South Dakota’s Best Private Colleges & Universities of 2021

Private colleges, unlike large public institutions, can be a great option for students wanting a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Here is our list of the best private colleges in South Dakota.

South Dakota’s Best Private Colleges & Universities of 2021

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

What is a public college? And what is the difference between a private and public college?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models — one is a private company with private funding; the other is owned by the state and receives both state and federal funding to operate. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of private vs. public college, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a four-year degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a four-year public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually.

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How do we determine South Dakota's best private colleges and universities?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call “Concentrated Influence”. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

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.

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

This list is composed entirely of private colleges and universities that offer four-year undergraduate degrees. We’ve identified 5 private universities in South Dakota, 4 of which satisfy our criteria. The list below of the best private universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a private, non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It must offer a broad range of bachelor’s degrees.

Best Private Colleges & Universities in South Dakota

  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
    • Business
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Physics
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  2. Tuition + fees

    $30K

    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:

    • Education
    • History
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Nursing
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  3. #3

    University of Sioux Falls

    Sioux Falls , SD

    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:

    • Education
    • Business
    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  4. Tuition + fees

    $29K

    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
    • Education
    • Biology
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO

Find South Dakota’s best private school for your interest

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Photo By: David Huebner - Own work, Public Domain