Overview of Higher Education in South Dakota
In the state of South Dakota, there are 22 colleges and universities. These include the following:
Six state universities: Black Hills State University, Dakota State University, Northern State University, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, South Dakota State University, and University of South Dakota
Six private colleges and universities: Augustana University, Dakota Wesleyan University, Mount Marty College, National American University, Presentation College, and University of Sioux Falls
Six tribal colleges and universities: Ihanktonwan Community College, Lower Brule Community College, Oglala Lakota College, Sinte Gleska University, Sitting Bull College, and Sisseton Wahpeton College
Four technical colleges: Lake Area Technical College, Mitchell Technical College, Southeast Technical College, and Western Dakota Technical College.
The South Dakota Board of Regents has the constitutional authority to govern the system of higher education in the state, specifically managing South Dakota’s six public colleges and universities as well as the school for the deaf and school for the blind and visually impaired.
Currently, nine of the state’s four-year institutions offer online degree programs as an option, which over 6 million students across the country are taking advantage of.
In 2022, the state’s public universities served nearly 35,000 students taking credit-based courses. Meanwhile, the total number of college students in South Dakota was above 50,000. Currently, nine of the state’s four-year institutions offer online degree programs as an option, which over 6 million students across the country are taking advantage of.
South Dakota offers a variety of opportunities when it comes to higher education. In particular, the state provides a unique offering of online degree programs, with 28 programs offered entirely online. More than 7,000 undergraduates, 2,600 graduate students, and 105 international students have taken this higher education route so far.
While some degree programs are 100% online, others are hybrid, meaning part of the course takes place in person and part of it takes place online. Looking at online courses, most tend to be asynchronous, meaning students are able to watch lectures, complete readings, and turn in homework on their own time.
It usually takes a full-time student four years to complete an online bachelor’s degree. Online graduate and professional degree programs vary in length based both on the type of degree program and the number of hours a student takes each term.
Why Study in South Dakota?
Leading the way in terms of the highest enrollment in the state is South Dakota State University (11,405). On the other end of the spectrum, Mount Marty University has the smallest enrollment in the state, with 1,167 students. The combined enrollment at South Dakota State University (11,405) and the University of South Dakota (9,459), accounts for over 20,000 of the state’s 50,000+ student enrollment.
To provide some context to these relatively high graduation rates, the U.S. Department of Education reports that the average four-year graduation rate among public colleges and universities is 33.3%. However, 57.6% of the same group earned their degree within six years, a percentage that 7 institutions in South Dakota exceed.
The national average retention rate — defined as the percentage of first-year students who completed their first year and enrolled again the following fall — was 82% in fall 2020. In terms of South Dakota college and university retention rates, five schools had retention rates at or above 80%.
Why Study Online in South Dakota?
No different than the effect it has had on colleges and universities across the U.S., the pandemic fast-tracked online higher education offerings at institutions throughout South Dakota.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics
(NCES), “In fall 2020, some 75 percent (11.8 million) of all undergraduate students were enrolled in at least one distance education course, and 44 percent (7.0 million) of all undergraduate students exclusively took distance education courses.”
At the same time, more than 15,000 college students in South Dakota enrolled in online-only courses. In terms of undergraduates, 27,534 undergrads took at least one course online at their South Dakota college or university. As you will notice in the chart below, undergraduate enrollment in online courses was on the rise well before the pandemic even began.
The number of online degree programs offered by colleges and universities in South Dakota continue to rise in 2022. For instance, South Dakota State University now offers 11 online bachelor’s degree programs, including 18 online minors, and five online associate’s degree programs. At the University of Sioux Falls, students can earn a degree online through the institution’s Accelerated Degree Completion Program. In addition, students interested in earning a graduate degree online can participate in an online MBA or an online MEd program.
Whether you’re a full-time student or a non-traditional college student trying to balance academics with professional and personal commitments, South Dakota’s colleges and universities are committed to providing high-quality, accessible, and affordable online education. And if you’re interested in a non-degree program, there are more than 50 certificate programs from which to choose.
Accreditation of Online Colleges in South Dakota
Higher education is an expensive investment. As you consider different schools and begin to narrow down your college search, checking prospective schools’ accreditation status is key.
In simple terms, accreditation serves as an official stamp of approval for a college or university.
In order for a college or university to gain accreditation, it must undergo an extensive review of the institution’s academic programs. The actual accreditation review process is conducted by a third-party contractor of the U.S. Department of Education and Council for Higher Education Accreditation — the entities that provide oversight to national and regional accrediting bodies. The Higher Learning Commission is the primary accrediting agency for colleges and universities in South Dakota.
Popular Online Bachelor's Programs at South Dakota Colleges
While majors like business, management, education, and STEM tend to be popular across many institutions and states, there are many other majors to explore in South Dakota.
At South Dakota State University, nursing is the most popular major, accounting for 16% of all undergraduate majors at the school. Moreover, nursing is also the most popular undergraduate major at the University of South Dakota, with the number of nursing degrees awarded three times greater than the next closest major, animal science.
Alternatively, at Augustana University the most awarded undergraduate diplomas in 2020 were business administration and management, followed by biology. At Sioux Falls University, nursing was the most popular major, with business administration and management coming in second.
Beyond nursing, business, and animal science, agriculture-related majors are also popular at the state’s colleges and universities, as agriculture is the leading industry in South Dakota.
Cost of Online Universities in South Dakota
In 2021-2022, the average annual undergraduate tuition at 4-year, public institutions in South Dakota was $9,102 for residents and $12,294 for non-residents. It’s worth pointing out that both the resident and non-resident averages are below the national averages of $10,740 and $27,560, respectively.
While the tuition costs of online programs and courses may be slightly higher than that of traditional, in-person programs at some institutions, if the cost is greater, it is typically a relatively small amount. However, you should check with your institution’s business office or financial aid office to confirm any differences in tuition rates.
Of course, if you plan to live on or near campus despite taking entirely online courses, you will need to take additional costs into consideration such as housing, food, and other school supplies.
Financial Aid for Online Students in South Dakota
In addition to federal student aid opportunities that may be available through the FAFSA — including grants, loans and work study — the state of South Dakota offers several grant and scholarship programs to qualifying applicants:
This program is aimed at encouraging South Dakota high school graduates to obtain a college degree from South Dakota college or university and remain in the state after graduating to work in a critical-needs teaching area.
Similar to the Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship above, this program is for South Dakota residents planning to attend a college or university within the state and then serve the state in an area of critical need.
The Jump Start Scholarship program is for students attending a public high school in South Dakota from which they graduate a year early. State scholarship funds are allocated for scholarship use at a South Dakota college or university.
The Opportunity Scholarship provides scholarship funds for high-achieving South Dakota high school students attending a college or university within the state.
The South Dakota Need-based Grant Program provides need-based scholarship aid to students who filled out a FAFSA and meet program guidelines.
In addition, there are a number of endowed scholarships awarded each year by the South Dakota Board of Regents, including the Ardell Bjugstad Scholarship, Annis Irene Fowler/Kaden Scholarship, and Marlin R. Scarborough Memorial Scholarship.
Employment Outlook for College Graduates in South Dakota
First, it goes without saying that a college degree increases your lifetime earnings potential incrementally with each degree level you earn. That being said, a lot can be learned from job growth projections provided by the state of South Dakota.
In August 2022, the South Dakota Department of Labor & Regulation published a list of the projected “hottest jobs” in the state between 2020 and 2030. These include jobs with the highest projected demand and highest wage occupations.
Among jobs with the greatest predicted increase in number of available positions are registered nurses (+899), sales representatives - wholesale and manufacturing (+604), accountants and auditors (+538), first-line supervisors of retail sales workers (+468), and general operations managers (+387).
In addition to the "hot jobs” projection guide, the Department of Labor and Regulation provides a host of additional career-related resources, including information on the current labor market, career exploration and planning, a South Dakota Career Interest Survey, and much more.