Best Liberal Arts Colleges in South Dakota 2022

Liberal arts colleges are a great option for students seeking a well-rounded education in an intimate campus setting. The best liberal arts colleges in South Dakota offer a diverse selection of degree programs with opportunities for a highly individualized educational experience.

Best Liberal Arts Colleges in South Dakota 2022

Colleges and Universities in South Dakota

Almost 20 higher education institutions award associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in the state, and only two schools exceed 5,000 in student population. The average college tuition in the state is $8,450, which is under the national average. Of the 11 public institutions, South Dakota State University is the largest with just over 10,000 students, and it has a tuition of $9,000.

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With a comparable tuition, the University of South Dakota is the second largest and located in Vermillion. Students can earn degrees in areas such as earth science, physics, and engineering. Eight private schools offer degrees ranging in tuition from $3,000 to $33,000. Many of these universities are religiously affiliated, Augustana University being the largest and most expensive. This Lutheran university is located in Sioux Falls and offers programs in economics, psychology, and biology. The most affordable colleges, Oglala Lakota College and Sinte Gleska University, are both tribal institutions charging $3,000 in fees.

Two monuments are carved into the rock of the Black Hills: Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. In addition to its majestic mountains, South Dakota’s lands are some of the richest in fossils. Badlands National Park is home to unique rock formations as well as the fossils of saber-toothed cats, three-toed horses, and ancient marine animals. With vast plains and unique mountains, South Dakota offers a stunning setting for students looking to earn their degree in The Mount Rushmore State.

Find out more about the top programs and higher education opportunities available in South Dakota.


What are South Dakota’s Colleges & Universities?

South Dakota’s Best Overall

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

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How do we determine South Dakota's best liberal arts colleges?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great! If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence in their fields of study.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is freer from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

To rank the influence of schools, we first determine the influence of scholars and professionals based on the number of citations and publications they have had over the past 10 years. In addition to publications and citations, we consider the web links to and from these sources, and the page views of those sources. We then match the influential people to their alma maters and institutions of employment, so that their influence is attributed to those schools. Our machine-learning Influence Ranking algorithm produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data. If you are interested in exploring how and why we rank by influence, explore our methodology in more depth.

A liberal arts college is a school that puts a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree. We’ve identified 8 liberal arts colleges in South Dakota. To be ranked among the best liberal arts colleges in South Dakota, schools must fully accredited institutions.

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Best Liberal Arts Colleges in South Dakota 2022

  1. #1

    Augustana University

    Sioux Falls , SD
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1225/26

    What is Augustana University known for?

    Augustana University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Economics
    • Sociology
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Social Work
    • Religious Studies
    • Nursing
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    National American University

    Rapid City , SD
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Graduation

    19%

    Student body

    1K

    What is National American University known for?

    National American University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • Nursing
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Black Hills State University

    Spearfish , SD
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    97%

    Graduation

    39%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/21

    What is Black Hills State University known for?

    Black Hills State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Communications
    • Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Dakota State University

    Madison , SD
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1137/22

    What is Dakota State University known for?

    Dakota State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Northern State University

    Aberdeen , SD
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1085/22

    What is Northern State University known for?

    Northern State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    University of Sioux Falls

    Sioux Falls , SD
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $20K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1150/22

    What is University of Sioux Falls known for?

    University of Sioux Falls’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Nursing
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Communications
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Dakota Wesleyan University

    Mitchell , SD
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1020/21

    What is Dakota Wesleyan University known for?

    Dakota Wesleyan University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Biology
    • Economics
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    Mount Marty University

    Yankton , SD
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    930/21

    What is Mount Marty University known for?

    Mount Marty University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • History
    • Medical
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

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South Dakota’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Your Area of Interest

Frequently Asked Questions About Research Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Online Colleges

In pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you will need to choose between three kinds of schools: research universities, liberal arts colleges, and online colleges.

Research universities are colleges and universities whose faculty are active in research and publishing. These schools offer a wide array of doctoral programs, especially in the sciences. They tend to be big, with tens of thousands of students.

Do you prefer a larger university setting, such as largest public university in your state? Research universities are typically big, offering degrees in many different disciplines. Is a big high-powered research environment the thing for you. If not, you should think about a liberal arts college. In deciding on an undergraduate institution, ask yourself what sort of environment will best help you to be happy and excel.

  • Consider whether you are self motivated enough to be a face in the crowd for some classes and largely unknown on campus at a large university. Of course you can find clubs and friends at a large university, but often liberal arts colleges have a more personal quality to them. If you want the community feel, a research university may not fit you well.
  • Are you interested in STEM fields? Research universities have that name for a reason – real research is happening there. This can create an exciting atmosphere for students interested in STEM. Attending a research university can give you a better chance of getting into better programs for graduate degrees, although a lot of that depends on your performance.
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Often referred to as “teaching colleges” liberal arts colleges put a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree.

  • Do you want your professors to know you? Liberal arts colleges strive to cultivate campus cultures that encourage tight bonds between professors and students. Professors at these schools will typically conduct original research. Yet the best of these schools offer their faculty reduced teaching loads so that they can both be productive researchers and still have plenty of time for students (both in and outside the classroom).
  • Do you want to feel like you know everybody? One of the most enticing features of a liberal arts college is that in very little time, you can feel like you know who’s who, which can create strong friendships, but also more pleasurable walks across campus. While your sports teams may never be on ESPN, it’s more likely that you’ll know the athletes as your peers. Beyond student and faculty relationships, it’s not unusual for the school president and other administrators to learn who you are. When faced with problems with your student account or the need to switch classes, this can be comforting during a stressful moment.
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Online colleges are typically the same colleges and universities you could attend in-person, but for certain degree programs the college or unviersity has made the degree programs available to be completed online. For over 5 million students, online degree programs allow students to earn their degrees in the most flexible format available. Online degrees are as respected as the on-campus degress you could earn from the same schools. There’s usually no disctinction between the two degrees, and your degree and transcript will not say that the degree was earned online. Online degree programs are offered by a vast majority of colleges and universities, and the number of offering continues to grow. Whehter you are searching for an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, there’s a good chance you can earn your degree online from a respectable online college.

  • Are you a self-driven student? Perhaps the hardest aspect of obtaining an online degree is whether you will be disciplined enough to manage your time and course demands. Many online students report that online college made them more disciplined in all areas of their lives, but the flexible, self-paced learning that makes online colleges attractive can often be the same qualities that make it difficult. If you tend to be a procrastinator, you need to be honest with yourself. You can change your habits and propensities, or you can throw money down the drain.
  • Do you need the flexibility of an online degree program? Most online students study online because of time demands balancing work and life, or becuase the online colleges afford them the chance to attend a better school without moving. If you are serious about earning your degree for career advancement, online colleges make it possible. The most flexible options among online degrees are those that are aynchronous, meaning you don’t have scheduled times to meet with your class online. However, many students seek synchronous online degree programs so that they have some structure – set meeting times, scheduled exams, etc.
  • The good news is that attending an online college doesn’t mean you will miss out on getting to know your professors and classmates. In fact, many online students who have experienced both online and on-campus courses report having easier access to their professors. Since most communication with your professor is expected to be in text – via email or your class learning management system – it makes asking your questions easier. The same students also report that they got to better know the thoughts of their classmates. While in-person course conversations can be dominated by a few extroverts, online courses that require online discussions make it so that you see all of your classmates’ thoughts and questions.

If you interested in an online bachelor’s degree, check out what the best online colleges offer, or search our online degrees for the exact program that interests you. In either case, you will find well respected colleges and universities that offer online degrees.

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Resources for College-Bound Students

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utiulized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. Northern State University
  2. Augustana University
  3. Black Hills State University
  4. Dakota Wesleyan University
  5. University of Sioux Falls
  6. Dakota State University
  7. Mount Marty University