Best Online Colleges in South Dakota

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South Dakota is one of 12 states in the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC). Residents of participating states in this collaborative have access to several benefits, including the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP), a tuition reciprocity agreement that offers out-of-state students tuition discounts and programs unavailable in their home states.

Students in South Dakota can also take advantage of resources provided by the Electronic University Consortium (EUC), which acts as a single point of contact for distance learners who attend one of the six accredited public universities across the state. Online courses offer a variety of advantages to students, and the EUC is committed to helping working adults, part-time students, employees seeking career development, people with disabilities, and military personnel.

Administrators in South Dakota have always been at the forefront of the online learning movement, and the South Dakota Department of Education founded the South Dakota Virtual School to give middle and high school students the same advantages that college students have when it comes to distance learning: choice, flexibility, and a quality curriculum.

Thanks to the establishment of accredited online colleges in South Dakota, thousands of students who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to pursue a college education can now do so in the comfort of their own home, on their own schedule, and for a price that fits their budget.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

University of South Dakota

 2/555.52%Vermillion, SD


USD offers world-class online courses, with 36 programs ranging from a master of professional accountancy to a certificate in addiction studies. Many programs offer full- and part-time tracks to help students study at their own pace.

USD Online wants to help students succeed. There are plenty of resources to help guide online students, including an online writing center, library, technology support, and state-wide testing center services. There are also off-campus sites in Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, and Watertown for students who want to combine on-campus and online learning.

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South Dakota State University

 2/556.87%Brookings, SD


SD State offers 13 online graduate degrees and several bachelor’s degrees and certificates, work around students’ schedules, allowing them to work during the day while pursuing their education during the evening.

SDSU provides prospective students with a quiz to help them decide whether online learning is suited for them. They also offer a support desk and access to the Higgins M. Briggs Library online database.

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Dakota State University

 2/540.7%Madison, SD


Dakota State University offers a range of programs that are delivered through the course management system Desire2Learn. Students can choose from 18 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including an AS in business management, a BS in cyber operations, a master of science in information assurance and computer security (MSIA), a doctor of science in information systems, and more.

DSU stands out among other institutions for its dual credit program, which lets students earn college credit while still attending high school. These credits are transferable to most colleges and universities.

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Black Hills State University

 2/533.03%Spearfish, SD


Students can browse through BHSU’s extensive interactive course catalog to find classes of interest to them. Distance learners here receive the same benefits as on-campus students, including access to library services, financial aid, a counseling center, computer services, a writing center, disabilities services, and the career center.

BHSU allows students to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree or specific certification to help advance their career. The school is known for its Project SECOND program, which is an online, 12-month MS in secondary education for those with a four-year degree. Upon completion, graduates are prepared to teach high school or middle school and earn a master’s degree.

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Dakota Wesleyan University

 4/544.1%Mitchell, SD


Online courses at DWU are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to submit assignments and interact with faculty and classmates at any time. Distance learners can become an RN, earn an MBA or master in education, or earn a BA in organizational leadership entirely online through the school.

Eight-week courses allow students to finish their degrees faster while still working at their own pace. DWU emphasizes their values of learning, leadership, faith, and service in their online learning, leading discussions of ethics in each of their programs.

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Northern State University

 2/544.22%Aberdeen, SD

Students can access classes 24/7 at Northern State, making it a convenient option. Distance learners can earn an online associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in areas like banking, leadership, teaching, business administration, marketing, and music education. They also enjoy excellent faculty, highly competitive tuition, and financial aid benefits available at NSU.

Students can study entirely online or combine their learning with off-campus centers throughout the state. Similar to on-campus students, they can also participate in Northern’s study abroad programs to earn credits while experiencing culture.

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University of Sioux Falls

 4/553.15%Sioux Falls, SD

Faculty at the University of Sioux Falls deliver courses that can be completed entirely online and at students’ own pace, allowing them to attend lectures and finish assignments at their convenience. Class sizes are intimate, ranging from 10 to 20 students, and classmates interact via discussion forums, video conferencing, chats, or email.

Tuition is straightforward without hidden fees, and accelerated courses ranging from five to 12 weeks allow students to graduate on a timeline. The degree completion program helps students finish a partially completed degree, and the RN to BSN and master’s programs help them further a career they’ve already started.

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More About Online Colleges in South Dakota

Recognizing the need for far-reaching education initiatives to accommodate its sparse population, South Dakota has increased online offerings at its major colleges and universities in recent years. While tuition and fees at public, four-year South Dakota colleges have increased by 38.3% over the last five years, state funding for postsecondary education increased by only 0.4%. Given these figures, more college students in South Dakota are enrolling in online programs, where tuition costs are considerably more affordable.

South Dakota has enacted several initiatives designed to provide greater access to higher education, promote career training and build the local workforce in the state. Through its SD Wins project, for example, South Dakota Workforce Initiatives supports services ranging from college prep to career opportunities in technology and healthcare in South Dakota. Additional statewide initiatives that share a similar objective include the Civics Education Initiative, with a focus on high school education, and the 21st-Century Skills Initiative, which promotes the importance of modern technology and media skills in today’s economy.

Browse our list of the best online colleges in South Dakota for more insight into distance learning programs in this state.

NCES Report

As of fall 2012 enrollment, NCES reports indicate that 15% (6,424) of students in South Dakota’s Title IV institutions were enrolled in exclusively online programs.

  • 17.5% of students at four-year institutions studied entirely online
  • 7.5% of students at two-year institutions studied entirely online
  • 70.8% were living in South Dakota
  • 29.1% were living elsewhere in the United States

The South Dakota Department of Education has pushed forward several online education initiatives for students of all ages. Among the state’s most widely known efforts is the South Dakota Virtual School, an online consortium of distance education providers which currently serves more than 4,000 students. Additionally, SD Wins and the South Dakota Workforce Initiative offer unique career training to welders and machinists through the Technical Institute Distance Education Program, which brings relevant field training and trade courses to those unable to attend school in traditional classroom.