A higher education credential changes outcomes not just for individuals but also for their families and the entire South Dakota economy and quality of life. College degrees lead to opportunities for a lifelong career, financial stability, and better overall health and well-being. In today’s world, educational attainment plays an even more significant role in other aspects of people’s lives — it increases opportunity and improves overall quality of life and longevity. The educational opportunities in South Dakota include both two-year and four-year colleges.

What's the difference between a two-year and a four-year college?

Two-year colleges offer Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees in technical careers. They may also offer diploma and certificate programs. Students enrolled in two-year colleges complete their program of study in one to two years and spend the majority of their college time applying lessons learned in the classroom to hands-on training. Many two-year AAS graduates move on to four-year colleges where credits earned are applied toward a bachelor’s degree.
Four-year colleges offer both a two-year Associate Degree (AS) and a four-year bachelor’s degree. Students spend the majority of their time in the classroom and, in some programs, apply skills learned during internships. Most four-year colleges also offer higher levels of learning including master's and doctorate degrees. Graduates of four-year colleges may also apply credits earned during their course of study to two-year colleges.


Education increases financial security. The relationship between higher education and higher lifetime earnings is well-established. The median salary of an individual increases by 67.3% from a high school degree to a bachelor’s degree. The earning power of a college degree is experienced over a career and a lifetime. 


Ask anyone you know who pursued education after high school and they will tell you it’s not easy — it takes discipline and hard work to earn a credential. Like most things in life, that hard work pays off. Data shows that 2-year and 4-year college graduates experience considerably lower rates of unemployment in both good and bad economic times.



Times are changing, and the jobs of tomorrow require a college degree today. It’s true, a college degree helps you earn more money, but the economy of tomorrow will demand more people with college degrees! Out of the 27 careers expected to grow at a rate of 15% or higher over the next eight years, 17 (63%) will require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Our future global competitiveness – and your ability to get a job — requires more students going to college during the next 15 years.


Education level plays a major role in determining an individual’s quality of life. In the past 20 years, the life expectancy gap between the most educated and the least educated Americans has widened. Americans with less education are more likely to have serious health conditions than those with a higher level of education. Year after year, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that people with a college credential are more likely to have higher wages, employer-sponsored healthcare, paid vacation and leave, retirement savings, and work in lower-risk occupations.

Educational attainment also usually leads to the ability to live in a safer neighborhood, which is also a social determinant of health. Educational attainment is a contributing factor to being able to have a better understanding of health issues, being able to self-advocate, and choosing a healthier lifestyle. People with a higher education are less likely to experience the stress created by social and economic troubles associated with lower earnings and less education. Highly educated adults are more likely to have stronger and broader social networks, which yields access to financial, emotional, and psychological resources, thereby reducing stress and providing coping mechanisms to protect them from adverse health effects. Higher education, among many other social determinants of health, matters to health outcomes.