Online Colleges in South Dakota

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Updated November 10, 2021 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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South Dakota is home to stunning natural beauty, iconic Western heritage, and important American Indian cultural influences, giving the state a unique position in modern U.S. life. The state is also a great place to live and study, offering prospective students several choices for affordable online programs in numerous high-growth fields. The state features some of the nation's lowest-cost higher education institutions, and also provides residents with a robust economy increasingly dominated by fields such as healthcare, manufacturing, and technology.

Its diverse population gives rise to a number of interesting jobs in social work, education, and linguistics, making the state a surprisingly good choice for those interested in human services. Students in South Dakota also benefit from one of the nation's most generous state grant programs. No matter what academic program or career path you are interested in, South Dakota is a terrific place to start your search.

Job Outlook for Students With College Degrees in South Dakota

Although South Dakota's annual mean wage falls short of the national average, the state boasts an above average employment rate compared with the rest of the United States. The state's cost of living also falls below the U.S. average, making it an affordable place to live and earn a college degree. South Dakota's workforce is also expanding thanks to the state's robust economy; although the Mount Rushmore State's traditional mining industry is in sharp decline, strong gains in construction, healthcare, recreation, manufacturing, waste management, and technology more than make up for this loss.

About 30% of South Dakota's jobs do not require a high school diploma, but the most lucrative jobs and those in the fastest growing fields require a bachelor's degree or higher. Nursing, translations, engineering, transportation and other burgeoning industries require educated leaders to work in technical and managerial capacities. In general, Americans with a college degree earn 56% more than those with only a high school diploma. South Dakota residents with a bachelor's degree earn an average of $150 per week more than those who stopped their formal education at high school graduation. Moreover, people with professional degrees can often double the earnings of those with a college education.

Unemployment Rate, August 2018

South Dakota 3.0%
United States 3.8%

Source: BLS

Annual Mean Wage, May 2017

South Dakota $40,770
United States $50,620

Source: BLS

Cost of Online Colleges in South Dakota

Like their counterparts around the country, students taking online college classes in South Dakota often look for the best education at the most affordable price. Typically, tuition and fees for online programs cost the same as those on-campus; however, colleges do not charge similar tuition rates. Public institutions often charge considerably less than private institutions, and South Dakota community colleges online may be the least expensive option for students in their first or second year. Of course, students who receive large financial aid packages to attend a specific school may likely find that a single institution is their best financial option.

Distance education students generally pay the same tuition as on-campus students, but they may save on some select fees. Plus, online learners often reduce their expenses by buying their books in electronic formats and saving on facility charges. By studying online, students can also avoid paying transportation costs and on-campus rent. In addition, online learners can usually work in part-time or full-time jobs, reducing the disruption to their careers while they pursue their degrees. Regardless of the price tag, however, students at online colleges in South Dakota almost always save money simply because the state's universities are far less expensive than the average institution in the United States.

Average Price for In-State Tuition and Fees by Institution Type, 2018-19

  Public Two-Year Public Four-Year
South Dakota $6,700 $8,690
U.S. Average $3,660 $10,230

Source: The College Board

In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition in South Dakota

Students attending a public college in their state of residence usually receive a significant tuition reduction over out-of-state students who attend the same college. Each state's residents are paying taxes and fees that help support that state's higher education institutions, and reduced tuition is one way the state compensates residents for that tax. Plus, states want to keep their best talent in-state, so they offer benefits to students who attend a local college. The difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition is usually quite large, but in South Dakota, the difference is much smaller than students might expect. Learners pursuing a degree at one of the online colleges in South Dakota can benefit from in-state tuition benefits. Out-of-state students may also be able to attend school in South Dakota at a low price because the state's average tuition and fees for out-of-state students are only slightly higher than the in-state tuition costs in other states.

Average Tuition and Fees, 2018-19

  Public Two-Year Public Four-Year
South Dakota $8,690 $12,160
U.S. Average $10,230 $26,290

Source: The College Board

Financial Aid in South Dakota

As with students throughout the U.S., learners enrolled in online college courses in South Dakota are eligible to receive federal funds to pay tuition and other costs associated with higher education. To begin the financial aid process, prospective students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), an all-in-one application that serves as a port of entry for all federal aid programs. The U.S. government provides grants to qualifying undergraduate students, subsidized and unsubsidized loans, work-study opportunities, loan forgiveness programs, and special aid to members of the military and their families.

In the state of South Dakota, students also have access to state grant aid, including a range of scholarships for qualifying students, along with reduced tuition programs, college savings accounts, and loan forgiveness programs. Future teachers can take advantage of a state-sponsored loan forgiveness program provided they teach in a title 1 school in South Dakota for five consecutive and complete years. South Dakota makes similar programs available for public servants, engineers, nurses, accountants, and IT professionals. Other students may qualify for reduced tuition provided they meet specific qualifications, such as being visually impaired, the child of a soldier who died in the line of duty, or a student over the age of 65.

State Grant Aid per Full-Time Equivalent Undergraduate Student, 2016-17

South Dakota $150
U.S. Average $820

Source: The College Board

Scholarships and Grants for South Dakota College Students

Students at all accredited South Dakota colleges online qualify for scholarships and grants. Most scholarships are merit-based, and are distributed to qualifying students who meet established qualifications of excellence. Grants, on the other hand, are need-based and offered to students whose income falls below a certain standard.

Best Majors for Online Students in South Dakota

South Dakota's workforce is growing. Experts project that the state will add 33,265 new jobs to its economy over the next ten years. As in many states, healthcare is a growing occupational field in South Dakota. A burgeoning senior population -- coupled with new strategies for addressing chronic health problems -- means that doctors, nurses, healthcare administrators, occupational therapists, and other health professionals can expect their occupations to expand. Interpreters and translators will also see their field grow by 40% between 2017 and 2027 thanks to a diversifying population. Plus, an increase in manufacturing and transportation output in South Dakota means jobs in those areas are also poised for growth. Majors in nursing, foreign languages, engineering, project management, and logistics can help students create a future in one of South Dakota's fast-growing and most lucrative career fields. Many online colleges in South Dakota offer these majors at the undergraduate and graduate levels.


Healthcare centers across South Dakota face a nursing shortage. In fact, experts believe that by 2030, the state will have 1,692 more open nursing positions than nurses. By earning a BSN or other nursing degree, students can access a fast-growing and lucrative healthcare profession.

Foreign Languages

South Dakota estimates that Sioux Falls is home to 137 languages. The state desperately needs translators and interpreters who can serve in the judicial, legal, medical, social work, and education fields. Students with skills in Dakota, Spanish, Vietnamese, or German may find themselves in especially high demand.

Mechanical Engineering

Manufacturing is growing in South Dakota, and so is the need for skilled industrial mechanical engineers. Students majoring in mechanical engineering learn to design and construct mechanical devices of all sizes; learners can choose from many specializations such as robotics, biotechnology, alternative energy technology, and aerospace engineering.

Resources for Online College Students in South Dakota

South Dakota Education Association: The SDEA strengthens public education in South Dakota. Its Council for Higher Education serves as a collective bargaining to help improve higher education in the state. Faculty at many state schools participate in the organization to help improve their overall quality of life at work and thereby strengthen the state's public education system.

Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education: WICHE grew out of an interstate compact among 15 western states to improve access to higher education for students. The commission offers numerous initiatives such as a network of science labs online, along with a program to cap out-of-state tuition at member state schools for students from states that participate in the commission.

South Dakota Indian Education Resources: A bureau within the South Dakota Department of Education, the Office of Indian Education works with the Indian Education Advisory Council to address the higher education issues that American Indian students face in South Dakota. The office provides scholarships, summits, and other projects to close the achievement gap between Native and non-Native students.

South Dakota Board of Regents: The SD Board of Regents governs public higher education institutions throughout South Dakota. The agency is responsible for several scholarships, loan forgiveness programs, and other student-focused initiatives plus managing government relations for public higher education. Prospective students and teachers can find an array of helpful resources from policy information sheets to job opportunities on the website.

South Dakota Higher Education Association: SDHEA is a professional organization that hosts conferences and grants awards as part of its mission to provide leadership in higher education and professional development. The organization offers scholarships and access to its online job board along with student leadership training and networking opportunities for higher education professionals.


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Latest Posts is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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