Monday, 04 February 2013 00:00

Educational Attainment

South Dakotans Getting More Educated

More South Dakotans are graduating from high school and pursuing higher education than ten years ago, according to federal data. Just 8.3% of individuals over 25 had less than a high school diploma while 19.1% of South Dakotans have a bachelor’s degree in 2017.

At the same time, the proportion of South Dakotans without a high school diploma has continued to decline, as has the rate of those who did not get further education beyond a high school diploma or GED. 

Although graduation rates are improving across South Dakota, the state still lags behind national educational attainment rates. The Rushmore State has persistently ranked several points behind national education attainment rates for the past ten years. In 2017, 28.1% of South Dakotans had obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 32% nationally. In 2006, those rates were 24.8% and 27% respectively.

In 2017, South Dakota ranked 35th nationally for the percentage of residents over the age of 25 who had completed a bachelor's degree or higher, moving down five places from 2016. Massachusetts clinched the No. 1 spot with 43.4%, and West Virginia landed in last place at 20.2%.


The percentage of South Dakotans with at least a bachelor’s degree continues to be 10 percentage points higher in metropolitan areas than in non-metropolitan areas. Those living in micropolitan areas continue to hold these degrees at a slightly lesser rate than those living in metropolitan areas.

According to 2017 estimates, 30.9% of South Dakotans in metropolitan areas held bachelor’s and advanced degrees compared to 29.4% for micropolitan areas and 20.3% for non-metro areas. For the years 2007-2011, those rates were 28.8%, 28.0% and 18.8% respectively.

For bachelor's and advanced degrees, the Sioux Falls metro area continues to exceed the rate of the South Dakota’s other metropolitan areas. In 2017, the rate for bachelor's degree or higher in the Sioux Falls metro area was 32.5% compared to 28.3% for the Rapid City metro area and 21.7% for the Sioux City metro area.

The Brookings and Vermillion micropolitan areas posted even higher educational attainment rates as they house the state's two largest universities. According to 2017 data, the Brookings micropolitan area had a 40.4% rate for residents holding a bachelor's degree or higher, while the Vermillion micropolitan area averaged 49.3%. These rates are more than double the rates in the Huron and Watertown micropolitan areas of 19.6% and 21.6%, respectively.


In South Dakota, Asians are far more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to have earned a bachelor's degree or higher. For 2017, Asians averaged a rate of 41.6% on this score, compared to 29.6% for Whites, 19.2% for Black/African-American residents, 16.8% for Hispanics and 10.2% for Native Americans.

Women continue to outpace men for educational attainment in South Dakota. In 2006, 25.5% of women held college degrees compared to 24.2% of men. In 2017, the rate was 29.0% for women and 27.3% for men.

Published in Workforce
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