Pack up your lunch pail and hop in your covered wagon:  it is time to go on a journey across South Dakota and find out what the state has in-store for its residents. You can see historic sites like Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in De Smet, the Badlands in the western portion of the state and more.

You can also find some top-notch colleges in the Mount Rushmore State along with great financial aid programs to help the residents afford to attend those schools.

These awesome South Dakota college financial aid programs include the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship, the Need-Based Scholarship Program and the Dakota Corps Scholarship Program.

South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship

The South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship (SDOS) was created in 2003 in order to help the state’s most academically accomplished high school graduates afford to receive a South Dakota higher education.

To be initially eligible for the scholarship, a student must:

  • Be a South Dakota resident at the time of their high school graduation
  • Be enrolled to attend an eligible South Dakota postsecondary institution
  • Begin their college career within five years of the student’s high school graduation
  • Complete required high school coursework with at least a 2.00 GPA (“C” average) AND a minimum cumulative high school 3.00 GPA (“B” average) AND earn a composite ACT score or Super Score of 24 or higher (or earn at least a 1180 on the SAT between the verbal and math sections)
    • The required coursework includes specific credit amounts in English, social studies, algebra or other advance math classes, science with lab work, fine arts, career and technical education courses, modern or classical languages, personal finance or economics, physical education, and health or health integration.
  • OR earn a composite ACT score or Super Score of 28 or higher AND earn an 18 or higher in English, a 22 or higher in reading, a 22 or higher in math and a 23 or higher in science (or earn at least a 1310 on the SAT between the verbal and math sections) if the student has not completed the required coursework mentioned above

The scholarship is renewable and a student can receive funding for it for four academic years (eight consecutive semesters) or until the student earns their bachelor’s degree.

A student can receive up to $6,500 over the course of those four years from the scholarship. During the first three years, a student can receive up to $1,300 per academic year. In the fourth year, a student can receive up to $2,600 for the academic year. The student will receive half of their award each semester to then equal the annual amount.

In order to continue to receive scholarship funding every semester, a student must:

  • Maintain a cumulative 3.00 GPA or higher
  • Attempt and complete enough credit hours to meet the credit hour threshold for the upcoming year

If a student does not meet the credit hour requirement, they will become permanently ineligible to receive future funding from the scholarship. If a student does not meet the GPA requirement one semester, they will have a chance to be reinstated if they can raise their GPA back up.

South Dakota Need-Based Grant Program

The South Dakota Need-Based Grant Program (SDNBGP) is a need-based award for South Dakota residents.

To be eligible for the program, a student must:

  • Be a South Dakota resident
  • Attend an eligible South Dakota postsecondary institution
  • Complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Complete any additional paperwork with the financial aid directors at the student’s school
  • Demonstrate a financial need for funding

A student can receive anywhere between $500 to $2,000 per academic year from the program.

Dakota Corps Scholarship Program

The Dakota Corps Scholarship Program (DCSP) was created in order to encourage South Dakota high school graduates to stay in the state and earn a South Dakota college degree, remain in the state after college graduation and work in a critical need occupation in South Dakota.

To be eligible for the scholarship program, a student must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be a South Dakota resident
  • Graduate from a South Dakota high school
  • Have earned a 2.80 or higher GPA in high school
  • Have earned a 27 or higher on the ACT (or received the SAT equivalent)
  • Be enrolled to attend an eligible South Dakota postsecondary institution
  • Be a full-time, undergraduate student
  • Complete and submit the Dakota Corps Scholarship Program application within one year of the student’s high school graduation
  • Be accepted into the student’s specific program of study by their junior or senior year of college
  • Sign a written promise/agreement to enter into a critical need occupation in South Dakota following the completion of their degree.
    • Teacher
      • High school math, high school science, elementary or secondary special education, high school career and technical education, K-12 foreign language and secondary language arts
    • Accountant or auditor
    • Engineer
      • All fields except mining
    • Information technology (IT)
    • Registered nurse (RN)
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress every semester and year

With the signing of the written promise, a student agrees to work in the critical need occupation for which they are studying for as many years as they receive the scholarship, plus an additional year. So, if a student receives funding for four years, they need to work in their critical need occupation in South Dakota for five years.

If a student fails to complete the written promise, they will be forced to pay back the scholarship as a loan plus interest.

The funding from the scholarship covers tuition and fees. At a public, four-year South Dakota college, the award amount typically equals the cost of tuition and fees for 16 undergraduate credit hours per semester. It is the same at private, nonprofit South Dakota colleges and tribal colleges. The award for technical college students will never exceed the maximum tuition and fees for 16 credit hours at a public college.

Funding for the program is limited as the funds are provided by private businesses, nonprofit organizations and the Governor’s office. This means every eligible student may not receive funding, even if they qualify. Students will know if they are receiving funds or not by the second week of May each year though.

Major South Dakota Colleges and Universities

There are several top-notch, popular colleges and universities within South Dakota’s 77,116 sq. miles of area. Some of these schools include:

  • Black Hills State University in Spearfish (public)
  • Dakota State University in Madison (public)
  • Mount Marty University in Yankton (private)
  • Northern State University in Aberdeen (public)
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City (public)
  • South Dakota State University in Brookings (public)
  • University of Sioux Falls in Sioux Falls (private)
  • University of South Dakota in Vermillion (public)

Your journey throughout South Dakota has now completed and it is obvious that the state’s residents have great financial aid programs to take advantage of to help them afford to attend in-state colleges.