Financial Aid and Student Loans in South Dakota

South Dakota is characterized by majestic plains, a wide-open sky, the Black Hills National Park, and the famous Mount Rushmore. It is a sparsely populated state where one can experience a rural, laidback lifestyle.

That doesn’t mean, however, that South Dakota doesn’t value education. On the contrary, it is home to several prestigious institutions, like the University of South Dakota, which has an excellent law and medicine program.

Higher education in South Dakota isn’t as exorbitant as other states, averaging $25,395 per year at four year colleges. But it is still a heavy burden of thousands of dollars. The good thing is that the state gives financing options to make a college education more accessible, even for financially challenged individuals.

A student loan, while common, should not be your first option. You should first look into scholarships and grants. These are free—in the sense that you don’t need to repay them after you graduate.

As part of our state by state guide to financial aid, below we’ve outlined a number of scholarships, grants, and student loans available in South Dakota.

What Scholarship Programs Does South Dakota Have?

South Dakota has many state-sponsored scholarship programs to choose from to help fund your college education. These scholarships generally require you to be a resident of South Dakota and have a certain GPA to apply. Some of the best options are outlined below:

South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship

The South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship provides up to $6,500 over four years to go towards expenses at a higher education institution in South Dakota that is accredited by the North Central Association (NCA). This scholarship is awarded to students in South Dakota that have achieved a high level of academic performance. To qualify you must:

  • Be a resident of South Dakota at the time of high school graduation
  • Have an ACT composite score of 24 or higher 
    • Alternatively, if you have an ACT composite score of 28 or higher or an SAT score of 1320 or higher then you do not need to meet the GPA requirements listed below
  • Complete the South Dakota high school course requirements with no final grade below a “C” (2.0 on a 4.0 scale) and a cumulative high school GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (grade of “B”) prior to graduation
  • Enter into the program within 5 years of high school graduation, or within 1 year of the student’s release from active duty military service

The application deadline is September 1, but it is recommended to apply early and submit your application by June 1. Applying early gives the financial aid office more time to review your application in time for the start of the school year.

Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship

The Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship is designed to encourage students to become teachers so that they can teach within public, private and parochial schools that are in need of better/more teachers. If you apply for this scholarship you need to be prepared to work as a teacher in a critical needs school for 5 years after your degree completion so make sure that you are certain on your career path. 

The award is determined based on your financial needs and may not exceed the tuition and generally applicable fees for 30 credit hours at a public South Dakota postsecondary institution. To apply for this scholarship you must:

  • Attend a South Dakota College
  • Have a minimum cumulative 2.8 GPA on a 4.0 scale, and an average of 2.8 GPA for all major coursework
  • Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Agree to work as a teacher in a critical needs school for 5 years after you complete your education
    • If you do not wish to work as a teacher after getting this scholarship, the scholarship will be turned into an interest-bearing loan

Dakota Corps Scholarship Program

The Dakota Corps Scholarship Program is a scholarship designed to encourage South Dakota students to contribute to the state’s overall welfare through a funded education. The scholarship receives funding from the Governor’s Office, but also private businesses and non-profit organizations.

There is no specific award amount specified by the scholarship. Instead, it goes to completely pay off 100% of the cost of a college education, including tuition and all fees. The amount is, therefore, on a case-by-case basis.

However, this scholarship is not technically “free.”

In exchange for paying off their entire college education, students must commit to a critical need occupation immediately after graduating. Critical need occupations are defined by the program (and change regularly to reflect the times).

As of 2020 – 2021, here are the critical need occupations in South Dakota:

  • Teachers
    • High School Math and Science
    • High School Career and Technical Education
    • Elementary or Secondary Special Education
    • Secondary Language Arts
    • K-12 Foreign Language
  • Information Technology Professionals
  • Registered Nurses
  • Accountants and Auditors
  • Engineers (except those in the mining field)

The student must work for the number of years equal to the total length of the scholarship, plus one. For example, a student who accepted a four-year scholarship must work in a critical need occupation for five years.

Failure to follow the commitment will turn the scholarship into a low-interest loan.

Here are the requirements for the Dakota Corps Scholarship Program:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Graduated or will graduate from a high school in South Dakota
  • A minimum GPA of 2.8
  • An ACT score of at least 27 (or SAT equivalent)
  • Enroll in a South Dakota university or college that participates in the scholarship program within one year of graduation from high school. These schools include:
    • Augustana University
    • Black Hills State University
    • Dakota State University
    • Dakota Wesleyan University
    • Lake Area Technical Institute
    • Mitchell Technical Institute
    • Mount Marty College
    • Northern State University
    • Presentation College
    • Sanford Medical Center School of Radiologic Technology
    • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
    • South Dakota State University
    • Southeast Technical Institute
    • University of Sioux Falls
    • The University of South Dakota
    • Western Dakota Technical Institute
  • A written agreement stating that the student will commit to a critical need occupation for the years specified
  • To renew the scholarship every year, here are the requirements:
    • A minimum GPA of 2.8
    • Maintain full-time status in the chosen college/university
    • Proof of sufficient progress to complete his/her degree

What Grant Programs Does South Dakota Have?

Unlike other states, South Dakota doesn’t offer a grant to its residents with dire financial needs. But if you’re still keen on getting grants to fund your education, you can look into federal grants.

To begin applying for federal grants, you need a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) first. Click here to find out more about the application process.

Here are some federal grants you can investigate further:

Pell Grants

When students look into federal grants, the Pell Grant is the first one they look into. It is financial assistance that’s given by the federal government to undergraduate college students with exceptional financial situations.

The Pell Grant is widely supported. Prospective applicants can avail themselves of these grants at any of the 5,400 colleges and universities nationwide. Unlike other grants and scholarships, the fund is allocated from the federal government directly to your university. The university then distributes it to all of its eligible students.

The maximum coverage for Pell Grants is twelve semesters or six years. Your university financial aid office will notify you if you’re nearing the limit. The award amount changes regularly as well.

The amount of the Pell Grant depends on several factors, including:

  • Applicant’s net income
  • Applicant’s net assets
  • The cost of attendance in the chosen university
  • Whether the student attends full-time or part-time
  • If the student plans to pursue a full academic load or less
  • Whether the student has dependents or is a dependent themselves

A few additional notes on the eligibility of a Pell Grant:

  • A FAFSA application is the primary way to accept or reject your eligibility for a Pell Grant
  • You must not have any criminal record or history of incarceration
  • You cannot receive Pell Grants from more than one school.


The TEACH Grant is a financial aid program that’s available for all undergraduate and graduate students of South Dakota. It awards amounts from $4,000 to $16,000 per year. For graduate students, the amount is $8,000.

Unlike a normal grant, however, a TEACH Grant is not “free.” A student must commit to teaching low-income students in a high-demand field. They must do this full-time for four academic years, which students have to complete within eight years of graduation.

If the student cannot commit to the teaching requirement, he or she can repay the grant as a direct, unsubsidized loan instead. The student must pay for interest earned since disbursement as well.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is another grant given by the federal government. It is usually reserved for students who are the most in need of financial assistance for their education.

However, the main drawback of the FSEOG is that fewer institutions accept this grant. Pell Grants are more prevalent. Nevertheless, the FSEOG is a good alternative to the Pell Grant if your chosen university supports it.

The funds for FSEOGs are usually limited and paid out on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible students. The amount awarded is dependent on the level of financial need, and usually ranges from $100 to $4,000.

What Student Loan Programs Does South Dakota Have?

If you’re a South Dakota student looking for a state student loan program, the bad news is that the state doesn’t have any student loan program of its own. However, you can still apply for federal or private student loan programs.

Here are some loan programs you can check out:

Federal Student Loans

Prospective students and residents of South Dakota have the option of seeking government assistance in the form of federal student loans.

You’ll need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Private Co-Signed Student Loans

For private student loans, there is an array of options. Students seeking assistance in addition to federal student loans may opt for a private co-signed student loan, for example.

No Co-Signer Student Loans in South Dakota

Prospective students who don’t have or need a co-signer can take advantage of Funding U’s no co-signer student loans.

Eligibility and restrictions include minimum GPA requirements and graduation rate of the chosen college or university. These can be used in addition to federal student loans to receive further financial support. If you’d like to learn more, click here.

NOTE: Funding U does not offer loans to residents of the state of South Dakota.  However, if you are attending a school located in South Dakota and are a resident of another state that is eligible you may apply.

What Schools Does Funding U Lend To In South Dakota?

Generally speaking, Funding U’s no co-signer loans are offered to students at eligible four-year, non-profit, undergraduate degree-granting universities (which means we do not lend to for-profit schools, 2-year schools, graduate schools, or trade schools). Our eligibility requirements are based on models that aim to predict how likely a student is to graduate. Because of this, we have minimum GPA requirements that students must meet and minimum 6-year graduation rates that schools must reach in order to be eligible. To find out more about how we determine our eligibility, click here.

Below is a table listing all of the schools in South Dakota that Funding U is currently lending to, with additional details on which grades we are currently lending to, based on the school’s 6-year graduation rate.

School NameFreshman
6 yr
Grad Rate
Augustana UniversityNoYesYesYes7086
Black Hills State UniversityNoNoNoNo3469
Dakota State UniversityNoNoNoNo4772
Dakota Wesleyan UniversityNoNoYesYes6066
Mount Marty CollegeNoNoYesYes5172
Northern State UniversityNoNoNoNo4877
Presentation CollegeNoNoNoNo2758
South Dakota School of Mines and TechnologyNoNoYesYes5080
South Dakota State UniversityNoNoYesYes5677
University of Sioux FallsNoNoNoNo4673
University of South DakotaNoNoYesYes5872
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