Online colleges in South Dakota have experienced a recent increase in enrollment, leading to a greater focus on distance education. This opens up opportunities for students around the country to earn a college degree on their own schedule from several schools in the state. Every state presents unique education offerings, including South Dakota, which boasts reasonable tuition prices and varied programs focused on the state’s key industries. Studying at one of the best online colleges in South Dakota can lead to a variety of interesting and fulfilling career paths.
Use this guide to explore the state of higher education and distance education in South Dakota. You can also learn about the state’s job market and research scholarships for students at colleges in South Dakota. If you want to learn more about South Dakota colleges online, use this list of the best online colleges in South Dakota to help you find the right school.
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
This reveals that South Dakota offers fewer colleges and boasts fewer students than the national average, and those students pay a bit less than average for in-state tuition. The financial aid breakdown implies that students attending these universities could mostly cover the cost of college themselves. The amount of non-need-based aid implies that students sought out additional funds to cover costs instead of saving money and putting off attendance.
The State of Online Higher Education in South Dakota
In 2015, 53,664 students took online college courses in South Dakota colleges or universities, with 21,088 of them taking at least one class online. Most of these students were undergraduates, with only 6,673 graduate students. All told, 39.3% of students in South Dakota took at least one class online. Just shy of 20% of all students took their classes exclusively online. Most of these students were undergraduates, but a higher percentage of graduate students were exclusively online: 32% for graduate students and only 18% for undergraduates. Of students taking their online college classes in South Dakota schools, 66% lived in state at the time.
From 2012-2015, South Dakota experienced a 5% growth in distance education. Four of the 10 universities with the state’s highest distance enrollments and five of the online colleges in South Dakota with the greatest growth in online enrollment hold membership in the Electronic University Consortium (EUC) of South Dakota. The South Dakota Board of Regents governs six universities, which are all represented by the EUC. The EUC helps expand online education and provide centralized information for students interested in distance education in the state. The online schools in South Dakota represented by the EUC help drive the state’s development. The group remains a helpful information source for prospective students.
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
When studying on campus, almost all universities charge nonresident students higher tuition rates. Many schools charge lower tuition for online classes, and students often see the same online rates applied no matter where they live. This varies by school, so it helps to understand how to reduce your tuition costs, even if you study online.
South Dakota remains part of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), which consists of 16 states and territories of the United States. WICHE maintains the Western Undergraduate Exchange program (WUE), which allows residents of those states and territories to attend schools throughout the region at reduced out-of-state tuition rates. Students attending one of the 160 included schools pay about 150% of in-state tuition. This may not sound like a substantial saving, but out-of-state tuition regularly costs 300% of in-state tuition. The average student using WUE saves about $9,000 a year. Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, the U.S. Pacific Territories and associated states, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming also exist as members of WICHE and the WUE program.
Best Online Colleges in South Dakota
how schools approach online education and then list their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in South Dakota, explore our state resources, such as 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
Founded in Brookings in 1881, SDState enrolls more than 12,600 students and serves as the state's largest university. The school offers more than a dozen online programs, including bachelor's degrees in early education, geography, interdisciplinary studies, medical laboratory science, nursing, psychology, and sociology. The university also provides online master's degrees in areas such as dietetics, educational administration, family and community services, mass communications, and public health.
On-campus SDState professors teach all distance courses, which means online learners complete the same rigorous coursework as on-campus students. Distance learners use the Desire2Learn platform to access lectures, materials, discussion boards, and assignments. The university's online programs emphasize interaction and include discussions and group projects.
SDState participates in the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance, which means nonresident, online students pay discounted tuition rates. This discount applies to all online undergraduate and graduate programs. Because of SDState's participation in the consortium, the university is among the most popular online colleges in South Dakota for out-of-state learners.
The university accepts undergraduate students on a rolling basis, while graduate applicants can apply for fall or spring admission. Undergraduate applicants must provide high school transcripts and ACT scores, along with any transcripts from previous postsecondary studies. Graduate applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and must submit undergraduate transcripts and GRE scores. The university is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
SDState offers more than 500 online courses to help current high school students earn college credit before graduating. This coursework can help students transition into higher education and may allow them to earn a bachelor's degree in fewer than four years.
|2||Northern State University||Aberdeen||$$$$$||1200 S Jay St|
Aberdeen, SD 57401-7198
Located in Aberdeen, NSU offers several online degrees to students throughout the United States. Available online options include an associate degree in criminal justice, bachelor's degrees in general studies, management, and international business, and master's degrees in banking and financial management and leadership and administration. The school also offers an online professional accountancy certificate.
The university hosts the Center for Statewide E-Learning, which delivers online courses to K-12 students throughout South Dakota. This program helps individuals from rural areas access rigorous classes, including many Advanced Placement courses not available in smaller schools or districts.
NSU's tuition rates are some of the most affordable among online colleges in South Dakota. Distance learners enjoy access to resources including academic advising, counseling, career services, financial aid help, technology services, tutoring, and a writing center. The university delivers online coursework through the Desire2Learn platform.
Undergraduate applicants need a minimum 18 composite ACT score or 950 SAT score, along with a minimum 2.6 high school GPA. High school transcripts must reflect four years of English, three years of advanced math, three years of lab science, three years of social science, and one year of fine arts coursework.
Prospective master's students must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA. Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation, and some programs require GRE scores and a personal statement.
A public institution founded in 1901, NSU enrolls more than 3,600 students and holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
|3||Dakota State University||Madison||$$$$$||820 N Washington Ave|
Madison, SD 57042-1799
Founded in 1881 and located in Madison, DSU enrolls more than 3,300 online and on-campus students. Distance learners can pursue six associate, 14 bachelor's, and nine graduate degrees completely online.
Distance learners benefit from student services including academic advising, counseling, tutoring, and financial aid assistance. Online learners can connect with peers through web conferencing; students can share files, video chat, and collaborate through interactive whiteboards. DSU students and alumni can access Handshake, an online platform that helps users find internship and career opportunities.
Applicants to online undergraduate programs must rank in the top 60% of their high school class, must possess a minimum 2.6 GPA, and must earn at least an 18 on the ACT or at least an 870 in math and critical reading on the SAT. Although admission requirements vary among graduate programs, applicants must typically submit GRE scores, and applicants to master's programs must hold a bachelor's degree. The university accepts applications on a rolling basis, with no set deadlines.
DSU is one of the most transfer-friendly online colleges in South Dakota. The university accepts credits from nearly all regionally accredited institutions nationwide. Transfer applicants must demonstrate good standing at their most recently attended institution and must possess at least a 2.0 GPA. Those with fewer than 24 college credits must also provide ACT or SAT scores and high school transcripts. DSU may accept applicants who do not meet admission standards on a probationary basis.
Victory Media has recognized Dakota State as a military-friendly school for seven consecutive years. The university connects service members, veterans, and military families with dedicated benefits coordinators and offers them discounted undergraduate tuition rates.
|4||Presentation College||Aberdeen||$$$$$||1500 N Main|
Aberdeen, SD 57401-1280
Located in Aberdeen, Presentation College offers some of the most affordable online college courses in South Dakota, including online degrees in nursing, healthcare administration, health science, medical coding, radiologic technology, and surgical technology. Distance learners from across the United States access course materials, assignments, and discussions using the Moodle digital learning platform.
PC students enjoy access to resources including tutoring, writing assistance, mock interviews, and assistance with resume building and job searches. Online learners can access a digital library, academic advising, and personal counseling. All online students pay the same tuition rates, regardless of residency.
Incoming freshmen need a minimum 2.0 GPA and at least an 18 composite ACT score or a 940 redesigned SAT score. Applicants older than 24 do not need to submit ACT or SAT scores. Transfer applicants must be in good standing at their previous school and must possess a minimum 2.0 college GPA.
Applicants to the master of science in nursing family nurse practitioner program or the nurse educator program must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited postsecondary institution and a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA. They must also provide evidence of an unencumbered RN license and must submit at least two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a current CPR certification.
PC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education approve its health and nursing programs.
|5||University of South Dakota||Vermillion||$$$$$||414 E Clark St|
Vermillion, SD 57069-2390
Founded in 1862 in Vermillion, USD is a public research university that enrolls nearly 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students. USD is one of the most accessible and affordable South Dakota colleges; online programs include more than 20 undergraduate and graduate offerings in areas such as fine arts, business, education, and health sciences.
Online learners at USD enjoy access to resources including an academic and career planning center through which students can receive help scheduling classes, securing internships, and connecting with potential employers. Students can also access a writing center, veterans services, and a digital library. All online students pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of residency.
Incoming freshmen need at least a 21 composite ACT score or at least a 1070 SAT score. Applicants who do not hold the minimum standardized test scores need at least a 2.6 GPA or must rank within the top 50% of their graduating high school class.
Transfer applicants must provide transcripts from all previous institutions and must be in good academic standing with those schools. USD maintains articulation agreements with 12 community colleges in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska -- which makes transferring easy for graduates of two-year schools in those states.
Offering some of the most accessible online college classes in South Dakota, the university provides opportunities for high school students to earn college credit at a discounted, per-credit rate.
|6||Black Hills State University||Spearfish||$$$$$||1200 University St|
Spearfish, SD 57799-9500
Founded in 1883, BHSU is a public university based in Spearfish that maintains satellite campuses in Rapid City and Pierre. BHSU offers fully online bachelor's degrees in business administration and general studies, along with master's degrees in education, sustainability, curriculum and instruction, secondary education, and strategic leadership.
One of the top online colleges in South Dakota, BHSU offers more than 200 distance courses, including classes in accounting and tourism management. BHSU delivers online courses through the Desire2Learn platform, and most classes feature an asynchronous format that enables students to complete assignments at their convenience.
The online business administration program features a business management specialization. Students take 120 credits, including 33 business core credits, 18 management credits, and general education and pre-business courses.
Incoming freshmen need at least an 18 composite ACT score and a minimum 2.6 high school GPA, and they must rank in the top 60% of their graduating class. Applicants must have completed four years of English; three years of math, social science, and lab science; and a year of fine arts courses. Transfer applicants must provide college transcripts, must possess a minimum 2.0 GPA, and must be in good standing at their most recently attended institution. Applicants older than 22 do not need to provide ACT or SAT scores.
Distance learners enjoy access to the same student services as on-campus students, including academic advising, personal counseling, a writing center, career services, library services, financial aid assistance, and disability services. Residents of Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming pay in-state tuition rates, and Minnesota residents receive tuition discounts.
|7||Dakota Wesleyan University||Mitchell||$$$$$||1200 W University Ave|
Mitchell, SD 57301-4398
Located in Mitchell, DWU is a private, nonprofit institution. The university delivers a variety of online degrees, certificates, and courses that allow students to interact with instructors and peers. Most courses are asynchronous, allowing students to view lectures, complete assignments, post to discussion boards, and communicate with professors on their own time. Online students can access library services, academic advising, career services, and tutoring.
The university provides eight-week terms and multiple start dates throughout the year. DWU offers a bachelor of arts completion program which requires 57 credits of general education and business courses. Students can bring up to 63 previous credits and typically complete the program in fewer than 24 months. Applicants must hold an associate degree, and those with a GPA below 2.0 may need to provide additional application materials.
DWU also offers an online licenced practical nurse to bachelor of science in nursing program, along with master's degrees in education and business administration. Applicants to either online master's program must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.7 GPA and must submit a current resume and a personal statement. Students can also earn online certificates in nonprofit church leadership and trust management.
Online students pay the same per-credit tuition rates regardless of state residency, and they pay no application or enrollment fees. The university helps students apply for financial aid and provides a tuition payment plan, making DWU among the more affordable online colleges in South Dakota.
|8||University of Sioux Falls||Sioux Falls||$$$$$||1101 W 22nd St|
Sioux Falls, SD 57105-1699
USF is a Christian, private, nonprofit university founded in 1883 that enrolls nearly 1,500 students. One of the most popular online colleges in South Dakota, USF offers a variety of online programs and courses, including online bachelor's degrees in accounting, business, health administration, and nursing. Distance learners can pursue online master's degrees in business administration and education, and USF offers online certificate programs for adult education and K-12 teachers.
The university's distance programs cater to busy learners through flexible scheduling options and asynchronous coursework that allows students to complete class requirements at their convenience. Online students can take some courses on campus, which meet one or two evenings per week.
Freshman applicants need at least a 20 composite ACT score or the SAT equivalent, must possess a minimum 2.8 GPA, and must have completed at least four units of English, three units of math, three units of lab science, and two units of social studies courses. Applicants must submit official high school and/or college transcripts and must complete a phone interview with an admissions staff member. New students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form and must enroll in at least six credits.
USF offers several degree completion programs; applicants must hold an associate degree or boast at least 48 previous credits, must possess a minimum 2.0 GPA, and must have completed three years of work or volunteer experience. Applicants interview with a school official.
The university is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and its business programs are certified by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in South Dakota
See below for the top online colleges in South Dakota ranked by tuition rate.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Dakota State University||Madison||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Northern State University||Aberdeen||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Black Hills State University||Spearfish||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||South Dakota State University||Brookings||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||University of South Dakota||Vermillion||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||Dakota Wesleyan University||Mitchell||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||University of Sioux Falls||Sioux Falls||School profile||$$$$$|
Job Outlook for College Graduates in South Dakota
South Dakota’s unemployment rate hovers around 3%, which is right around the national average. The state boasts five key industries: advanced manufacturing; bioscience; financial services; value-added agriculture; and the shooting, hunting, and outdoors industries. Choosing a degree or career in these industries can help you get a job in South Dakota.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in South Dakota
Annis I. Fowler/Kaden Scholarship:
Open to South Dakota high school students who intend to study elementary education at one of four select universities in the state.
BNSF College Scholarship Program
Open to high school students who are dependents of current, retired, or furloughed employees of BNSF Railway.
Future Farmers of America Scholarships
FFA works with a variety of companies to help support students interested in agriculture. Many scholarships remain local in scale.
Build Dakota Scholarships
For students who study at a South Dakota technical school and commit to working in the state for at least three years after graduation.
Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship
For South Dakota high school graduates who go on to study teaching at a South Dakota school and commit to working in the state for five years after graduation.
Dakota Corps Scholarship Program
For South Dakota high school students who go on to pursue a degree in a critical need occupation and remain in the state to work after graduation.
Jump Start Scholarship
Open to South Dakota public high school students who attend an in-state college or university.
South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship
South Dakota high school graduates with high academic achievement who attend an in-state college.
Need Based Scholarship Program
Open to students who have completed the FAFSA to attend a South Dakota college and still have financial need not otherwise covered.
Ardell Bjugstad Scholarship Program
Open to Native American high school students in the Dakotas who plan to attend college to study agriculture, natural resources, or a related subject.
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