Best Universities & Colleges in South Dakota for 2021

These are the 10 top schools, both online and traditional, located in the state of South Dakota. Scroll through the list below and get all the information you need about each institution.

Online Colleges in South Dakota

Compare all of the best distance education colleges located in South Dakota to pursue an online bachelors degree, associates, or online masters program degree. Including cost of tuition, degrees they offer, enrollment rates, faculty, famous alumni, and more.

  • Augustana University Seal

    Augustana University

    Sioux Falls, South Dakota

    Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
    • 1,837 Total Students
    • 65% Acceptance Rate
    • 39% Enrollment Rate
    • 10 to 1 Student to Faculty Ratio
    • 1,463 Total Applicants
    • Yes Online Programs

    It was in 1835 that AU’s predecessor institute began as Hillsboro Academy founded by the Scandinavian immigrants in the region. It was based in Hillsboro III. The institute changed names and locations throughout its time and with incoming Norwegian and Swedish settlers in the region, their church leaders soon turned it into Augstana Seminary. However, even this did not remain permanent and after separating from the Swedes, it changed names and places under Norwegian leadership. It was in 1926 that it found its permanent home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and after a long struggle, in 2015 became a university.

    Today, Augustana University operates as a Liberal Arts college carrying years of Norwegian heritage and in affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Because of its changing locations over its entire journey, it has been called by many historians as ‘the college on the wheels’, however with all its struggles, it takes pride in having educated some of the influencing figures in the country including Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln and former Secretary of State John Hay.

    Life at Augustana invites students to be part of the Viking community. It provides them with student associations and clubs, co curricular activities, recreation and spiritual call. Students groups include Honor Societies, Media and Advocacy groups and others. There is thriving arts scene on the campus which includes theatre and musical performances. These art activities are also involved in outreach programs. The university is also not without tradition; it holds Family Weekend, semester Shutdown and many more fun events. Recreation includes outdoor activities and Intramural sports are also enthusiastically pursued by the students. The university also has its athletic teams that participate in NCAA Division II and the campus colors are Gold and Navy Blue.

    The academic offerings at the university include undergraduate programs, having 50 majors. There are pre professional programs as well. The college also provides research as well as internship opportunities. Its notable facilities include Mikkelsen Library.

    AU School Facts

    • Years Estd.1860
    • NicknameVikings
    • MascotOle the Viking
    • MottoVerbum Dei manet in aeternum
    • Motto Eng.The Word of God endures forever
    • ColorsNavy blue and gold
    • LocationSouth Dakota
    • AthleticsBaseball, Basketbal, Football, Soccer, Tennis, Volleyball, Softball, Golf, Wrestling, Track and Field, Cross Country, Swimming
    • Religious AffiliationEvangelical Lutheran Church

    Famous AU Alumni

    • John Hamre

      Education & Advocacy

      CEO of Center for Strategic and International Studies

    • David Lillehaug

      Politics & Law

      Serves as the Associate Justice at Minnesota Supreme Court

    • Robert M. Berdahl

      Education & Advocacy

      Presently serving as interim President of the University of Oregon and has remained Chancellor at UC Berkeley

    • Nancy Erickson

      Politics & Law

      Formerly served as the Secretary of the United States Senate

    • David Soul

      Entertainment & Arts

      An actor; has worked in Television Series Starsky and Hutch

    • Heath Rylance

      Professional Sports

      Plays as CFL quarterback

    • Lars Forssell

      Education & Advocacy

      A Swedish writer as well as a member of the Swedish Academy

    • Linda Avey

      Business & Industry

      Co-founder of 23andme


  • Black Hills State University Seal

    Black Hills State University

    Spearfish, South Dakota

    Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota
    • 4,395 Total Students
    • 84% Acceptance Rate
    • 45% Enrollment Rate
    • 19 to 1 Student to Faculty Ratio
    • 1,385 Total Applicants
    • Yes Online Programs

    BHSU started its journey in 1883 when Joseph Ramsdell gathered funds with assistance from John Wolzmuth, Frank J. Washabaugh, and E.M. Bowman and bought a piece of land. The vision was to set up a normal school in the region and so with the funds collected and the land purchased, a building was set up and classes began the same year. The institute faced financial difficulty in its early years however that did not stop it from making progress. It was in 1989 that the university was given its present name by the order of State Legislature.

    At present, the university is the third largest public university in South Dakota and is situated in Spearfish. With its innovative approach towards education, it brings academics along with opportunities for leadership, scholarship and critical thinking bringing discipline into the lives of its students both personal and professional.

    With aspirations high for its students, Black Hills State University brings campus life filled with unique traditions and learning opportunities. Keeping its students connected to the university’s history, here is a tradition of laying flowers on the gravestones of former presidents of the institute. Some of the fun traditions are where the students celebrate Native American culture and the Summer Theatre, where students bring stage performances. Props and Liners is the university’s oldest club, a theatrical club working since 1920. The homecoming at the university is celebrated through the Swarm Week which includes football game, Hike to the H, Parade and few other events. There is a huge enthusiasm about athletics at the university; there is a Yellow Jacket Club which raises funds for the athletics. The university also has its fight song and is member of the NCAA Division II. Its mascot is ‘Sting the Yellow Jacket’. The campus colors are Green and Gold.

    Its academic offerings consist of 75 programs including Associate, Bachelor’s and Master’s degree program. It also offers 20 Pre Professional programs. Its prestigious buildings and facilities are E.Y. Berry Library-Learning Center, Donald E. Young Sports and Fitness Center and others.

    BHSU School Facts

    • Years Estd.1883
    • NicknameYellow Jackets
    • MascotSting the Yellow Jacket
    • MottoWhere Anything is Possible
    • ColorsGreen and Gold
    • LocationSouth Dakota
    • Religious AffiliationNot applicable

    Famous BHSU Alumni

    • Creighton Leland Robertson

      Social Advocacy & Service

      Held office as the 9th Episcopal bishop of South Dakota

    • Ryan Maher

      Politics & Law

      A South Dakota politician

    • Jillian Balow

      Politics & Law

      Serving as the Wyoming superintendent of public instruction, effective 2015

    • Clint Roberts

      Politics & Law

      Former United States Representative for South Dakota, 2nd congressional district from 1981 to 1983

    • Brian Shaw

      Professional Sports

      is the leading American strongman; the two time winner of the World Strongest Man competition, in 2011 and 2013

    • Bruce Williams

      Entertainment & Arts

      One of the members of the comedy duo, Williams and Ree


  • Dakota State University

    Madison, South Dakota

    • 3,145 Total Students
    • 81% Acceptance Rate
    • 47% Enrollment Rate
    • 18 to 1 Student to Faculty Ratio
    • 912 Total Applicants
    • Yes Online Programs

    DSU is a private university that had its start in 1881 as Madison Normal School with the simple aim of producing formally trained teachers. It was the first school set up for the purpose in Dakota Territory and after it was established as a state in 1889, it changed into a state school. Over the time, it went from a normal school to a college and in 1969 it was named as Dakota State College by South Dakota Legislature.

    Based in Madison, South Dakota, it was renamed once again in 1989 as Dakota State University as it transitioned into a university. The institute focuses on technology and innovation, preparing students for globally changing societies and economies and shaping their ideas for active engagement.

    At Dakota State University the students find every resource and opportunity aligned with its mission of providing global exposure and a campus life full of experiences. The student life begins with the huge variety of student led clubs and organisations present on campus, including academic, recreation, religion, and many others. There is also the Student Association Senate which is primary leadership skill development platform and so works for promoting student interests and activities on campus. For leadership, there are also Student Ambassadors which represent the DSU to the community and as well as prospective students. For organising and planning student events, such as comedy shows, game shows and dances, there is Student Activities Board. There are also Honor societies operating at the campus. Students also involve in community service by engaging in creating awareness towards causes; it collaborates with American Cancer Society Colleges Against Cancer and supports their campaigns. The university also has its athletic teams, called ‘Trojans’ which are members at NAIA. The official colors are Yellow and Reflex Blue.

    The academic programs offered at the university are undergraduate programs with more than 35 majors, seven Master programs, two Doctoral programs and four graduate certificates. Its prominent facilities are the Karl E. Mundt Library and Beadle Hall.

    DSU School Facts

    • Years Estd.March 5, 1881 (1881-03-05)
    • NicknameTrojans
    • MottoTechnically, we're better.
    • ColorsYellow and Reflex Blue
    • LocationSouth Dakota
    • Religious AffiliationNot applicable

  • Dakota Wesleyan University Seal

    Dakota Wesleyan University

    Mitchell, South Dakota

    Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota
    • 991 Total Students
    • 74% Acceptance Rate
    • 37% Enrollment Rate
    • 10 to 1 Student to Faculty Ratio
    • 644 Total Applicants
    • Yes Online Programs

    DWU is a private four year higher education institute that traces its history to the year 1885. It began when a group of Dakota Conference of the Methodist Church members in the region felt the need for an institute integrated in Christian thought and got approved a charter, finding Dakota University. The university remained steadfast on its mission even as the Great Depression hit, providing education to even those with limited resources.

    It was in 1904 that the university was renamed as Dakota Wesleyan University. Based in Mitchell, South Dakota, the university has become the backbone of its community by providing them with leaders and community members highest in thought, intellect and, moral and ethical standards.

    Caring for its students to be among the best, DWU provides the best of opportunities encouraging growth among its students. The university employs Student Life Staff which looks after student matters related to housing, support, food, activities and other needs.  Students also find support and academic advising from Center for Talent Development, which helps explore strengths and work on weaknesses, set the right academic course and develop career goals. It also helps with internships and part time jobs, and holds Activity Fair providing students the chance to be introduced to businesses and companies. Life at campus also comes with fun and social engagement. Students find themselves developing relationships through participation in Student Government, 17 student led organisations and clubs or develop and showcase talent and creativity through Performing arts – music and theatre. Students also engage in spiritual practices through campus ministry, Bible studies and worship services. There is also focus on community service, as students put volunteering hours into serving the community for an entire day every semester. There are university athletic teams that participate at NAIA and campus colors are Royal Blue and White.

    The academic programs offered at DWU consist of undergraduate program over 40 majors and minors, four pre-professional programs and three Masters Degree programs. Its prestigious facilities are Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences and George and Eleanor McGovern Library and Center for Leadership and Public Service.

    DWU School Facts

    • Years Estd.1885
    • NicknameTigers
    • MottoSacrifice or Service
    • ColorsRoyal Blue & White
    • LocationSouth Dakota
    • AthleticsNAIA – GPAC
    • Religious AffiliationUnited Methodist

    Famous DWU Alumni

    • Kevin A. Casey

      Entertainment & Arts

      Writer, musician, and humorist

    • Clinton Presba Anderson

      Politics & Law

      Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Senator and also. Congressman from New Mexico

    • George Theodore Mickelson

      Politics & Law

      Formerly served as Governor of South Dakota

    • Francis Case

      Politics & Law

      Former Congressman from South Dakota

    • Stanley Hallett

      Social Advocacy & Service

      Urban planner and neighborhood advocate

    • Ed Meierkort

      Professional Sports

      Former head coach of football team of the South Dakota Coyotes

    • Jonathan Bane

      Professional Sports

      American football player


  • Mount Marty College Seal

    Mount Marty College

    Yankton, South Dakota

    • 1,190 Total Students
    • 73% Acceptance Rate
    • 38% Enrollment Rate
    • 11 to 1 Student to Faculty Ratio
    • 408 Total Applicants
    • Yes Online Programs

    Mount Marty College is a private Roman Catholic Benedictine higher education institute for liberal arts in Yankton, South Dakota. It was established in 1936 as a junior female college by Mother Jerome Schmitt. The college granted bachelor degree for the first time in 1951 and received accreditation from the North Central Association 10 years later. In 1967, the college held the first meeting for its board of trustees. Two years later, the high school section of Mount Marty was closed. The college was converted into a coeducational in 1969. It offered the first associate degree program in 1975, awarded the first master’s degree eight years later and the first diploma degree in 1999. The college started offering several courses at a branch campus at the Yankton Federal Prison Camp which was formerly the location for Yankton College.

    The college states that its mission is to provide education to prepare students to the current world, to participate in serving the community and develop personally. The college campus covers 80 acres offering several distinctive facilities and buildings as Marty Statue, Bede Hall & Chapel, Roncalli Dining Room, Whitby Hall Dorm Room, Mother Jerome Schmitt Library and Cimpl Arena & Activities Center. Additionally, the college operates two branch locations in Watertown and Sioux Falls. The official colors of the college are navy blue and gold while its mascot is called Lancer. Its athletic teams compete in the Great Plains Athletic Conference as members of NAIA.

    The college offers 23 undergraduate programs, 4 associate degree programs, 3 master’s degree programs and a doctoral degree program. Students have the chance to complete part of their studies in Europe through the college study abroad program. The college offers several scholarship programs for financial support of the students as F.W. Hatterscheidt Educational Scholarship and Bishop Hoch Deanery Scholarship.

    Mount Marty School Facts

    • Years Estd.1936
    • MascotLancer
    • ColorsNavy Blue & Gold
    • LocationSouth Dakota
    • AthleticsNAIA
    • Religious AffiliationRoman Catholic

  • National American University Seal

    National American University

    Rapid City, South Dakota

    National American University in Rapid City, South Dakota
    • 1,298 Total Students
    • 12 to 1 Student to Faculty Ratio
    • Yes Online Programs

    National American University is a private for-profit higher education institute located in Rapid City, South Dakota. The university was founded in 1941 by Clarence Jacobson. It initially started as a one-year secretarial school operating in downtown Rapid City building under the name of National College of Business. In 1960, the college relocated to a newly constructed building at Kansas City Street which is currently administrative building for the Rapid City campus. Two years later, the college was purchased by Harold D. Buckingham and his family. The college was recognized by the Accrediting Commission of the Association of Independent Colleges as a junior college in 1966 before being accredited as a senior college 4 years later. In the following years, the college opened several branch campuses across the United States. In 1985, the college received another accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1996, the college started offering online courses and programs. It achieved in the following year the university status. In 2009, a holding publically traded corporation was established which is responsible for the administration for all campuses of the university in addition to other assets.

    The university states that its mission is to provide comprehensive education to diverse students. The university has more than 30 campuses located in 10 different states. The university decided in 2016 to close two of its campuses that were located in Weldon Spring and Tigard. The university also offers several online programs and courses.

    The university is divided into 4 colleges offering more than 120 programs. It grants bachelor, masters, associate and doctoral degrees. NAU is accredited by the higher learning commission. The university offers a number of scholarships for undergraduate, masters and doctoral students.

    NAU School Facts

    • Years Estd.1941
    • MottoQuality higher education in a caring and supportive environment.
    • ColorsRoyal Blue and White
    • LocationSouth Dakota
    • Religious AffiliationNot applicable

  • Northern State University Seal

    Northern State University

    Aberdeen, South Dakota

    • 3,449 Total Students
    • 72% Acceptance Rate
    • 33% Enrollment Rate
    • 18 to 1 Student to Faculty Ratio
    • 1,314 Total Applicants
    • Yes Online Programs

    Northern State University is a 4-year higher education institute located in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Efforts to establish the university started in 1885 which aimed at establishing government-funded institute under the name of “the University of Central Dakota”. Funds were secured for the institute two years later. Opening the college required more than a decade till the funds and the land were eventually allocated. The land for establishment of the college was donated by Andrew Melgaard which was located just south of the city limits. Construction of the campus started in 1901 and classes finally started in the following year and the school was then named “Northern Normal and Industrial School”. IN 1911, the school hosted a presidential speech delivered by the president of the United States, William Howard Taft. When the United States joined the World War I in 1917, students responded by joining the military forces during the celebration of “Loyalty Day”. After the end of the war the school was divided into 3 divisions; the pre-normal division, junior-normal division and senior-normal division. The school was then renamed “Northern State Teachers College”. The name of the college was changed again in 1964 to “Northern State College” before finally gaining its current in 1989 when it achieved the university status.

    The university campus covers 72 acres with several distinctive buildings as the H.P. Gerber building which hosts most of the university classes. Other important buildings include the Johnson Fine Arts Center and the Mewaldt Jensen building. The campus also offers 6 residence halls as Briscoe Hall, Jerde Hall, Kramer Hall and Wolves Memorial Hall. The university has 13 athletic teams competing in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference with the nickname Northern State Wolves. The official colors of the university are maroon and gold.

    The university is divided into 5 colleges and schools including one for graduate studies. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    NSU School Facts

    • Years Estd.1901 (1901)
    • NicknameWolves
    • MascotThunder the Wolf
    • MottoBe You. Be Us. Be Northern.
    • ColorsMaroon and Gold
    • LocationSouth Dakota
    • Religious AffiliationNot applicable

    Famous NSU Alumni

    • Ronnie Cruz

      Professional Sports

      American football player for the Dallas Cowboys

    • Cecil E. Harris

      Politics & Law

      United States Navy aviator

    • Joe Robbie

      Business & Industry

      original owner of the Miami Dolphins

    • David Sigdestad

      Education & Advocacy

      President of Emporia State University and Black Hills State University

    • Travis Lutter

      Professional Sports

      former mixed martial artist of the Ultimate Fighting Championship


  • Oglala Lakota College

    Kyle, South Dakota

    Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, South Dakota
    • 1,366 Total Students
    • 9 to 1 Student to Faculty Ratio
    • Yes Online Programs

    Oglala Lakota College (OLC) is a community college located in Kyle, South Dakota serving the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The college received its charter from the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council in 1971 under the name of “Lakota Higher Education Center”. During the first years, the college sought accreditation through agreements with other institutes as Black Hills State College, University of South Dakota, and University of Colorado. In 1974, the college offered its first associate degree. The name of the college was changed 4 years later to “Oglala Sioux Community College”. In 1979, the college became a candidate to receive accreditation from North Central Association accreditation. In the following year, the college decided to keep its decentralized campus which is distributed in each of the nine reservation districts. The college finally received its accreditation in 1983 allowing it to offer bachelor and associate degrees. In the same year, the college gained its current name. Oglala is currently administered by a Board of Trustees consisting of 13 members. It is a member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

    The college states that its mission is to prepare students to get professional or vocational employment opportunities in Lakota Country. The college campus is distributed into 9 neighborhoods with instructional centers in Rapid City and the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.

    The college is divided into 11 academic departments. It offers 16 associate degree, 12 bachelor degree and 2 master’s degree programs in addition a 1-year certificate program in Lakota Language. The college also offers several online courses. Oglala Lakota students have the chance to receive financial aid.

    OLC School Facts

    • Years Estd.1971
    • MottoRebuilding the Lakota Nation through Education
    • LocationSouth Dakota
    • Religious AffiliationNot applicable

  • Presentation College

    Aberdeen, South Dakota

    • 769 Total Students
    • 62% Acceptance Rate
    • 57% Enrollment Rate
    • 10 to 1 Student to Faculty Ratio
    • 305 Total Applicants
    • Yes Online Programs

    Presentation College is a private Catholic higher education institute located in South Dakota and Minnesota. The college was established in 1922 in Mitchell, South Dakota by the Right Reverend Monsignor J.M. Brady, Pastor of Holy Family Church. The college was initially named Notre Dame Junior College. In 1951, the Presentation Sisters got sponsorship of the college. The college was relocated to Aberdeen changing its name to Presentation College. The college operated temporarily at Butler Hall at the Presentation Convent before moving to its current campus in 1954. In 1966, the college started offering associate degree programs which was accredited in 1971 by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1980, the Cheyenne River Lakota Nursing School in Eagle Butte became part of Presentation College offering a satellite program of nursing. Ten years later, the college received approval to offer baccalaureate programs. In 1998, the Strode Activity Center was established. In the following year, a new student housing complex was opened. In 2003, the college opened a branch campus in Fairmont, Minnesota. In 2006, the college started partnership with Kilian Community College to offer a Bachelor of Science program in Social Work. The partnership ended in 2013 and the program was offered completely starting 2014 at the Aberdeen campus.

    PC main campus is located in Aberdeen, South Dakota with a branch campus in Fairmont, Minnesota. Prominent facilities on the main campus include Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Strode Activity Center, Saints Soccer Field and Winter Dome. The college athletic teams, compete in NAIA and NSAA. Their official mascot is called Spirit the Saint Bernard while their colors are green and gold.

    The college offers 17 bachelor and 5 associate degree programs. Additionally, the college offers the MSN graduate program preparing students to become family nurse practitioner or nurse educator. Almost all students enrolled at the college receive some sort of financial aid.

    PC School Facts

    • LocationSouth Dakota
    • Religious AffiliationRoman Catholic

  • University of South Dakota Seal

    University of South Dakota

    Vermillion, South Dakota

    University of South Dakota in Vermillion, South Dakota
    • 9,971 Total Students
    • 74% Acceptance Rate
    • 41% Enrollment Rate
    • 17 to 1 Student to Faculty Ratio
    • 4,218 Total Applicants
    • Yes Online Programs

    USD is a public institute and a research university which was founded as early as 1862, by the Dakota Territorial Legislature, before the founding of the same state. The founded institute never opened due to lack of funds, however, due to efforts and support from the locals, it was established again and resumed its operations after this period of 20 years.

    Based in Vermillion, South Dakota and being the oldest public institute in the state, it is the flagship university. With its world-class academic programs, and a progressive approach towards education involving innovation, creativity, research and inquiry, it continues to positively impact the lives of its students.

    The University of South Dakota offers every academic and non-academic resource and support to its students. At the campus, students enjoy participating at the student-run clubs and organizations of which more than 150 exist, ranging from arts, sports, cultural, media, and many more. There are also campus fraternities and sororities. Additionally, there is also the Student Government Association working in student interest and the programming board which is responsible for the organization and execution of student activities and events, all year round. Students interested in leadership development also find programs like Emerging Leaders Institute, Seminar Series, workshops and awards. Another opportunity for student representation is available through participation in the spirit squad; for cheering, dance or as the mascot. Students also enjoy traditional university events such as Dakota Days, Little Siblings Weekend, Family Weekend and others. Students find further support through counseling assistance and wellness support programs aimed at uplifting. Students also enjoy taking part in athletics with the university teams playing at NCAA Division I; the teams are called Coyotes. Official campus colors are Red and White.

    USD offers 205 undergraduate majors and academic programs and 75 graduate programs. Its notable facilities/departments include Theodore R. and Karen K. Muenster University Center, Al Neuharth Media Center, Beacom School of Business, McFadden Hall, Olson Hall and Mickelson Hall.

    USD School Facts

    • Years Estd.1862
    • NicknameCoyotes
    • MottoVeritas
    • Motto Eng.Truth
    • ColorsRed and White
    • LocationSouth Dakota
    • Religious AffiliationNot applicable

    Famous USD Alumni

    • Kay Schallenkamp

      Education & Advocacy

      President of Emporia State University, and later Black Hills State University

    • George E. "Bud" Day

      Social Advocacy & Service

      Retired Air Force colonel, ex-POW, and most highly decorated military officer since Douglas MacArthur

    • George S. Mickelson

      Politics & Law

      Former Governor of South Dakota

    • Greg Lansing

      Professional Sports

      Basketball head coach, Indiana State

    • Joe Robbie

      Professional Sports

      Original owner of the Miami Dolphins franchise

    • Gary Clayton Anderson

      Education & Advocacy

      Historian, specialist in American Indian studies, professor at the University of Oklahoma

    • Ernest O. Lawrence

      Science & Medicine

      Inventor of the cyclotron; winner of 1939 Nobel Prize for Physics; namesake of chemical element 103, lawrencium; participated in the Manhattan Project; brother of John H. Lawrence

    • Al Neuharth

      Business & Industry

      Founder of USA Today and the Freedom Forum, former CEO of Gannett

    • Marlon Young

      Business & Industry

      CEO of HSBC Private Banking, Americas

    • Yankton Dakota

      Social Advocacy & Service

      Counselor and activist



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