In the following ranking, we identify the 15 best affordable colleges in South Dakota for bachelor’s degrees for prospective students looking to earn a bachelor’s degree. South Dakota is home to some of the most inexpensive colleges and universities in the nation, at least compared to the astronomical tuition rates you would find at elite private schools elsewhere in the U.S. However, South Dakota has so much more to offer than cheap bachelor’s degrees. For instance, if you are interested in competitive athletics and traditional academics, the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University are worthy contenders. If you are interested in the STEM fields and you are looking to secure your financial future, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is worth considering. If you are searching for a religious, challenging academic experience, there is no better choice than Augustana College. Regardless of your professional goals and academic needs, rest assured that there is an affordable college in South Dakota for you.
Since everyone thinks of something different when it comes to the best-value colleges in South Dakota, it can be tricky to pinpoint key features that everyone is looking for in an institution. However, we developed a ranking system detailed below that identifies the top colleges and universities based on tuition rates, student-to-faculty ratios, and graduation rates — and South Dakota doesn’t disappoint. To get our initial list of 15 schools, we conducted a search using the College Navigator tool at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for colleges in South Dakota offering bachelor’s degrees. We awarded points based on three metrics related to affordability, class size, and student success as outlined below.
Average Cost of Attendance
Since this ranking is based on identifying the most affordable colleges in South Dakota, including the average cost of attendance in our methodology was a given. Although you might be tempted to immediately choose the cheapest school in order to save money, it is also important to ensure that that institution offers the major or program in which you are interested. For the purpose of this article, we ranked tuition based on how much it would cost an in-state student for one year of study, according to NCES. We also provided out-of-state tuition rates for your reference only.
Under $7,500: 3 points
$7,500 to $15,000: 2 points
$15,001 and above: 1 point
When researching student-to-faculty ratios, keep your academic background, personal priorities, and learning style in mind. While some students thrive in large state universities that are known for their hustle and bustle, others fare better in small private colleges in which they can develop relationships with their peers and professors. Although every student is different and there are pros and cons to each, for the following ranking, we awarded the most points to colleges and universities with the lowest student-to-faculty ratios and, therefore, the smallest classes, as stated by NCES.
10:1 or less: 3 points
11:1 to 15:1: 2 points
Greater than 15:1: 1 point
In order to gauge student success, we ranked each school based on its graduation rate, or the percentage of students that complete their program requirements and earn their degree. While there are always exceptions, in most cases, colleges and universities that report high graduation rates are doing something to keep their students satisfied and enrolled at their institution. This could include offering plenty of academic support, employing experienced or nationally recognized professors, or providing programs that students feel are affordable. As a result, students may be more likely to remain at that school and ultimately earn their degree. For this reason, we awarded points based on the following ranges, giving the highest number to schools with the highest graduation rates from NCES.
More than 50 percent: 3 points
Between 30 percent and 50 percent: 2 points
Less than 30 percent: 1 point
Ranking Top 15 Best Affordable Colleges in South Dakota
15. Presentation College
Aberdeen, South Dakota
Founded in 1951, Presentation College is a private Catholic college that operates a main campus in Aberdeen, South Dakota as well as a branch location in Fairmont, Minnesota. Named for the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, its original sponsors, this Roman Catholic institution of higher education is recognized among the most affordable colleges in South Dakota. Students may earn a top-value B.S. in a number of areas of study, including athletic training, human resource management, organizational management and leadership, radiologic technology, and sport and event management. Students at this low-cost school may also pursue distance learning programs through PC Virtual. PC offers a variety of off- and on-campus student activities designed to strengthen the spirit, mind, and body, including student recreational and athletic activities, intramural programs, clubs and organizations, and more.
In-State Tuition: $20,375
Out-of-State Tuition: $20,375
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10:1
Graduation Rate: 27 percent
14. University of Sioux Falls
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Established in 1883, the University of Sioux Falls is a low-cost Christian university in South Dakota located in Sioux Falls. USF aims to foster academic excellence and prepare students for service to God and humankind. Students can choose from affordable undergraduate and graduate programs across an array of fields, including psychology, education, business, social work, theology, and the health professions. Outside of the classroom, this inexpensive university offers more than 100 student-run clubs and organizations and participates in NCAA Division II athletics. Through the school’s “Culture for Service” motto, students engage with professors and peers through a combination of action and service-learning with the goal of developing spiritually, socially, and academically. Not only does USF focus on the core academic skills and knowledge needed in students’ respective industries but also the soft skills such as networking, emotional intelligence, and face-to-face interactions to produce well-rounded graduates. In fact, 99 percent of USF students find employment in their chosen fields within six months of graduation.
In-State Tuition: $18,280
Out-of-State Tuition: $18,280
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Graduation Rate: 46 percent
13. National American University-Sioux Falls
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
National American University is an affordable online college in South Dakota that is headquartered in Rapid City. The school operates a number of campuses, including a location in Sioux Falls that has been serving students across eastern South Dakota since 1974. Considered one of NAU’s most successful campuses, NAU Sioux Falls is comprised of three colleges that offer inexpensive associate and bachelor’s programs: the College of Legal Studies, the College of Health and Sciences, and the College of Business, Accounting, and Technology. NAU Sioux Falls also offers intensive degree options that allow students to complete a bachelor’s program within 12 or 18 months. Students may pursue degrees in areas such as healthcare, nursing, and criminal justice as well as information technology, business, and accounting. Students benefit from career services that include interview preparation, assistance with cover letters and resumes, and career counseling.
In-State Tuition: $15,000
Out-of-State Tuition: $15,000
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 4:1
Graduation Rate: N/A
12. Dakota State University
Madison, South Dakota
Dakota State University is one of the top-value colleges in South Dakota. Located in Madison, it enrolls more than 3,300 students each year. Although the school is known for its education programs, a second mission related to technology was added in 1984, allowing the school to specialize in cheap degree programs in computer information systems, computer management, and related fields. With more than 45 low-cost undergraduate majors and a number of graduate programs, DSU is the state’s designated information technology university. Students can choose from an array of cheap degree programs ranging from network and security administration to education, animation, biology, and business. At DSU, students will find engaging professors, research opportunities, and small classes, and DSU integrates the latest technology into all of its classes. Institutional organizations include the Student Senate, an internet radio station, and a student newspaper, while clubs revolve around athletics, academics, special interests, hobbies, service, and Greek life.
In-State Tuition: $9,276
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,249
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Graduation Rate: 47 percent
11. Black Hills State University
Spearfish, South Dakota
Located in Spearfish, Black Hills State University is a best-value public university that operates an additional learning center in Rapid City as well as online. BHSU confers more than 60 cheap degrees, certificates, and minor programs in the natural sciences, math and social sciences, education, business, the behavioral sciences, and the arts and humanities. Popular inexpensive degree programs at this affordable university in South Dakota include tourism and hospitality management, science communication, accounting, and art education. Low-cost online bachelor’s programs are available in either business administration or general studies. BHSU is known for its Master’s in Sustainability degree that students can complete entirely online. However, there is more to BHSU than rigorous academic programs; the gorgeous campus is conveniently located near dozens of outdoor activities such as canoeing, climbing, hiking. Clubs and organizations at BHSU revolve around academic, political, spiritual, recreational, music, social, and special interests.
In-State Tuition: $8,733
Out-of-State Tuition: $11,778
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 20:1
Graduation Rate: 34 percent
10. Northern State University
Aberdeen, South Dakota
Located in Aberdeen, Northern State University is a public university known for having one of the most breathtaking campuses in the state. Home to more than 26,000 people and within a short walk of downtown, NSU combines a green campus, modern facilities, and historic buildings. Students can choose from 59 low-cost academic degrees in traditional areas such as early childhood education, sociology, and finance. Undergraduates at this top-value school may also take advantage of an honors program, international studies, pre-professional degrees, and online learning. This cheap South Dakota college also emphasizes professional development and research through its Confucius Institute, Center for Excellence in International Business (CEIB), and the Undergraduate Research Program. Students from both Dakotas, Minnesota, and Iowa enjoy reduced tuition costs and benefit from in-state rates. NSU is home to 50 student organizations as well as 15 athletic programs.
In-State Tuition: $8,497
Out-of-State Tuition: $11,470
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
Graduation Rate: 48 percent
9. Augustana University
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Established in 1860, Augustana University is the largest private university in South Dakota. This top-value university in South Dakota, located in Sioux Falls, is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and offers more than 100 inexpensive majors, minors, and pre-professional programs in areas of study that include chemical physics, anthropology, and sports management. Augustana is also one of only a few in the state to confer a dual major in engineering in which students complete general education coursework and a Bachelor of Arts in a major of their choice from Augustana and a degree in an engineering specialty from either Washington University in St. Louis or Columbia University. Outside of the classroom, Augies can take advantage of a multifaceted, engaging student life, ranging from a host of student organizations and clubs to Augustana’s First-Year Experience which connects new students with each other and the Augustana community while developing academic and leadership skills.
In-State Tuition: $33,018
Out-of-State Tuition: $33,018
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Graduation Rate: 70 percent
8. Mount Marty College
Yankton, South Dakota
Located in Yankton, Mount Marty College is a private Benedictine liberal arts institution and one of the most affordable colleges in South Dakota. Established in 1936, the school revolves around the four Benedictine values of community, hospitality, lifelong learning, and an awareness of God that guide each of its students. Mount Marty enrolls more than 725 students, 96 percent of whom receive financial aid, in more than 25 economical undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Areas of study from this low-cost school include business administration, medical laboratory science, and elementary education. Mount Marty is also one of only a few institutions in the state to offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in nursing, providing students with advanced and extensive clinical experience at a major hospital in South Dakota. Post-graduate workshops for professional teachers, dual-credit pathways for high school students, and study-abroad opportunities are also available. With one-on-one attention and small classes, students have direct access to their professors and develop strong mentoring relationships with them. Students can choose from more than 21 clubs and organizations as well as intramural and intercollegiate athletics.
In-State Tuition: $27,276
Out-of-State Tuition: $27,276
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Graduation Rate: 51 percent
7. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
Rapid City, South Dakota
Located in Rapid City, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is unique in that it focuses solely on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields of study. Established in 1885 as the Dakota School of Mines, SD Mines offers affordable associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees to more than 2,700 students from 44 states and 30 countries. Cheap degree programs include mining engineering, metallurgical engineering, geology and geological engineering, and atmospheric sciences along with popular degrees such as biomedical engineering, computer science, and civil engineering. Given the nature of these programs, SD Mines focuses on experiential learning, and many classes include real-world activities and hands-on projects that allow students to build practical skills. Programs such as mining or geological engineering are also comprised of classes conducted at mining sites and outdoors. The school is often recognized as the best-value college in South Dakota as its affordable tuition and high starting salaries for graduates provide a fantastic return on investment.
In-State Tuition: $10,560
Out-of-State Tuition: $14,820
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Graduation Rate: 50 percent
6. University of South Dakota
Vermillion, South Dakota
Located in Vermillion, the University of South Dakota is a public coeducational research institution. Established in 1862, this affordable university in South Dakota is both the flagship university for South Dakota as well as the state’s oldest public university. USD offers 205 low-cost undergraduate programs and 75 graduate degrees in areas of study such as business, education and teaching, the performing arts, engineering, art and design, science and technology, and medicine, health, and wellness. USD students may participate in a number of research programs through the school’s Center for Academic and Global Engagement which provides funding opportunities, networking, and mentorship to help students become professionals. USD is home to the National Music Museum, a “musical Smithsonian” that spans more than 500 years of music with more than 15,000 non-Western, European, and American instruments. More than 120 student organizations and NCAA Division I athletic teams are also offered.
In-State Tuition: $9,061
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,425
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
Graduation Rate: 58 percent
5. South Dakota State University
Brookings, South Dakota
Founded in 1881 as an agricultural school, South Dakota State University is the largest and oldest continually-operating institution of higher education in the state. Recognized as a public land-, sun-, and space-grant university, SDSU is comprised of nine distinct colleges that confer nearly 200 cheap undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as a handful of professional and certificate programs. From interior design and German to public relations and exercise science, students from all backgrounds with varying goals and interests can find a major to meet their needs. Nontraditional and adult learners may also pursue cheap programs through online and evening courses provided by the Office of Continuing and Distance Education. Enrichment programs, including study-abroad options, senior internships, and the First-Year Experience provide students with opportunities for professional development and social engagement. There is no shortage of things to do on campus, either; this affordable South Dakota university offers 200 unique student organizations to its more than 12,000 students.
In-State Tuition: $8,764
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,128
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Graduation Rate: 56 percent
4. National American University-Ellsworth AFB Extension
Ellsworth, South Dakota
In addition to its Sioux Falls location listed above, National American University operates locations at Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB) as well as at King’s Bay Naval Submarine Base. Established in 1874, the Ellsworth AFB extension has been serving retired, National Guard, reserve, and active-duty personnel as well as veterans receiving VA benefits, military families, base contractors, DOD employees and their dependents, and residents of nearby Box Elder. The Ellsworth location belongs to NAU’s College of Military Studies, and students can choose from low-cost Associate of Applied Science and Bachelor of Science programs that meet the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) requirements for social science, math, humanities, written communications, and oral communications. Well-trained faculty members at this affordable South Dakota college include former and current service members who can assist students in utilizing military educational benefits, receiving credit for qualified military training, and choosing a degree plan.
In-State Tuition: $6,075
Out-of-State Tuition: $6,075
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 8:1
Graduation Rate: N/A
3. Sinte Gleska University
Mission, South Dakota
Located on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Mission, Sinte Gleska University is a private American Indian tribal college that enrolls around 800 part- and full-time students each year. This low-cost college in South Dakota is dedicated to developing and providing programs that preserve the culture and history of First Nations People as well as offering career development and educational opportunities to Native American students. SGU confers affordable certificate and degree programs in traditional fields such as human services, elementary education, and computer science as well as programs that directly relate to tribal topics such as a Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Lakota studies and a degree in business management with an emphasis on tribal management. Both the Tiwahe Glu Kini Pi Society of Care Expansion Program and the Sicangu Heritage Center provide ample opportunities for spiritual and community engagement. The tuition is among the lowest in the state, but financial aid is available for those who qualify.
In-State Tuition: $3,154
Out-of-State Tuition: $3,154
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Graduation Rate: 11 percent
2. Oglala Lakota College
Kyle, South Dakota
With the lowest tuition on our list, Oglala Lakota College has rightfully earned its place among the top affordable colleges in South Dakota. Located in Kyle, OLC is a public tribal community college that serves the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and enrolls 1,400 part- and full-time students each year. Students looking for cheap college courses in South Dakota can pursue top-value undergraduate and graduate degrees in a range of fields, including bachelor’s degrees in social work, leadership and communication, social science, elementary education, information technology, and natural science. As expected of an institution grounded in the history and culture of Native tribes, OLC also provides programs in Lakota studies and Lakota studies education for aspiring K-12 teachers. OLC is one of only a few colleges in the state to provide a master’s degree in Lakota leadership in management. Outside of the classroom, OLC implements a unique weekly incentive for perfect attendance, providing monetary awards every three weeks to students with perfect attendance based on their level of enrollment. Students also have plenty of opportunities to participate in athletics or join student organizations.
In-State Tuition: $2,684
Out-of-State Tuition: $2,684
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11:1
Graduation Rate: 11 percent
1. Dakota Wesleyan University
Mitchell, South Dakota
Dakota Wesleyan University is ranked as our best affordable college in South Dakota. Located in Mitchell, it is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and enrolls around 950 students each year. Established in 1885, DWU provides an education that is hands-on, personalized, and focused on honoring each student’s strengths in faith, leadership, academics, and service. Students can choose from more than 40 low-cost majors and minors, four pre-professional programs, and two graduate programs offered through three colleges: the College of Arts and Humanities, the College of Leadership and Public Service, and the Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness, and Sciences. Areas of study at this top-value school include wildlife management, education, healthcare, criminal justice, and business. The school emphasizes experiential learning, and more than 80 percent of students engage in applied learning experiences such as mission work, clinical experiences, and internships, while 85 percent of students conduct independent research. As a result, learning outcomes include 100 percent job placement rates for athletic training graduates and nurses. Students may participate in 30 clubs and organizations or cheer on 15 intercollegiate athletic teams.
In-State Tuition: $27,640
Out-of-State Tuition: $27,640
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 9:1
Graduation Rate: 60 percent
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Most In-Demand Careers in South Dakota for Graduates with a Bachelor’s Degree?
The Labor Market Information Center at the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation has compiled a list of hot careers for the purpose of helping job-seekers and individual career planners identify the occupations with the most favorable job outlook. The following 10 jobs are South Dakota’s occupations with the highest projected demand and highest wages between 2016 and 2026 as well as the annual percentage of growth during these 10 years. All of the occupations listed below can be pursued with a bachelor’s degree.
- Registered Nurses: 13.9 percent
- Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers: 12.9 percent
- Management Analysts: 12.8 percent
- Loan Interviews and Clerks: 12.6 percent
- Loan Officers: 11.6 percent
- Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products: 10.9 percent
- Coaches and Scouts: 10.6 percent
- Parts Salespersons: 10.2 percent
- Insurance Sales Agents: 10.0 percent
- Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters: 10.0 percent
What Are the Highest-Paying Jobs in South Dakota?
Students who know the industry in which they would like to work may benefit from learning more about the top-paying jobs in these sectors. Similarly, students who have yet to choose a major or career path may find data related to projected salaries useful as they narrow down their options. We consulted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) who calculated occupational wage and employment estimates using data collected from all employers in every industry across nonmetropolitan and metropolitan areas throughout South Dakota. According to the BLS, the annual mean wage for all occupations was $41,800 as of May 2018. The top five highest-paying jobs in South Dakota as of this timeframe include:
- Anesthesiologists: $293,110
- Internists, General: $287,890
- Obstetricians and Gynecologists: $274,250
- Chief Executives: $251,950
- Physicians and Surgeons, All Other: $227,710
Although the above careers can be obtained by using a bachelor’s degree as a stepping stone for medical school, we also wanted to focus on several well-paying careers that undergraduates could pursue immediately after completing their studies. Below are 10 occupations with six-figure salaries for which a student may be well-suited with either a bachelor’s degree alone or with a bachelor’s and additional hands-on experience, training, certification, and/or licensure.
- Marketing Managers: $145,400
- Purchasing Managers: $139,200
- Computer and Information Systems Managers: $132,190
- Financial Managers: $132,030
- Architectural and Engineering Managers: $130,230
- Sales Managers: $128,760
- General and Operations Managers: $125,490
- Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents: $113,460
- Sales Engineers: $112,570
- Natural Sciences Managers: $105,190
What are the Best Schools in South Dakota for Bachelor’s Recipients?
Choosing an affordable college in South Dakota is no easy feat. After all, you must take the time to consider majors, extracurriculars, opportunities for experiential learning, and tuition rates, just to name a few. However, it is also important to research how your investment will pay off down the road. Whether you know the institution you would like to attend or you are looking to earn a degree from the school with the highest payoff over the next 20 years, we can help. Below, you will find a list of the top five best schools in South Dakota for on-campus, in-state students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree without financial assistance. We have ranked these institutions in order from the highest 20-year net return on investment (ROI), or the amount a graduate will earn over the course of two decades after completing a program, to the lowest ROI, according to PayScale. Early- and mid-career salary earnings are also provided based on the cost of tuition for a bachelor’s degree alone.
- 1. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
– 20-Year Net ROI: $635,000
– Early Career Pay: $65,800
– Mid-Career Pay: $113,700
- 2. Dakota State University
– 20-Year Net ROI: $301,000
– Early Career Pay: $48,200
– Mid-Career Pay: $77,200
- 3. Presentation College
– 20-Year Net ROI: $262,000
– Early Career Pay: $52,500
– Mid-Career Pay: $85,000
- 4. South Dakota State University
– 20-Year Net ROI: $235,000
– Early Career Pay: $49,800
– Mid-Career Pay: $87,600
- 5. University of South Dakota
– 20-Year Net ROI: $208,000
– Early Career Pay: $46,900
– Mid-Career Pay: $87,600
With specialized programs in the STEM fields, it is no surprise that South Dakota School of Mines & Technology tops our list of the best school for students looking for a solid financial investment. Graduates can easily find high-paying work in fields such as technology and engineering, making it one of the best-value STEM-focused public colleges in the country. In fact, the school’s 20-year net ROI more than doubles that of the next-highest institution, Dakota State University, a university that also focuses heavily on technology. Understanding how the money you spend on your college tuition will pay off down the road is an important aspect of comparing the best affordable colleges in South Dakota for bachelor’s degrees and selecting the one that best meets your goals without breaking the bank.
This concludes our ranking of the top 15 best affordable colleges in South Dakota for bachelor’s degrees in 2020.
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