2024 Top Online Colleges in South Dakota

Scroll down to see the top not-for-profit colleges and universities in South Dakota offering online degree programs.

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South Dakota’s public universities use a standardized system for online credits, meaning that prices and policies are nearly the same from one school to the next. There’s still a lot to know, however. For instance: Where can you find the program you’re interested in?

This quick guide will show you the basics of a South Dakota online education, whether you’re just in high school or looking to finish your degree. It covers the most affordable online schools, discusses the importance of accreditation, and links you to essential distance learning resources.

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South Dakota State University

South Dakota State University offers one associate degree (an A.A. in General Studies); six bachelor's degrees (a B.G.S. in General Studies, a B.S. in Geography, a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies, a B.S. in Medical Laboratory Science, an RN to B.S. in Nursing, and a B.S. in Sociology); thirteen master's degrees (an M.S. in Agricultural Education, an M.S. in Chemistry - Chemical Education, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, an M.S. in Dietetics, an M.Ed. in Educational Administration, an M.S. in Human Sciences - Family & Community Services, an M.S in Human Sciences with concentrations in Family & Consumer Sciences Education, Family Financial Planning, and Merchandising, an M.M.C. in Mass Communication, an M.S. in Nursing, an M.P.H. in Public Health, and an M.S. in Sociology - Community Development); and several professional certifications. Classes begin in January, May, and August, and financial aid is available for online students. South Dakota State University partners with many community colleges and technical institutes to make it easy for students to transfer in. They also maintain course-by-course equivalency with many schools. Students should request more specific information to see how their credits will transfer.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

Dakota State University

For online students, Dakota State University offers a multitude of degrees including thirteen bachelor's degrees (B.B.A.s in Accounting, Management, Marketing, and Business Technology; B.S. degrees in Computer Science, Health Information Administration, Cyber Operations, Network and Security Administration, Professional Accountancy, Information Systems and Professional and Technical Communication; a B.S.E. in Elementary Education/Special Education; and a B.G.S. in General Studies); four associate degrees (A.S. degrees in Business Management, Health Information Technology, and Network and Security Administration as well as an A.A. in General Studies); seven master's degrees (an M.B.A. and also M.S. degrees in Analytics, Science in Applied Computer Science, Educational Technology, Health Informatics, Information Assurance and Computer Security, and Information Systems); two doctoral programs (Doctor of Science in Cyber Security and Doctor of Science in Information Systems); as well as several professional certificates. Classes begin in January, May, June, and August. DSU offers a self-support rate so that students do not have to pay the same fees on-campus students would, and financial aid is available for online students.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

Northern State University

Northern State University offers 15 online degree programs. Online associate's degrees are available in general studies, gerontology and banking and financial services, and six online bachelor's degrees are available in subjects like international business studies, general studies, banking and financial services, business administration, management and marketing. Online master's degrees are offered in banking and financial services, instructional design in e-learning, training and development in e-learning, leadership and administration, teaching and learning and music education. Northern State University delivers all online courses via the Desire2Learn learning management system.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

Black Hills State University

Black Hills State University has online degree programs at the bachelor's and master's level. The Bachelor of General Studies is a degree-completion program for adults who already have some college credits. Students in this program select three emphasis areas in fields such as education, business, and allied health. Students in the online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration program have a management specialization. Master's programs available online include strategic leadership and sustainability. Educators can earn a master's in reading, secondary education, or curriculum and instruction.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

Dakota Wesleyan University

Dakota Wesleyan University offers a Bachelor of Arts degree completion program that is available 100 percent online. Students who pursue a full-time plan of study can expect to earn the degree in 24 months. A maximum of 63 credits earned from an associate degree from an accredited institution can be transferred towards this degree. Courses are delivered following an eight-week format and the program has three start dates throughout the year. The university's online RN to BSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Students can transfer up to 71 credit-hours from an associate degree and earn up to 12 credit-hours from professional work experience. The Master of Arts in Education (M.A. Ed.) degree offers two program areas - education policy and administration (36 credit-hours) and secondary certification (39 credit-hours). Both programs can be pursued entirely online and each one can be completed in 15 months. The online Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Dakota Wesleyan University has a distinct focus on small and medium-sized businesses. The program has no residency requirement and can be completed within 24 months on a full-time basis. Students have the option of pursuing the degree following a part-time plan of study.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

Augustana University

The Master of Arts in Education degree from Augustana University follows a cohort model of education and can be earned 100 percent online. The program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and a teaching license, or be eligible for licensure. The degree consists of 30 credits and can be completed over 19 to 24 months. Students accepted to the program follow a prescribed sequence of courses and can transfer up to nine credits previously earned from an accredited program or institution. The MA in Education degree is a non-thesis program. Students can choose from five areas of specialization currently being offered: instructional strategies, reading, special populations, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), and technology in the classroom. The cost of the program is determined by cohort and the rate of tuition is maintained throughout the program. The university also offers several online non-degree certificates for teachers seeking license renewals, career advancement, or professional development. These certificate courses are self-paced and grouped according to specific areas of interest. Qualified online students can apply for the same scholarship and financial aid opportunities as on-campus students.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

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Online Degrees in South Dakota: What to Know

1. Find Online Degree Options at Public Universities in One Place

The Electronic University Consortium (EUC) keeps a catalog of distance education programs offered at the six public universities run by the South Dakota Board of Regents. Each undergraduate program listed here has the same price, as does each graduate program. Coming from out of state? There’s no distinction between South Dakotans and nonresidents for tuition.

Now for the downside: The EUC website’s list of academic programs is not updated as frequently as it needs to be, resulting in a lot of dead links. Plus, some programs may not be listed. Therefore, treat the EUC as a starting point in your research rather than as a one-stop shop.

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2. Maximize Dual Credits in High School

As a high schooler, you can take up to 9 college credits per semester over your junior and senior years — equal to over a year of college (and secondary school) coursework — while paying roughly one-sixth of the price a registered college student would pay. It’s all thanks to the state’s dual credit program, which has partnered with the six public universities of the South Dakota Board of Regents. A credit earned at one will be honored at any of the others when you enroll in university.

To find these courses, look at the SD Department of Education’s statewide dual credit course schedule, known as the Dual Credit Dashboard, and filter based on desired subject and/or location.

Because South Dakota is a predominantly rural state, distance learning is a big selling point. Most of the schools offer online options: Black Hills State University, Dakota State University, Northern State University (labelled INT-Internet/On-Line in the Dashboard), South Dakota State University and University of South Dakota. You can also take courses online from any of the four state technical institutes, although credits from these will not necessarily transfer to state universities.

3. Take Free Advanced Placement Courses Online

Another way to get college credit in high school is through the South Dakota Virtual School, which allows high school students to take online courses that aren’t available at their local school. The local school district usually covers the cost. This represents a great way to maximize Advanced Placement (AP) credits no matter your location. If you score a 3 or better on the subsequent AP test, many colleges will grant you college credit. All you’ll have paid for is the test registration.

4. Extend Your Search by Using Reciprocity Agreements

South Dakotans can reduce their tuition costs at public colleges and universities in other states using reciprocity agreements. There are two to know about.

The first is the Minnesota/South Dakota Reciprocity Program, which automatically applies a lower rate to students within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. If you want to go to a school within the University of Minnesota system, apply for reciprocity first through the South Dakota Board of Regents.

The second is the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), which runs reciprocity programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Affordable Online Schools in South Dakota

Not many schools in South Dakota are able to meet our tough criteria for both affordability and quality. In the past, many public universities qualified, but in 2018, only one school (and it’s private) made it onto our list. If you can’t decide between options, pay a visit to College Scorecard. You’ll be able to see graduation rates, costs and average debt upon leaving.

Online Schools in South Dakota with Accreditation & Quality Concerns

The South Dakota Secretary of State’s office is tasked with authorizing colleges and universities to operate. But you’ll want more than that before embarking on an online degree. Fortunately, because South Dakota has relatively few postsecondary institutions, checking a school’s quality is straightforward and painless. Your first step should be to analyze its accreditation status.

  • The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), is a regional accreditor. Students at colleges with the HLC stamp of approval are eligible for federal financial aid. Additionally, the credits they earn are typically transferable. Search for HLC institutions in South Dakota on the HLC website.
  • Once there, click on any “Public Disclosure Notices” at schools you are interested in. These may indicate negative actions the HLC has taken against the school, including placing it on notice (potentially bad), probation (bad) or show-cause (very bad).
  • Not every South Dakota degree-granting institution is HLC-accredited. Some, such as career colleges, seek national accreditation. Students at nationally accredited colleges can still claim federal financial aid, but their credits may not transfer to regionally accredited colleges. For a full list of all regionally and nationally accredited institutions, check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) Database.

It’s not uncommon for a school to run into regulatory issues, but you don’t want to enroll in one that makes a habit of it. The following schools have found themselves in varying degrees of trouble with accreditors and government departments in recent years:

  • Globe University-Sioux Falls

    Globe University is a Minnesota-based chain of schools. In 2016 the Minnesota Office of Higher Education revoked Globe University’s operating license due to deceptive marketing practices related to its Criminal Justice program. Trouble quickly spread across the chain, and later that year, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) ruled that all Globe campuses, including the Sioux Falls location, would be barred from offering federal financial aid to students, making Globe degrees practically unaffordable.

  • Sinte Gleska University

    HLC placed Sinte Gleska on notice in fall 2015, meaning it is “at risk of being out of compliance” with HLC’s accreditation standards. The accreditor had “concerns relating to governance, resources, administrative structures, academic rigor, assessment of student learning, faculty, and planning.” The university remains fully accredited while on notice and has two years to address HLC’s concerns.

  • Sioux Falls Seminary

    HLC placed Sioux Falls Seminary on probation in early 2015, meaning it’s out of compliance with HLC’s accreditation standards. This is due to HLC “concerns related to resources, governance and administrative structures, strategic planning, and systematic improvement.” The seminary remains fully accredited while on probation and has two years to address HLC’s concerns.

  • Western Dakota Technical Institute

    HLC placed Western Dakota Tech, which offers online courses, on probation in early 2016, meaning it’s out of compliance with HLC’s accreditation standards. This is due to HLC “concerns related to assessment of student learning, persistence and completion rates, and institutional effectiveness.” The institute remains fully accredited while on probation and has two years to address HLC’s concerns.

South Dakota Online Education Resources


  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC): HLC is the regional accreditor for South Dakota’s college and universities. Use its website to verify a school’s overall quality.

Distance Learning Resources

  • SDMyLife: SDMyLife, which is maintained by the South Dakota Department of Education, is a website aimed at Dakotan degree and career seekers of all ages. SDMyLife is most useful for online students as a gateway to the Dual Credit Dashboard, where they can select classes to take for both secondary and postsecondary credit.
  • South Dakota Board of Regents (SDBOR): SDBOR oversees public higher education at the university level in the state. Since the six state universities use common initiatives, that makes SDBOR a good resource for finding out about things such as dual credit in high school, the Minnesota/South Dakota Reciprocity Program, and online degree offerings.
  • South Dakota Virtual School: Through the South Dakota Virtual School, secondary schoolers can take online courses as needed for free without enrolling in a full-time online high school.
  • Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE): WICHE runs two reciprocity programs — the Western Undergraduate Exchange and the Western Regional Graduate Program — that South Dakotans can participate in to score reduced tuition at public schools from Alaska to Arizona.
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Online Degree & Course Catalogs

  • Electronic University Consortium (EUC): EUC features a handy list of programs available from the six public universities in South Dakota. The site isn’t maintained year-round, so don’t take it as gospel.



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