Best Colleges & Universities in South Dakota
Top Consensus Ranked Schools in South Dakota 2021

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To identify the Best Colleges in South Dakota for 2021 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in South Dakota anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.

Need help paying for college? You can find out more about college financial aid with our list of the Top South Dakota Scholarships.


Augustana University
Sioux Falls, SD

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College Consensus
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Student Consensus
Last Accessed: May, 2021

If you can say “South Dakota” without an exaggerated accent, congratulations; you’re from South Dakota. In that case, you already know just what an exceptional place the Mount Rushmore State is, with its magical Black Hills, herds of bison, and wide-open plains. But South Dakota is also a place with a deep faith in hard work, learning, and community, and those are the values that drive the best colleges in South Dakota. With its feet firmly planted in a rich history – one that spans back through recorded time to the legendary history of the Lakota, Dakota, and Sioux – and a vision for a future driven by technology and innovation, South Dakota is poised to prove itself to the rest of the world.

The Best Colleges in South Dakota: Dakota’s Tomorrow

The best colleges and universities in South Dakota have a transformative power for the people and the state. Founded on farming, mining, and trade, South Dakota has entered the 21st century as a growing figure in finance, defense, and tourism. The University of South Dakota, and South Dakota State University – nationally-recognized centers of research and learning – are leading South Dakota’s growth and renovation, from USD’s groundbreaking law, medicine, and business programs, to the visionary technology and engineering work being done at SDSU. Ranked among the best research universities in the US, USD and SDSU are the vanguard of South Dakota’s future – not to mention, USD possesses one of the best college recreation centers anywhere.

South Dakota’s liberal arts colleges are also doing the valuable work of preparing the next generation of leaders, while also helping working adults find their way in a new working environment. With the strong religious spirit of South Dakota, the best liberal arts colleges are Christian, from the Lutheran Augustana University to the Catholic Mount Marty College – institutions ranking among the best Christian colleges in America. These colleges are crucial to education in South Dakota, since big land plus small population equals spread-out communities; some of the best small colleges in the nation help bring education to every area.

That’s the role of South Dakota’s regional public institutions, too – accessibility. A strong system of public colleges and universities – some of the best regional universities in the Midwest, like Northern State and Dakota State – have put special emphasis on adult education and online education to fill gaps in South Dakota’s job market, helping revitalize America’s first Sunshine State (yes, South Dakota had that name before Florida snatched it up). In fact, all of South Dakota’s public universities are ranked among the most affordable schools in the US, as clear an example as you could want of how important accessibility is to South Dakota’s best colleges. Plus, Dakota State is the place to go if you want to study Ethical Hacking, one of the most unusual universities degrees available today.

South Dakota’s Tomorrow Starts Today

There are fascinating developments afoot in South Dakota, and while they are not all directly related to the state’s higher education system, the best colleges in South Dakota are playing an active role in encouraging the state’s transformation. One change is the phenomenon of rural flight, as family farming decreases and South Dakota’s rural people – especially young people – move to urban areas. While that is not necessarily a positive development, it does represent a wider range of opportunity for the younger generation of South Dakotans, and an opportunity for the state’s universities to shape that generation into tomorrow’s leaders.

The one place where rural flight has reversed, interestingly enough, is in South Dakota’s extensive Indian reservations. Whereas Native Americans, for many years, were abandoning the reservations, recent years have seen indigenous people returning to the reservations from urban areas, often after obtaining degrees with the mission of building up their community. It’s part of an encouraging growth in identity and self-determination, which the state has helped encourage with initiatives like required lessons in Native American history in the public schools, and support for Native students in the public universities. With a young, activist generation, South Dakota’s future may well be led by its first inhabitants.