South Dakota colleges among costliest in nation for net costs

South Dakota’s public university students pay an average of $4,000 more per year more for college degrees than most other public college students in the country, according to a new report.

The report, presented in early August to the state Board of Regents, shows the net cost of attendance at South Dakota’s public universities is the eighth-highest in the nation, said Jay Perry, vice president for academic affairs for the board that governs the state university system.

Net price is the price paid after scholarships, grants and other forms of non-obligation aid are accounted for. The net price South Dakotans pay at their public universities comes in at an average of $16,706. The national average is $12,697, according to the report.

“We’re not only the most expensive in the region on that cost, but when you compare to other states that are in the same ballpark on net cost, it’s the Eastern Seaboard and it’s South Dakota,” Perry said.

In real numbers, the cost to attend the state’s universities is actually below the national average. The total average price of attendance, which includes tuition, room and board, for South Dakota’s universities is $22,393 a year. The national average comes in at about $23,248.

But the lack of a needs-based scholarship and other state-funded forms of financial aid in South Dakota mean the state’s college students are on the hook for a much greater percentage of the price of getting a degree, Perry said.

South Dakota has the third-least amount of state grant money available to its students and the fourth-least amount of grant aid available from university endowments, the report says. Overall, South Dakota has the second-least amount of grant aid available to its students in the nation, the new report says.

The report says the consequences of high net costs already are being felt in the number of low-income students choosing to attend college in the state. The number of recipients of federal Pell Grants that aid lower-income students at South Dakota public universities fell from 31.5 percent in 2010 to 22.5 percent in 2018, the report says.