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South Dakota Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2018

Updated on: 01/04/2018

If you want to attend college in South Dakota but need the flexibility to create your own schedule, you’re in luck: There are several online options available. But it’s not always easy to wade through all the information concerning accreditation, cost of attendance and residency requirements. This guide walks you through the process of choosing a South Dakota online college. Discover all you need to know, from financial aid to transferring credits.

Best Online Colleges in South Dakota: 2018

School rankings can be a great way to sort through the best accredited online colleges in South Dakota or the best affordable online colleges in South Dakota. But what’s most important to one student may not be as much of a priority to another. For example, adult learners who have been working for some time may prioritize colleges that offer credit for their experience, while low annual tuition could be a must for someone else. Find out which South Dakota online colleges ranked among the best and get more details on why each one stands out.

  • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution

  • At least 3 online associate degrees or certificate programs (2-year schools)

  • At least 3 online bachelor’s or master’s degrees (4-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)

Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:

  • Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates

  • Count and breadth of online programs available

  • Student-teacher ratio

  • 6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)

  • % of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college

  • Average $ of financial aid students receive directly from the college

  • Availability of academic/career counseling services

  • Availability of job placement services for students and graduates

  • 3-year loan default rate

  • AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*

  • *PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or ‘bang for your buck’ – of an online degree.

Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.

  • Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Dakota Wesleyan University Mitchell, SD 100.00 $23,550 8 98% 13:144%yes yes yes
2 University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD 98.22 $4,164 12 68% 17:154%yes yes yes
3 South Dakota State University Brookings, SD 97.97 $4,164 18 55% 17:157%yes yes yes
4 Presentation College Aberdeen, SD 97.59 $17,500 4 100% 10:140%yes no yes
5 Northern State University Aberdeen, SD 97.32 $3,993 10 64% 18:153%yes yes yes
6 Dakota State University Madison, SD 97.23 $3,993 17 55% 18:149%yes yes yes
7 South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Rapid City, SD 95.68 $4,170 4 60% 15:145%no yes yes
8 Black Hills State University Spearfish, SD 94.79 $3,993 6 43% 19:131%no yes yes
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2-Year Best College Rankings

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Mitchell Technical Institute Mitchell, SD 100.00 $2,912 11 31% 12:1N/Ayes yes yes
2 Southeast Technical Institute Sioux Falls, SD 99.31 $2,496 11 23% 15:1N/Ayes yes yes
3 Western Dakota Technical Institute Rapid City, SD 94.70 $3,197 7 N/A 13:1N/Ayes yes yes

Online Colleges in South Dakota

The higher education system in South Dakota is comprised of four technical institutes (also known as community colleges), four tribal colleges, 10 private colleges and six state universities. Many of these institutions offer robust online offerings. For example, South Dakota’s flagship university is the University of South Dakota, which offers over 40 online programs . Dakota State University offers more than 30 options, some of which are fully online. And the Lake Area Technical Institute has over 15 eDegree programs , which are a blend of online and in-person learning.

Tuition in South Dakota

As with most states, South Dakota offers lower tuition rates for students who are South Dakota residents. The data below gives you a rough idea of the price differences for residents versus non-residents. For online students, however, most schools charge the same tuition rate for residents and non-residents.

In-state tuition (public, 4-year institution): $8,273

Out-of-state tuition (public, 4-year institution): $11,592

In-state tuition (public, 2-year institution): $5,419

Out-of-state tuition (public, 2-year institution): $5,253

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

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I don’t live in South Dakota. Does that mean I have to pay higher, out-of-state tuition?

Individuals taking courses in an online college program in South Dakota will generally pay an online tuition rate that applies to all students, regardless of residency. This applies to both South Dakota community colleges and four-year universities.

South Dakota is a member of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). Member states may allow students from other member states to attend out-of-state institutions for a reduced tuition rate. However, the WICHE special tuition rate does not apply to students attending an online program.

South Dakota has a reciprocity agreement with Minnesota, as well as special agreements with North Dakota and Wyoming that allow students from those states to attend a South Dakota college for a reduced out-of-state tuition rate. However, none of these special tuition rates apply to students enrolled in an online South Dakota program.

Other reduced tuition rates may be available to certain students based on their professional or legacy status. For more information on reduced tuition programs, please visit the South Dakota Board of Regents .

Quick summary on tuition:
  • 1.Online students pay the same tuition rate as all other online students, regardless of their state of residency.

  • 2.Even though South Dakota is a Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education member state and has special tuition reduction agreements with Minnesota, North Dakota and Wyoming, students may only take advantage of the reduced out-of-state tuition rates if they attend traditional, on-campus classes.

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How do I qualify for financial aid in South Dakota?

Like most states, the financial aid process in South Dakota starts with FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid . The FAFSA is primarily used to receive federal financial aid, but it can also be used to apply for other aid such as funding from the school the student is attending.

Each state has its own FAFSA deadline . Students should submit the FAFSA as early as possible. This is because financial aid may be limited, with not enough money to go around to all students who want or need it. Consequently, students who apply later are less likely to receive financial aid, simply because there is less of it available in the later stages of the financial aid process.

Students who receive financial aid must maintain a certain level of academic performance to continue receiving the awards. This is called the Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP. Most schools follow federal SAP guidelines. Though the SAP applies primarily to federal financial aid, it may also apply to state-based aid. Financial aid awarded by private organizations may have their own guidelines or standards and they may be more stringent.

To maintain federal financial aid, South Dakota students must meet the following requirements:

  • GPA

    Undergraduate students must maintain a 2.00 cumulative GPA, while graduate students must have a 3.00 cumulative GPA

  • Completion percentage

    Students must pass, or receive credit for, at least 67% of the classes they take

  • Credit maximum

    If a student is working toward a degree, they must obtain that degree within 150% of the required number of course credits needed to earn the degree. For example, if an associate degree requires the completion of 60 credits, a student must have obtained the associate degree without going beyond 90 credits.

If students fail to meet these SAP guidelines, they’ll usually have one semester to get back on track. After this probationary or warning semester, their financial aid will be terminated.


To receive most scholarships and grants, students must attend an accredited college or university. Let’s take a look at just a few of the scholarships and grants available to students in South Dakota.

What kind of scholarships and grants are available?

The following list is a sample of the scholarships and grants South Dakota students have available to them.

  • Jump Start Scholarship: This is a unique scholarship in that it rewards high school students for completing high school in three years or less. With the public money saved by having the student graduate early, the student may receive $1,500 for their first year of education at an accredited South Dakota college or university. A special application is required and students must be South Dakota residents.

  • South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship : Up to $6,500 may be awarded over four years to the recipient of this scholarship. Eligibility depends on academic performance and students must attend an accredited South Dakota college or university.

  • South Dakota Needs Based Grant Program (SDNBGP): As its name implies, the SDNBGP is awarded based on a student’s financial need. Anywhere from $500 to $2,000 may be awarded to each student, with no special application required, just completion of the FAFSA.

A number of other scholarship and grant opportunities can be found at South Dakota Board of Regents Scholarship .

How do I apply?

The exact process depends on the specific scholarship or grant the student is applying for. Many colleges will automatically consider applicants for their own scholarships but state-awarded grants and scholarships have their own specific application process. Still others may only require students to complete the FAFSA.

Then there are private scholarships offered by corporations and non-profit organizations. Their requirements usually consist of completing a special application form, submitting an essay and sending in a transcript and letters of recommendation. Sometimes an interview or portfolio may be required.

One general piece of advice when applying – regardless of who offers the scholarship, start early! You want to have ample time to complete the application and ask for letters of recommendation, if needed, so you don’t risk missing the deadline.

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Choosing a South Dakota Online College

Choosing the right South Dakota college can make a difference in what you learn and how your professional future goes. To make the best decision, you’ll need to get proper information and ask the right questions. Here are a few “good to know” points.

Do South Dakota colleges accept transfer credits and work/life experience?

Yes, most South Dakota colleges will accept transfer credits for prior college classwork or military experience. A few will also accept credit for prior learning experiences, such as work experience and professional certifications. One example of a college that offers this is Lake Area Technical Institute , but students must provide adequate proof that their experience or certification applies to a current college course.

I’m a South Dakota resident. Do I need to attend an online college in South Dakota?

If you want to take advantage of your in-state tuition rate, yes, you’ll probably need to pick an online college in South Dakota. But due to reciprocity agreements and your chosen area of study, you might be able to attend schools outside of South Dakota and pay a reduced out-of-state tuition. And if money is not an issue, you can explore colleges anywhere in the country.

How do I know which online college is right for me?

There is no set way to pick an online college, whether it’s in South Dakota or another state. The selection process will depend on your own goals, preferences and financial situation. For instance, if you have a limited budget, you may need to choose a school with a lower cost of attendance. However, regardless of your goals and preferences, make sure you choose a school that’s properly accredited.

Accreditation is something a school has if its academic offerings meet basic academic standards, as determined by an independent body. This ensures the degree you receive after graduation is worth more than the paper it’s printed on. Rest assured that all the South Dakota colleges and universities discussed in this guide are accredited.