Students in South Dakota don't have to go far to get a good education. The state is home to a number of schools offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs in popular fields such as nursing, business administration and psychology.
The South Dakota Board of Regents oversees six public universities and two special schools. These include some of the best-known institutions in the state, such as the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University. There are also four technical institutes that have articulation agreements with the six public universities. These agreements allow students to begin their education at a technical school and then easily transfer credits to a four-year university.
South Dakota is also home to several tribal schools and private institutions. Some of these schools specialize in conferring online South Dakota degrees while others have traditional on-campus programs.
Best 4-Year Colleges in South Dakota
To find the best colleges in South Dakota, we started by looking at accredited institutions in the state. Then, we analyzed them for factors pertaining to affordability and accessibility, such as the availability of online courses, graduation rates and tuition costs. When the dust settled, here's how top South Dakota schools stacked up. Be sure to explore the best community colleges in South Dakota for more insight into education in the state when you're done here.
The state's largest university is also one of the best schools in South Dakota. South Dakota State University enrolls more than 12,500 students who come from every state in the nation and more than 90 countries. They can choose from hundreds of degree program options at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
SDSU has 10 colleges and schools. It is a public, land-grant institution that pre-dates the state itself. The university was founded in 1881 by the Dakota Territorial Legislature. It has since grown into one of the best South Dakota universities and also one of the state's more prominent online colleges, offering plenty of distance education options.
South Dakota State University is known for its innovative education programs, commitment to research and dynamic learning environment. Its campus is in Brookings.
Northern State University is another of the top universities in South Dakota. With a campus in Aberdeen, the school is known for its affordability and flexibility. Among South Dakota colleges, it has some of the lowest tuition and fees as well as a robust catalog of online degree programs.
Approximately 3,600 students are enrolled at NSU. There, they benefit from small class sizes and get access to nationally recognized degree programs in fields such as art, music, business and teacher education. The school is also notable among South Dakota colleges for housing the Confucius Institute, which promotes and teaches Chinese language and culture.
Northern State University is generous with its financial aid, and 60 percent of those enrolled receive scholarships. Founded in 1901, NSU is one of South Dakota's public universities.
The University of South Dakota likes to say it's a big-time university with a small-college feel. Beyond being one of the top schools in South Dakota, USD is the flagship institution within the state's public higher education system.
Although first authorized in 1862, classes didn't start at what was then known as the University of Dakota until 1882. Throughout the years, the school has grown to include eight colleges and schools as well as USD Online which provides online programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Nursing, business and health sciences are all popular fields of study at the University of South Dakota although students have dozens of degree options from which to choose.
With a campus in Vermillion, USD ranks among the top universities in South Dakota for the affordable, accessible education it offers.
Dakota State University says it's not like other South Dakota schools. Founded in 1881, the university claims to be one of the most technologically advanced institutions in the Midwest. While it offers about three dozen majors, DSU focuses primarily on fields such as computer information systems and computer management.
As one of the best universities in South Dakota, DSU offers an affordable education, a selection of campus facilities and an impressive placement rate for graduates. The school notes some majors have a 100 percent placement rate, meaning graduates are able to obtain a job or continue their education after earning their degree.
More than 3,000 students are enrolled at Dakota State University. The public institution was founded in 1881 and has its campus in Madison.
For science and engineering, check out the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Commonly known as SD Mines, this is among the top schools in South Dakota for those planning a career in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
SD Mines was founded in 1885 to train those working in the state's mining industry. Today, it specializes in more than a dozen majors covering subjects such as geological engineering, atmospheric sciences and paleontology. Degree programs include options at the associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels.
The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is also notable among South Dakota colleges for having a strong retention rate and placement rate. It has small class sizes and is recognized as a good educational value.
Online courses, study abroad options and research opportunities are all part of what make Black Hills State University one of the top colleges in South Dakota. The master's level institution educates more than 4,000 students each year through its on-campus and online degree programs.
There are dozens of academic programs available at BHSU that result in certificates or degrees. Students from 44 states and 29 countries are enrolled, making for a diverse educational experience. The school gets high marks for being an affordable option among South Dakota universities.
BHSU was founded in 1883. Its main campus is in Spearfish, a community that has received accolades for livability and outdoor recreation. Black Hills State University also offers classes on a second campus in Rapid City.
Students seeking a small learning environment may find what they seek at Presentation College. The accredited, Catholic college enrolls fewer than 800 students, providing a greater opportunity for personalized attention and instruction.
PC can trace its roots to 1922 when it was founded as the Notre Dame Junior College. In 1951, the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary took over sponsorship of the school, and its name was changed to Presentation Junior College. Today, the college is a four-year institution that awards degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Presentation College lands among the best schools in South Dakota thanks to its commitment to providing flexible learning options, including online classes, as well as a variety of other student support services. The college's main campus is in Aberdeen.
Most Popular Degree Programs in South Dakota
The most popular degree programs in South Dakota cover a range of fields including science, health and business.
In-Demand Careers in South Dakota
The job market in every state is different. When selecting a major, you may want to consider whether it could lead to one of these fast-growing South Dakota careers.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||30%||240||$73,160|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||29.1%||1,780||$79,030|
|Computer Numerically Controlled Tool Programmers||27.8%||80||$48,990|
|Information Security Analysts||27.4%||320||$91,130|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||27.2%||240||$83,450|
|Orthotists and Prosthetists||22.6%||40||$69,390|
|Business Teachers, Postsecondary||22.3%||220||$79,490|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||21.6%||1,100||$55,650|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||20.5%||280||$43,180|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||20.3%||280||$63,440|
|Physical Therapist Aides||20%||60||$28,740|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants||19.9%||510||$49,130|
|Industrial Machinery Mechanics||19.3%||1,150||$47,140|
|Petroleum Pump System Operators, Refinery Operators, and Gaugers||18.8%||30||$66,030|
|Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary||18.6%||70||$76,460|
|Fast Food and Counter Workers||18.2%||13,130||$22,530|
|Biological Science Teachers, Postsecondary||17.7%||160||$89,980|
|Insurance Appraisers, Auto Damage||17.1%||30||$55,140|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in South Dakota
Students at both private and public schools in South Dakota may be eligible for state and federal financial aid. Federal assistance includes loans, grants and work-study programs. Meanwhile, the state offers the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship and a Need-Based Scholarship, among others, to eligible students. Many of the state's public universities have their own scholarship programs as well.
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Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 2.0 GPA.
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To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- University Facts, South Dakota State University, Accessed May 2018, https://www.sdstate.edu/office-president/university-facts
- About NSU, Northern State University, Accessed May 2018, https://www.northern.edu/about-nsu
- USD at a Glance, University of South Dakota, Accessed May 2018, https://www.usd.edu/about-usd/usd-at-a-glance
- About DSU, Dakota State University, Accessed May 2018, https://dsu.edu/about-dsu
- Why Mines? South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Accessed May 2018, https://www.sdsmt.edu/WhyMines/
- About BHSU, Black Hills State University, Accessed May 2018, http://www.bhsu.edu/About-BHSU
- College History, Presentation College, Accessed May 2018, http://www.presentation.edu/about/history/
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Financial Aid Options, South Dakota Board of Regents, Accessed May 2017, http://www.selectdakota.org/resources/financialaidoptions/
- Articulation, South Dakota Board of Regents, Accessed May 2017, https://www.sdbor.edu/administrative-offices/academics/Pages/Articulation.aspx