South Dakota - State Info and Higher Education Facts

South Dakota is a sparsely populated state in the northern Midwest, bordered by Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. The state is home to several universities, colleges and technical institutes. Find out more about South Dakota's demographics, attractions, economy and schools below.

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About South Dakota

South Dakota, a Midwestern state whose name comes from the local Native American Sioux tribe 'Dacotah,' had a U.S. census-estimated population in 2015 of 858,469, making it one of the country's least densely-populated states. The percentage of Native Americans in the state of South Dakota is almost 9%, according to 2014 census data, which is much higher than the .7% of the U.S. as a whole, but the majority of residents, nearly 86%, are of Caucasian ancestry.

The state is perhaps best known as the site of Mount Rushmore, where the likenesses of four American presidents - Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt - have been carved into the mountain's rocky face. This ambitious undertaking was started in 1927 and took 14 years to complete. Another sculpture, the Crazy Horse Memorial, is dedicated to all Native American tribes. This sculpture is located just a few miles away from Mount Rushmore and will, when completed, be the largest sculpture in the world. Other features of the state include its cold winters, rural atmosphere and vast expanses of prairie.

Higher Education

South Dakota has 31 institutions of higher learning, including the University of Sioux Falls and Augustana College. South Dakota State University is the largest school in the state; it serves about 12,500 students. The University of South Dakota is another large school, with around 10,000 students enrolled at its Vermillion campus. USD's graduate program in rural medicine ranked 11th in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report in 2016.

Other colleges and universities in the state include Black Hills State University, Mount Marty College, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and Northern State University.

The largest 2-year school in South Dakota is Southeast Technical Institute, which enrolls about 2,300 students. Lake Area Technical Institute, Killian Community College and Mitchell Technical Institute are additional 2-year schools that offer certificates and associate's degree programs.


South Dakota's economy is underpinned by agriculture. The state's farmers produce sunflowers, corn, wheat, poultry, cattle, wool and other products. Ethanol production from corn also makes significant contributions to the economy. Other important sectors include the service industry, which includes finance, real estate, retail, education, health care and hospitality services.

South Dakota has neither personal nor corporate income tax, and other unique financial laws have led such major banks as Wells Fargo & Co. to charter their corporations in the state. Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills and the yearly Sturgis Motorcycle Rally all draw large numbers of tourists, also providing a sizable boost to the state's economy.

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