Best Colleges in South Dakota 1

You probably recognize the four faces carved into rock in the picture above. It’s an image of Mount Rushmore, one of South Dakota’s most famous attractions. From left to right, it shows George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, all landmark presidents in US history. While these men are seared into the public imagination, some of the colleges below might not be.

But that’s not because of any lack of quality. Out of the thousands of colleges and universities in the country, it’s hard to keep track of them all. That’s why we’ve put together this ranking. We’ve listed the top 10 best colleges in South Dakota, so that if you’re considering going to school in the Mount Rushmore State, you can have an idea of what your options are.

Of course, this ranking shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all of your college decision. We highly recommend reading other sources and visiting campuses, which will help account for what our statistical analysis cannot.

What are the best colleges in South Dakota?

Speaking of statistical analysis, you’re probably wondering how we came up with our ranking. The numbers are based on three important factors: institutional excellence, which examines academic factors like admission rates and student-to-faculty ratio; return on investment, which weighs cost against expected early career salary; and student satisfaction, which is an aggregate of the reviews actual students have written about their on-campus experience. Our data comes from IPEDS, U.S. News & World Report, Payscale, and college websites.

1

Augustana University

College Choice Score: 100

Average Net Price: $39,628

School Website

Overview

Augustana University was founded in 1860 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, by Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church. The main campus has 100 acres. It is about 180 miles north of Omaha and about 250 miles southwest of Minneapolis.

Features

Augustana University offers 100 majors for 1,600 undergraduate students. Inside the classroom, the student-faculty ratio is 11-to-1. Nearly 50% of the classes have less than 20 students. Outside the classroom, student can access over 90 student organizations. Augustana University participates in NCAA Division II sports. Top majors include:

  • Business
  • Education
  • Health Professions
  • Parks, Recreation, Leisure & Fitness Studies
  • Foreign Languages, Literatures & Linguistics

Notables

Souix Falls, South Dakota, has over 175,000 people living in the area making it one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas. It is a great location for business, health care, semi-professional sports teams, outdoor recreation (skiing, hunting, fishing, etc.) and bike trails. Top employers include: Sanford Health, Avera Health, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and the Sioux Falls School District.

2

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

College Choice Score: 86.25

Average Net Price: $28,240

School Website

Overview

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SD Mines) was founded in 1885 in Rapid City, South Dakota to support the local primary industry – mining. Today, Rapid City is in the Rushmore Region of the Black Hills of the South Dakota. SD Mines’ 120-acre campus has become one of the leading science and engineering universities in the area.  It is a 6-hour drive from Denver. Most people take direct flights to Minneapolis, Denver, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Chicago, Atlanta, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

Features

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology offers 16 majors for 2,400 undergraduate students. Inside the classroom, the student-faculty ratio is 15-to-1. The average class size is 20 students. Nearly 30% of the classes have less than 20 students. Outside the classroom, student can access over 150 student organizations. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology participates in NCAA Division II sports teams. Top majors include:

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical & Electronics Engineering
  • Industrial Engineering

Notables

SD Mines has been a best value in education for 17 straight years. In addition to the high quality, low cost education, over 73% of the students participate in a PAID internship with an average hourly range of $17 per hour. The average salary for a recent graduate is also $63,000 per year with companies like Google, Microsoft, Medtronic, NASA, SpaceX, and Keurig. SD Mines is 1/3 the cost of Harvard and yet still gets better and higher starting salaries.

3

University of South Dakota

College Choice Score: 86.1

Average Net Price: $23,855

School Website

Overview

The University of South Dakota was founded in 1862 in Vermillion, South Dakota. It is the State’s oldest university. Today, it is the State’s flagship university. The main campus has 274 acres along the bluffs above the Missouri River in the southeast corner of South Dakota. The University of South Dakota houses the state’s only school of medicine, law and accredited business school.

Features

University of South Dakota offers 205 majors for 7,500 undergraduate students. Inside the classroom, the student-faculty ratio is 17-to-1. Nearly 51% of the classes have less than 20 students. Outside the classroom, student can access over 120 student organizations. University of South Dakota participates in NCAA Division I sports teams. Top majors include:

  • Nursing & Health Sciences
  • Education
  • Kinesiology & Sports Science
  • Biology & Medical Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Notables

The University of South Dakota is also home to the National Music Museum The New York Times calls this Museum a “musical Smithsonian” that spans over 500 years of cultural impacts on music with over 15,000 American, European and Non-western instruments. The NMM is recognized as “A Landmark of American Music” by the National Music Council.

4

Northern State University

College Choice Score: 85.36

Average Net Price: $22,656

School Website

Overview

Northern State University (NSU) was founded in 1901 in Aberdeen, South Dakota, through the determination of the Aberdeen citizens. Today, the 72-acre campus is a safe, small campus in a low crime rate community. Aberdeen, South Dakota, is the 2nd best small college down in America by USA Today College in the northeastern corner of South Dakota where US Highway 12 and 281 connect. There is plenty to do in the area including hiking or biking in the 210-acre Wylie Park or the extensive trail system.

Features

Northern State University offers 59 majors for 2,991 undergraduate students. Inside the classroom, the student-faculty ratio is 18-to-1. Nearly 60% of the classes have less than 20 students. Outside the classroom, student can access over 50 student organizations. Northern State University participates in NCAA Division II sports teams. Top majors include:

  • Business
  • Education
  • Biological & Biomedical Sciences
  • Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Humanities & Social Sciences

Notables

At the end of September, the university celebrates Gypsy Days – a weeklong celebration as part of the homecoming including football, volleyball and soccer games; Annual Gypsy Day Parade, music and awards. Alumni comes from all over to attend and enjoy the sights in the town, community and on campus.

5

University of Sioux Falls

College Choice Score: 82.43

Average Net Price: $37,600

School Website

Overview

University of Sioux Falls was founded in 1872 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, by a committee of 9 Baptist churches in the Baptist Association located in the Dakota Territory. Near 1930, Sioux Falls acquired four Baptist schools from Des Moines, Grand Island, Cedar Valley and Parker. Today, the main campus has 40 acres. The South Campus contains the USF Sports complex – just 4 miles southeast of the main campus. Sioux Falls is located near the intersection of Interstates 90 and 29.  It is 240 miles from Minneapolis, 560 miles from Chicago, Illinois and 650 miles from Denver, Colorado.

Features

University of Sioux Falls offers 40 majors for 1,224 undergraduate students. Inside the classroom, the student-faculty ratio is 14-to-1. Nearly 65% of the classes have less than 20 students. Outside the classroom, student can access over 100 student organizations. University of Sioux Falls participates in NCAA Division II sports teams. Top majors include:

  • Health Professions
  • Business
  • Education
  • Psychology
  • Parks, Recreation, Leisure, and Fitness Studies

Notables

University of Sioux Fall’s motto is Culture for Service. Students engage with staff and faculty through a combination of learning and action programs to develop academically, socially and spiritually to serve in their future industries. USF not only focuses on the hard skills that apply to their industry but also the soft skills (emotional intelligence, networking, face to face interaction) to create well-rounded graduates.

6

Mount Marty College

College Choice Score: 73.27

Average Net Price: $36,996

School Website

Overview

Mount Marty College was founded in 1936 in Yankton, South Dakota, by the Roman Catholic Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart Monastery. The main campus has 80 acres overlooking the Missouri River and Bluffs. Today, the college is known for many things including their #1 nurse anesthesia program.

Features

Mount Marty College focuses on the 4 Benedictine Values to guide student academic, spiritual and personal development: Lifelong Learning, Awareness of God, Hospitality, and Community. To this end, the college offers over 20 majors for 1,047 undergraduate students. Inside the classroom, the student-faculty ratio is 10-to-1. The average class size is 25 students. Nearly 83% of the classes have less than 20 students. Outside the classroom, student can access over 40 student organizations. Mount Marty College participates in NAIA sports teams. Top majors include:

  • Nursing
  • Business
  • Education
  • Criminal Justice & Safety Studies

Notables

The College is named after Martin Marty, a Benedictine missionary to the Native Americans and the first Catholic Bishop in the Dakota Territories. The Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton is still an active monastery and still directly impacts college life. The sisters live, work and pray alongside students and staff. According to the college, most alumni still actively engage the sisters through visits, phone calls or mail.

7

South Dakota State University

College Choice Score: 71.82

Average Net Price: $28,801

School Website

Overview

South Dakota State University was founded in 1881 in Brookings, South Carolina, with connections to the 1862 Morrill Act signed by President Lincoln and the 1887 Hatch Act establishing Agricultural Experiment stations at land-grant colleges.  The main campus has 261 acres. South Dakota State University is 200 miles from Minneapolis and 400 miles east of Rapid City and the Black Hills.

Features

South Dakota State University offers 73 majors for just under 11,000 undergraduate students. Inside the classroom, the student-faculty ratio is 17-to-1. Nearly 33% of the classes have less than 20 students. Outside the classroom, student can access over 200 student organizations. South Dakota State University participates in NCAA Division I sports teams. Top majors include:

  • Health Professions
  • Communications Technologies
  • Social Sciences
  • Engineering
  • Family & Consumer Sciences

Notables

South Dakota State University’s outreach programs concentrate on 4-H youth development, Competitive Crop Systems, Competitive Livestock Systems, Rural and Urban Initiatives and so much more. They assist with special programing, hands on learning capabilities and making connections in the community.

8

Dakota Wesleyan University

College Choice Score: 70.95

Average Net Price: $36,050

School Website

Overview

Dakota Wesleyan University was founded in 1885 in Mitchell, South Dakota by the United Methodist Church. Today, Dakota Wesleyan University’s campus has 50 acres and several buildings on the historical registry. By the time students graduate, over 85% have completed some form of independent research, internship or a presention at professional conferences prior to graduation.

Features

Dakota Wesleyan University offers 40 majors for 889 undergraduate students. Inside the classroom, the student-faculty ratio is 12-to-1. Nearly61% of the classes have less than 20 students. Outside the classroom, student can access over 30 student organizations. Dakota Wesleyan University participates in NAIA sports teams. Top majors include:

  • Nursing
  • Business
  • Criminal Justice
  • Educational Leadership & Administration
  • Education & Teaching

Notables

Dakota Wesleyan University uses the Clifton StrengthsFinder to identify and develop the campus community strengths. They have developed their own campus curriculum based on this program so that students are able to discern, develop and dedicate themselves fully to their chosen vocation. This will assist students to understand how they respond to situations in a safe environment prior to entering the competitive workforce.

9

Dakota State University

College Choice Score: 69.24

Average Net Price: $21,847

School Website

Overview

Dakota State University was founded in 1881 in Madison, South Dakota, to train teachers for the Dakota Territory. Today, Dakota State University campus is on 20-acres near Lake Herman and Lake Madison in the southeast corner of South Dakota about 50-minutes from Sioux Falls.

Features

Dakota State University offers over 30 majors for 2,820 undergraduate students. Inside the classroom, the student-faculty ratio is 18-to-1. Nearly 54% of the classes have less than 20 students. Outside the classroom, student can access over 40 student organizations. Dakota State University participates in NAIA sports teams. Top majors include:

  • Computer & Information Sciences
  • Education
  • Business
  • Visual & Performing Arts
  • Health Professions

Notables

Dakota State University has implemented a program that all students receive a laptop as part of the laptop program at the college. They have also updated all their classrooms. All majors and program include latest technologies. All classroom seats have power outlets. There are high end computer labs that include game design and hacking labs with industry standard software like Digital Arts & Design.

10

Black Hills State University

College Choice Score: 66.31

Average Net Price: $22,544

School Website

Overview

Black Hills State University was founded in 1883 in Spearfish, South Dakota. The main campus has 123 acres about 46 miles from Rapid City, 65 miles from Mount Rushmore National Memorial and 10 minutes from the Wyoming Border. Black Hills State University business program is accredited by the AACSB – only 5% of schools globally have that accreditation.

Features

Black Hills State University offers 75 academic programs for 4,244 undergraduate students. Inside the classroom, the student-faculty ratio is 20-to-1. the classroom, student can access over 60 student organizations. Black Hills State University participates in NCAA Division II sports teams. Top majors include:

  • Business
  • Education
  • Biology
  • Sport & Fitness Management
  • Psychology

Notables

Black Hills State University is within a 1.5-hour drive of 2,000+ climbing routes and endless bouldering. National Geographic calls Spearfish one of the 100 “America’s Best Adventure Towns” and the Michelson Trail was named one of the World’s Top 10 Bike rides. Lots to study and do at this university.

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