For many students, higher education might be a part of their overall life plan, but it might not be in the budget. Federal financial aid helps tens of thousands of students each year but sometimes that’s not enough.
Thankfully, there are other ways students can help keep those costs down. Attending college in their home state, for instance, can result in lower tuition and maybe even the chance to avoid paying room and board by living at home.
In South Dakota, most students have some sort of financial aid helping them with the costs of school. In fact, at Dakota State University, one of the larger schools in the state, 76% of their students receive financial aid, with an average of $10,418 awarded per student.
How are they getting all of this financial aid? Let’s find out.
On this page:
- Getting Financial Aid for College
- State-Based Student Loans in South Dakota
- South Dakota College Scholarships
- South Dakota Grants for College
Getting Financial Aid for College
Before you can get any financial aid, you’ll need to first demonstrate that you need help paying for school. You can do this by completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as a FAFSA, which is required for federal aid. To fill it out, you’ll need proof of your citizenship, a valid Social Security number, and a copy of your federal and state tax returns for the previous year as well your parents’ returns.
The FAFSA asks a lot of questions about your financial situation to get an idea of what you need in terms of aid for school. Once you’ve completed it, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report, or SAR, that outlines your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The federal government considers the burden of paying for school to belong primarily to you and your family, so the EFC is what the government thinks you can contribute to your own education.
Meanwhile, colleges publish their cost of attendance each year, an amount that includes everything you can expect to pay if you choose to attend there, such as tuition, room and board, books, labs, and other fees. Your financial aid need is considered to be the cost of attendance minus your expected family contribution.
A form of your Student Aid Report is also sent to your chosen schools, and the financial aid office at each school will send you an award letter that informs you how much financial aid you can be awarded if you attend there. The amount is based upon the cost of attendance and the financial need that you demonstrate with the FAFSA. It all sounds fairly complex, but it’s a simple process taken step by step.
There’s just one problem: not every student and their family can meet the expected family contribution amount, so there is often still a gap between what you need and the amount of aid you can receive. There are several programs and opportunities for you in this situation, especially if you live in South Dakota.
State-Based Student Loans in South Dakota
If you’ve already maxed out your federal financial aid but still find yourself unable to fully pay for school, you can look at state-based programs. They won’t come with the perks and benefits of federal grants, private scholarships, or even federal student loans — and they’ll probably be more expensive — but they’ll get you where you need to be.
The University of South Dakota, located in Vermilion, has an interest-free loan available to students of up to $500 if you’re a full-time undergrad. The loan is designed to help pay for textbooks or other supplies at the campus bookstore and can help you bridge that final gap once you have all of your major expenses covered.
If you still need far more than $500 for textbooks, you could check out Wells Fargo, a major lender for student loans. They offer South Dakota students the Collegiate Loan, which comes in both fixed and variable rate options, with an APR starting at 4.81%. There are no fees, but you’ll need good credit or a cosigner to qualify.
CEFCU also offers private student loans for South Dakota students, and their Private Student Loan starts at 5.750% for a variable rate loan with no fees and a 6-month grace period after graduation. Like all private student loans, you’ll want to ensure that you have a solid credit history or a good cosigner before applying.
Citizens Bank, a major player in the private student loans space, has its Citizens One loan, which allows you to borrow with no fees and a six-month grace period with an APR starting at 5.74% depending on your creditworthiness or that of your cosigner. You can choose either a fixed-rate or variable-rate loan, with flexible terms.
South Dakota College Scholarships
Even before you look into student loans, you might do better to research third-party and private scholarships. It’s free money in that you don’t have to pay it back, unlike a student loan. They’re generally competitive, and each scholarship program has its own criteria for eligibility.
The good news is that no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you’ve accomplished in your lifetime, there’s probably a scholarship designed to help you achieve your educational goals.
The South Dakota Regents Scholarship was established in 2003 to recognize top academic achievers and help them attend the school of their choice in South Dakota. The scholarship is for $1,300 each year, and you can visit the website to find out more or apply for the award.
The top cable provider in South Dakota is Comcast, and they offer a Leaders and Achievers Scholarship that can help you with $2,500 for schoolas long as you have a 2.8 GPA or higher. The deadline to apply is Dec. 7.
If you’re from South Dakota and plan to stay in-state to attend school, you may be eligible for the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship, which seeks to incentivize local students to stay in their home state. The scholarship offers $6,500 over a five-year period. It’s administered by the same legislative body that offers the Regents Scholarship, and the deadline is Sept. 1.
The Certified Public Accountants Society of South Dakota also has a scholarship for those majoring in Accounting. The program is highly competitive and awards a total of $10,500 in scholarships each year. The deadline for application is April 30.
South Dakota Grants for College
Much like scholarships, grants are essentially free money that you can be awarded to pay for school, but never have to pay back. Where grants and scholarships differ is what the awards are based upon.
In most cases, scholarships are given for who you are or what you’ve done, but grants are given based upon financial need. Grants can be competitive as well, since funds are often limited. So you’ll want to apply to any that you qualify for as soon as possible.
The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, while a federal offering, is open to students who have a low expected family contribution, but high financial need for a South Dakota school. Your FAFSA counts as your application, and if you qualify, you’ll receive it.
The South Dakota Space Grant Consortium is for students who are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields that coincide with NASA’s goals. They offer an educational stipend of $1,000 to $2,500, and research stipends from $7,000 to$14,000 for qualified students.