South Dakota: a state well-known for the iconic Mount Rushmore sculpture. South Dakota is much more than that, however.
It has a fast-increasing population, beautiful scenery, and is home to 22 colleges and universities. If you are reading this, that means you’re interested in either starting or continuing your education. Online learning is a great option because it's more than just convenient! It has a multitude of advantages, including the flexibility of making your own schedule. You can receive a high-quality education while working in the field... gaining experience and knowledge at the same time.
If you are a South Dakota resident, many of these colleges below offer lower in-state tuition rates. Many South Dakota schools participate in reciprocity advantage programs like the Western Undergraduate Exchange program. Students in nearby states are eligible for cut tuition costs at participating institutions. Accredited online programs make the quality education of colleges located in rural cities far more affordable and accessible.
For working adults, parents, people with disabilities, veterans, and simply those who prefer a more independent learning style, earning a degree online makes more than sense. So, finish a degree you've started, and move up in your career through online programs in South Dakota!
To help you narrow down your options, we've compiled a list of the top 11 online colleges in South Dakota. These colleges vary from rural to metropolitan areas, private and state, liberal arts to research universities. Each of them has amazing degree programs and a student-focused faculty.
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What are the best online colleges in South Dakota?
Our methodology consists of looking at three main components when ranking colleges. The first is institutional excellence, which means compiling data on colleges’ reputation, graduation rate, and more. The next is student satisfaction based on student reviews. Finally, return on investment is a large component, decided though comparing tuition costs, expected career salary for graduates, financial aid, etc. Our data comes from the sources U.S News & World Reports, IPEDS, and college websites.
See our rankings methodology page.
Augustana University is located in the metropolitan city Sioux Falls. It was founded in 1860 by Swedish settlers. The institution is affiliated with ECLA Lutheran Church. Today, the brick-and-mortar campus sits on 100-acre campus. Its rich history and Lutheran roots are the foundations for their programs. The university is ranked as a top school in Regional Colleges Midwest by U.S. News. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Augustana only offers one online degree: the online Master of Arts in Education. It is a 19 month, non-thesis program. This program is approved by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. They offer 5 concentrations:
- Instructional Strategies
- Special Populations
Students can apply for financial aid to help cover the cost of tuition. It is important to note that the university is not authorized to offer online programs in California or Florida.
University of South Dakota
Founded in 1862, the University of South Dakota is a flagship university located in rural Vermillion, SD. USD began offering online programs first with the Master of Science in Technology for Education and Training as a hybrid program, before moving to fully online and offering more. It is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Today, the university stands as South Dakota’s only public liberal arts university, with a total student enrollment of over 10,000 students.
The University of South Dakota confers over 40 online programs in 6 schools, at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate level. Undoubtedly you will find a program that sparks your interest. Popular degrees include:
- Addiction Studies (B.S.)
- Business Administration (M.B.A.)
- Dental Hygiene (B.S.)
- Doctor of Philosophy in Health Sciences (Ph.D.)
- Public Health (M.P.H.)
U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of South Dakota highly for its MBA program and online graduate programs as a whole. All students receive the same tuition rate regardless of whether they are in-state out out-of-state learners. USD is dedicated to providing ample resources for distance learners.
Northern State University
Northern State University was established in 1901 and is located in Aberdeen, SD. Its primary mission is the “preparation of elementary and secondary teachers,” a continuation from its Normal School origins. The 116-year old institution currently enrolls 3,500 students with an 18:1 student faculty ratio. NSU places value on educating student into becoming teachers and professionals, with a career services center available for all students.
Northern State University utilizes a semester-based academic calendar and rolling admission. Currently, the university offers 4 masters degrees, 8 bachelors, and two associate degrees online. Most of these specialize in education and business. Popular majors include:
- Professional Accountancy (B.S.)
- General Studies (B.G.S or A.A.)
- Music Education
- Leadership and Administration (M.S.Ed.)
- Business Administration (A.S. or B.S.)
Online students are eligible for scholarships. All students who participate in online education at NSU pay the same tuition rate per credit hour.
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, also known as SD Mines, is a leading science and engineering university in the Midwest. It was founded in 1885 before South Dakota even became a state. Located in Rapid City in the Rushmore Region, SD Mines is a space-grant public college. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, it is also known for its high return on investment.
You will find this is a unique school that trains you for leadership in your area of study. The online degrees SD Mines offers are all master’s programs in the engineering department. They are the following:
- Construction Engineering and Management (M.S)
- Engineering Management (M.S.)
- Mining Engineering (M.S.)
Each program has a slightly different pace and varying tuition rates. Despite this, South Dakota residents are eligible to receive discounted tuition rates. The college also offers technical support services for online students.
South Dakota State University
South Dakota State University was founded in 1881 in rural Brookings, South Dakota. It is a public, land-grant, sun-grant, and space-grant research university. The state’s largest and second oldest university, SDSU had 32.4% of its courses with fewer than 20 students. It is ranked by U.S News & World Report for its online graduate nursing program, online graduate education program, and online bachelor’s programs. The university consists of nine colleges and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. With affordable tuition rates, it is a top contender for online school.
South Dakota State University confers 13 master’s programs, 8 bachelor’s programs, 3 associates, and a multitude of certificate programs. In addition, the school has a variety of minor options for bachelor students. The following are popular degree options:
- Early Education Care (B.S.)
- Medical Laboratory Studies (B.S.)
- Sociology (B.S.)
- Dietetics (M.S.)
- Chemistry—Chemical Education (M.S.)
The same professors that teach on campus courses are those that teach online courses. As a result, you receive the same quality education as on-campus students. All programs are taught through the Desire2Learn online platform.
University of Sioux Falls
University of Sioux Falls is a private, Christian, liberal arts college. Founded in 1883, its brick-and-mortar campus is located in Sioux Falls, the “heart of America.” The school’s motto is “Culture for Service,” which means to educate and develop Christian leaders for service in the greater community. The university is religiously affiliated with the American Baptist Churches, USA.
The university offers a variety of online programs at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.They follow a 4-1-4 based calendar. These are still rooted in Christian faith as their foundation despite not being face-to-face. Popular fully online programs include:
- Nursing RN-to-BSN
- Technology and Customized Learning (M.Ed.)
- Healthcare Administration (Bachelor’s degree completion)
- Business (Bachelor’s degree completion)
The University of Sioux Falls boasts a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, ensuring small class sizes and an environment to foster community. Graduates of University of Sioux Falls have a 98% placement rate.
Dakota State University is a public, nonprofit university. The brick-and-mortar school is located in Madison, South Dakota. The university is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It has a total enrollment of 3,145 students. The university is home to the Smith-Zimmerman museum. Founded in 1881 as a teacher-training school, today their learning model is unique in its approach of integrating technology.
Online classes at Dakota State University foster a sense of community because they are often synchronous with on-campus students. At the undergraduate level, DSU offers a total of 22 program options. Popular majors include:
- Elementary Education & Special Education (B.S.E)
- Network and Security Administration (B.S.)
- Doctor of Science in Cybersecurity
- Business Administration (M.B.A)
- Education Technology (M.S.)
The online tuition rate for undergraduate students is an affordable $335 per credit hour. For online graduate students, the rate is $444.25 per credit hour. Students who take at least 6 credits are eligible for financial aid.
Dakota Wesleyan University
Founded in 1885 by Methodist settlers, Dakota Wesleyan University is located in Mitchell, South Dakota. It is a private, 4-year university affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The university carries small class sizes with a total student population of under 900. The College of Online Adult Learning began in 2015. The university emphasizes a faith-based curriculum for all of its programs, including those online.
The all-asynchronous courses model Dakota Wesleyan University implements allows for maximum flexibility for distance learners. The school offers a generous transfer policy and offers accelerated eight-week courses. Popular online degrees include:
- Business Administration (M.B.A.)
- Education (M.A.)
- Nursing RN-to-BSN
- Bachelor of Arts (degree completion)
Dakota Wesleyan University makes sure you receive personalized attention even as an online student. The Bachelor of Arts tuition rate is $350 per credit hour, with financial aid available. The financial aid advisors are available for assistance as well.
Presentation College is a Catholic, private college located in Aberdeen, South Dakota. The college also has campuses in Sioux Falls and Fairmont, Minnesota. The college has a total enrollment about 821 students and was founded 166 years ago. Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the college is also sponsored by the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Though the school welcomes all faiths, it also values and honors its Catholic tradition.
In total, Presentation College confers 7 online programs. PC Virtual is the college’s department of distance education. The online offerings specialize in health sciences, including:
- Nursing RN-to-BSN
- Nursing LPN-to-BSN (1 or 2 years)
- Health Science (B.S.)
- Medical Office Administration (A.S.)
Presentation College’s motto is “The World Needs More Saints.” This pertains to the college’s dedication to service and the Presentation Sisters’ mission.
Black Hills State University
Black Hills State University is a public 4-year university located in Spearfish, South Dakota. Established in 1883, today the university has a total student population of about 4,500. The school also has a secondary brick-and-mortar location in Rapid City, South Dakota. BHSU is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Additionally, its business program is accredited by the AACSB, the highest standard for business schools in the world.
Black Hills State University offers 7 degree programs, two minor programs, and 3 certificate programs. These include both master’s and bachelor’s level degrees. The following are popular online majors offered:
- Business Administration (Management Specialization) (B.S.)
- Reading (M.Ed.)
- Strategic Leadership (M.S.)
- Curriculum and Instruction (M.S.)
BHSU uses the Desire2Learn, a popular online learning platform. The university ensures a variety of resources available for online students, including library services, access to the counseling center, disabilities service, and more. Wyoming and Minnesota residents are eligible to receive discounted tuition rates.