Finding a school to fit your budget, schedule, and career goals can prove challenging. Finding one within driving distance within the spacious borders of South Dakota can prove doubly so. Fortunately, the Mount Rushmore state offers several online learning options, and rankings like the one below can help make your school search easier.

Top 5 Online Colleges in South Dakota

  1. University of South Dakota - Vermillion, SD
  2. South Dakota State University - Brookings, SD
  3. Dakota State University - Madison, SD
  4. Northern State University - Aberdeen, SD
  5. Black Hills State University - Spearfish, SD

2020 Best Online Colleges in South Dakota

Detailed below are some of the best online colleges in South Dakota, including their relative strengths and features, distance programs, and admissions processes. Additionally, all of the schools in this list hold regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Online and on-campus programs deliver the same content and teach the same skills. However, online programs typically offer greater flexibility and affordability for self-motivated and organized students. Online courses enable you to complete assignments on your schedule and eliminate the need to travel to or live on campus. In many cases, students can continue working while completing an online degree. Colleges often design their online programs for working adults seeking to advance their careers or enter a new profession.

Job-seekers in South Dakota can expect to join a growing labor force and take advantage of a below-average unemployment rate of 3.1% (as of November 2019). Degree-holders with a bachelor's or above, meanwhile, see an astonishingly low rate of only 0.9%. Dominant and still-expanding nonfarm industries in South Dakota are related to trade, government, and education and health services. The latter two fields have demonstrated an upward trend for the past two decades.

The professional and business services industry experienced a 6% growth in GDP and 3.5% growth in employment from 2017 to 2018, which was largely fueled by a 7.4% growth in management jobs offering average annual salaries of $56,386. Additionally, eastern South Dakota ranks as one of the highest-paying nonmetropolitan areas for general and operations managers, who earn average wages of $118,540. This area also offers a below-average cost of living.

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1

University of South Dakota

Vermillion, SD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 55%

Set on a 274-acre campus in the southwestern South Dakota community of Vermillion, the University of South Dakota enrolls more than 10,000 students. The state's oldest public university offers more than 200 undergraduate programs and nearly 80 graduate programs, including a variety of online degrees and certificates.

USD's business school offers an online bachelor's degree as well as an online MBA with five areas of specialization, including business analytics and health services administration. Other bachelor's degrees available online include criminal justice, addiction studies, health sciences, dental hygiene, and nursing. In addition to its MBA, USD offers 11 master's programs online, such as educational administration, social work, and public health. The school also offers a Ph.D. in health sciences online.

Online tuition rates at USD are the same for in-state and out-of-state residents. Undergraduates may apply using the Common Application. USD offers writing assistance to online students through an online writing center.

2

South Dakota State University

Brookings, SD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 55%

With origins as a public, land-grant agricultural college, South Dakota State University remains the state's largest university, serving more than 11,000 students. SDSU offers four associate degrees and nine bachelor's degrees online. In addition to general studies, areas of study available to online undergraduates include geography, human development, nursing, and psychology. Undergraduates may also select from minors, such as criminal justice and mental health services.

SDSU also offers 16 master's degrees online, including agricultural education and merchandising. Online graduate degrees at SDSU typically include capstone options, such as a thesis or research project.

SDSU belongs to the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance -- a partnership of 20 universities that collaborate to provide distance education. SDSU students may enroll in classes provided through this partnership while paying SDSU's tuition rate. All distance learners at the university pay the same tuition.

3

Dakota State University

Madison, SD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 36%

Located in Madison, Dakota State University opened in 1881 to provide teacher training. Today, the public school enrolls nearly 3,400 students.

Access to DSU's online programs may not be available to students in all states. DSU offers six associate degrees, 14 bachelor's degrees, seven master's degrees, and three doctorates online to South Dakota residents, as well as a variety of undergraduate and graduate certificates. Undergraduate online programs include accounting, computer science, elementary education, and health information administration. DSU does require proctored exams for online classes.

Military students may qualify for discounted tuition. Transfer students with at least 24 credits and a minimum 2.0 GPA may apply. Students with fewer than 24 credits must meet DSU's first-year application requirements.

4

Northern State University

Aberdeen, SD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 45%

Founded in 1901 in Aberdeen, Northern State University offers distance education classes to high school students across the state. A public institution, NSU enrolls nearly 3,500 students in 59 majors and six pre-professional programs.

NSU offers an online bachelor's in banking and financial services that includes a paid internship, as well as a bachelor's in Spanish with a four-week study abroad opportunity. Online graduate programs at NSU include a 36-credit master's in banking and financial services. Educators may select from online master's degrees in leadership and administration, music education, and teaching and learning. The music education program includes one-week summer residencies on campus.

Online students at NSU may access many of the same services available to on-campus learners, including tutoring, writing assistance, disability services, and health services.

5

Black Hills State University

Spearfish, SD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 35%

Black Hills State University opened as a teachers college in 1883. A public university with locations in Spearfish and Rapid City, BHSU currently oversees 80 degree programs and educates nearly 4,000 students through its three colleges.

BHSU offers an online bachelor's degree in business administration with a general studies track and a specialization option in management. General studies students must take a capstone course and complete 15 credits in three areas of emphasis.

BHSU also offers online master's degrees in sustainability, strategic leadership, curriculum and instruction, secondary education, and reading. The strategic leadership program uses an executive cohort model. The one- or two-year secondary education degree prepares graduates for teacher certification, combining distance learning with two practica and a stint of student teaching.

Admission requirements vary by program. First-year applicants must possess a minimum 2.6 GPA, a score of at least 18 or 970 on the ACT or SAT, or rank in the top 60% of their high school class. Online students may access support services, including library services, technical support, and advising.

Click here to see the best campus colleges in South Dakota.