selection is competitive. The maximum award is $13,000 per year for 4 years.
This competitive scholarship is available to incoming freshmen at Dakota Wesleyan University. Recipients are chosen on the basis of strong academics and demonstrated talent for leadership and service. Applicants must have a minimum 3.5 GPA and 24 ACT (or 1090 SAT). A leadership resume and a personal interview is required.
Transfer Academic Scholarship
Several Transfer Academic Scholarships are available to incoming students at the University of Sioux Falls. Applicants must have 12 transferable credits or more. The Level 1 scholarship totals $40,000, and is open to students with a GPA of 3.5+. The Level 2 scholarship totals $32,000, and is open to students with a GPA of 3.0 to 3.4.
Dakota Wesleyan University provides this scholarship to incoming freshmen with a minimum GPA of 3.5 and ACT score of 24 (SAT 1090). Freshmen are automatically considered for this scholarship when accepted to the university. Selection is competitive. The maximum award is $13,750 per year for 4 years.
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