By 2018, government data estimates that more than half the jobs in South Dakota will require a college degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), only about 40 percent of working-age adults (25-64) having earned one, so online schools in South Dakota are trying to increase college attainment numbers across the state by offering online degree programs and courses to working professionals and busy parents.
There are 25 public and private colleges and universities in South Dakota, including two- and four-year schools, and many of them offer fully online degree programs, online classes or hybrid classes that combine online work with face-to-face instruction.
Students seeking an online education in South Dakota can also enroll in degree and certificate programs offered by national universities such as Capella University. National American University, which has offered online degrees since 1996, even has four campus locations in South Dakota, including one at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
There are just over 800,000 residents in South Dakota, and about half that number include the state's 402,990 working adults, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. These workers earn a mean annual wage of $36,530, or about $17.56 per hour, states the BLS. Among the 538,000 adults in the state who are older than 25, 18 percent have a bachelor's degree and about 8 percent have an advanced or professional degree. About half of the 83,000 residents who are between 18 and 24 years old have earned an associate degree or have attended some college. Bachelor's degree holders in the state earn a median salary of just under $40,000, while those with a graduate or professional degree earn a median annual salary of $51,700.
Most Affordable Colleges in South Dakota
The following list ranks the 15 schools in South Dakota that offer online degrees at the lowest tuition costs. This ranking is based on a number of factors that are important to prospective students such as the actual degree programs that are taught online, and information on tuition fees, accreditation and notable alumni. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics (2013-2014) and reflect in-state tuition (when in-state tuition is available) for all students, including online students. See our Methodology section for more details on the ranking methodology.
Oglala Lakota College is a network of teaching sites on or near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Many programs combine face-to-face classes with online classes. Distance learning is not considered independent study, but requires daily homework assignments and may involve more time and energy than traditional face-to-face courses.
Mitchell offers six online Associate degree programs, including Administrative Office Specialist; Advanced Medical Imaging; Medical Office Professional; Office Technology Specialist; Small Business Management; and Speech-Language Pathology Assistant.
Southeast offers a variety of online Associate degree programs for busy students for whom family or work requirements prevent them from taking face-to-face classes. Associate degrees are offered in Accounting; Administrative Assistant; Allied Health; Business Administration; Business Administration with a Human Resources Emphasis; Business Administration with a Management Emphasis; Computer Programming; Entrepreneurship; Financial Services; Insurance & Financial Services; Marketing; and Office Assistant.
Lake Area Technical Institute, founded in 1965, was the first technical school in South Dakota, and today 13 of its 29 programs are offered at least partly online. About 98 percent of its graduates are employed or pursuing higher degrees. The school's "E-Degrees" combine online and on-campus classes that deliver critical first-hand training and experience. E-Degrees are offered in Agri-Business; Commodity Merchandising; Computer Information Systems; Entrepreneurship; Dental Assisting; Financial Services; Marketing & Management; Emergency Medical Technician; Medical Laboratory Technician; Practical Nursing; Precision Machining; Ranch Management; and Robotics.
Western Dakota offers Associate of Applied Science degrees in Accounting; Bookkeeping; Business Management & Marketing; Entrepreneurship; Office Professional; Social Media Marketing; Computer-Aided Drafting; and Library Tech.
National American University offers more than 20 Bachelor's degrees in a variety of disciplines, from Information Technology to Criminal Justice. Its 14 Associate degrees are in Accounting; Applied Information Technology; Business Administration; Business Logistics; Computer Security; Criminal Justice; Electronic Health Record Support Specialist; Health and Beauty Management; Health Information Technology; Information Technology; Management; Medical Administrative Assistant; Medical Staff Services Management; and Small Business Management. Master's degrees through the Harold D. Buckingham Graduate School are offered in Business Administration; Management; Nursing; Business Administration; and Community College Leadership.
DSU offers 18 degree programs online from its University Center in Sioux Falls. All the programs follow the school's curriculum standards and use the Desire2Learn course management system. Associate degrees are offered in General Studies; Business Management; Health Information Technology; Network and Security Administration; and Respiratory Care. The school's Bachelor's degrees available online include Business Technology; General Studies; Information Systems; Cyber Operations; Computer Science; Health Information Administration; Professional and Technical Communications; and Respiratory Care. Graduate degrees are offered in Information Assurance and Computer Security; Information Systems; Business Administration; and a doctorate in Information Systems.
Northern boasts both online classes and fully online degree programs. It offers Associate degrees in General Studies; Gerontology; and Banking and Financial Services. It's Bachelor degrees include International Business Studies; General Studies; Banking and Financial Services; Business Administration; Management; and Marketing. Its online Master's degree programs include two different tracks in Banking and Financial Services; Instructional Design; Training and Development in E-learning; Leadership and Administration; Teaching and Learning; and Music Education.
Black Hills' online degree programs claim outstanding quality and affordability. Online Bachelor's degrees are offered in Business Administration and General Studies. Master's degrees are offered in Strategic Leadership; Curriculum & Instruction; Secondary Education; Sustainability; and Reading.
SDSU offers a number of online degree programs with classes taught by the same professors who teach the face-to-face classes. An online Associate degree is offered in General Studies, and Bachelor's degrees can be earned in Interdisciplinary Studies; General Studies; Sociology; Medical Laboratory Science; and Nursing. Master's degrees are available online in Chemistry; Educational Administration; Curriculum and Instruction; Dietetics; Educational Administration; Family & Community Services; Family & Consumer Sciences Educational; Family Financial Planning; Merchandising; Mass Communication; Nursing; Public Health; and Sociology.
In addition to its Associate degree in General Studies, USD also offers six online Bachelor's degree programs in Business Administration; Management; General Studies; Addiction Studies; Health Sciences; and Nursing. In addition, its 22 online graduate degree programs range from Health Services Administration to Accounting.
SDSM&T tailors its distance education programs to those who already have an engineering degree, or significant engineering experience, plus a degree in a related field. The online programs provide the skills and knowledge these individuals need for advancement into executive and management positions. Programs include: Construction Management; Engineering Management; and Mining Engineering.
Presentation College in Aberdeen offers online degree programs leading to Associate degrees in Medical Office Administration and Surgical Technology. Its Bachelor's degrees offered online include Nursing (LPN to BSN and RN to BSN) and Radiologic Technology.
DWU offers four online degree programs, including Master's degrees in Business Administration and Education, and Bachelor's in Nursing and Organizational Leadership. The programs are asynchronous, which allows students to participate in class discussions, submit coursework and communicate with faculty and classmates anytime during the day or night.
In addition to its online Master of Arts in Education degree program, Augustana College, a private institution, offers a number of online education classes for working professional educators. These distance learning opportunities include self-paced, text-based distance learning and online courses in several different formats.
Lindsey Hamlin, Director of Continuing & Distance Education, South Dakota State University
Q. Can you tell us a little about the online programs offered at SDSU?
SDSU offers a variety of programs online — from certificates to Master degree programs. We offer six undergraduate degrees — these programs are aimed to assist students meet their academic goals and advance their careers. SDSU also offers 12 master degree programs in a variety of fields, from education, family financial planning to mass communication and community development. Finally, SDSU offers eight certificate programs (2 undergraduate, 6 graduate) that will help you boost your expertise. SDSU is part of the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GPIDEA), a partnership of 20 public universities that collaboratively provide access to high-quality educational opportunities. Courses are taught by qualified instructors and in many cases by the same faculty who teach on campus.
Q. What advice would you give to students interested in an online degree program?
There are a number of items students should consider as they are looking to enroll in an online degree program. Students need to look at universities and compare the pros and cons of each as well as the online offerings available. Students should check the university’s accreditation; this can be very important if a student decides to further their education beyond their current goals and in the job market. Students should also consider if online education is part of the mission of the university and the university’s standards of quality and rigor, support services, and cost. Students need to be prepared to begin an online program as well, and understand that learning in the online program differs from the classroom; online learning is more self-directed and requires self-motivation. Students must possess skills in time management and planning, establish appropriate study space and ensure they have the necessary technology and know-how, and a support system in place. As with face-to-face instruction, online learning can be just as rewarding.
Q. How do you think online learning will change in the coming years?
SDSU has established a rigorous goal for online degree program through our most recent strategic plan, Impact 2018. We anticipate having 40 fully online degree programs by 2018. As higher education continues to evolve, online education is going to continue to be a critical component. More and more high school students have the ability to enroll in online courses, and they come to college campuses expecting to take at least some courses online. We will continue to see demand from adult learners who are place bound and online programs provide them the means to continue or return to higher education in a convenient and efficient manner. As technology continues to change, faculty will have tools at their fingertips to engage students in the virtual classroom and provide for a rich and rewarding educational experience.
Average Cost of a House
# of Employed People
Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree
The 140,000 workers in the Sioux Falls metropolitan area earn a mean annual wage of $39,210 - well above the statewide average. Nearly 22 percent of the city's residents who are older than 25 have a Bachelor's degree, and 10 percent have a graduate or professional degree.
The Sioux Falls metropolitan area is home to more than 240,000 total residents, and the metro workforce represents more than 30 percent of the state's entire workforce.
Sioux Falls calls itself the Heart of America, and its location along the eastern border does put it smack dab in the middle of America's prairie lands. Falls Park, the Great Plains Zoo and the St. Joseph Cathedral are all popular attractions for this mid-sized city.
Average Cost of a House
# of Employed People
Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree
This city of 70,000 residents expands to 140,000 when the entire surrounding metropolitan area is counted. Its workforce of 60,640 earns a median annual wage of $36,490 - about the statewide average.
Rapid City workers comprise about 15 percent of the state's total workforce and about 17 percent of the state's total population. Just under 20 percent of city's over-25 residents have a Bachelor's degree, and 10 percent have a graduate or professional degree.
Nestled up to the east slope of the famous Black Hills of South Dakota, Rapid City is a popular area for outdoor pursuits. The historic town of Deadwood is nearby, and so is the famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Badlands National Park.
Average Cost of a House
# of Employed People
Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree
The eastern South Dakota nonmetropolitan area where Aberdeen is located is home to 125,000 workers, although the metropolitan area of Aberdeen is home to just over 40,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Workers in the eastern nonmetropolitan area of Aberdeen earn a media annual wage of $34,860, according to the BLS.
Nearly one in five of Aberdeen's over-25 residents have a Bachelor's degree, and 7 percent have earned a graduate of professional degree. More than 60 percent of the city's 18- to 25-year-olds have an Associate degree or have attended some college.
The Richmond Lake Recreation Area is a popular spot during the hot summers, and the two local colleges - Presentation College and Northern State University - feature many cultural events.
Other South Dakota Resources
The South Dakota Board of Regents supports online college students through its Electronic University Consortium of South Dakota. Students can find information about online courses and degree programs offered by the state's public universities along with admissions, accessibility and financial aid topics.
- Augustana College, http://www.augie.edu/news/2011-04/augustana-offer-online-masters-degree-education
- Black Hills State University, http://www.bhsu.edu/Academics/OnlineDistanceLearning/tabid/109/Default.aspx
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ga.htm
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?
- Dakota State University, http://www.dsu.edu
- Dakota Wesleyan University, http://www.dwu.edu
- Lake Area Technical Institute, http://lakeareatech.edu/edegree/index.html
- Mitchell Technical Institute, https://www.mitchelltech.edu/programs
- National American University-Ellsworth AFB Extension, http://www.national.edu/locations/south-dakota/ellsworth-afb
- Northern State University, http://www.northern.edu/Online/Pages/programs.aspx
- Oglala Lakota College, http://www.olc.edu/academics/virtualcampus.htm
- Presentation College, http://www.presentation.edu/pc-virtual/online-programs/
- South Dakota State University, http://www.sdstate.edu/cee/distance/
- Southeast Technical Institute, http://www.southeasttech.edu/futurestudents/flexibledegreeoptions/onlineaccounting/
- The United States Census Bureau The America Community Survey, http://www.census.gov/acs/www/
- U.S. Census Bureau American Fact Finder, http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_12_1YR_S1501&prodType=table
- University of South Dakota, http://www.usd.edu/continuing-and-distance-education/off-campus-and-distance-programs.cfm
- Western Dakota Technical Institute, http://www.wdt.edu/degree-programs/online-programs/