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Tuition fees are a significant expense for potential nursing students. Costs can vary greatly based on several factors, including geographic location, nursing role (certified nursing assistant vs. licensed practical nurse vs. registered nurse), and program length (certificate vs. associate’s degree vs. bachelor’s degree). Costs will also differ significantly depending on whether or not the school receives public funding. For example, Augustana College, a large private school with 1,700 enrollees, costs more than $37,000 per year to attend. By contrast, University of South Dakota has an annual tuition of just $13,763 per year for state residents.

Prospective nursing students must weigh the program costs against the career gains. Short programs are a practical and cost-effective way to pursue an immediate nursing career. For example, a 12- to 18-month certificate in licensed practical nursing will lead to an entry-level role with an annual salary of $30,000-40,000. However, greater time commitment and investment will pay off in higher earnings potential. South Dakota’s registered nurses, who must hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, earn $45,000-60,000 per year. Advanced practice registered nurses, who must hold a master’s degree, earn even more. The state’s nurse practitioners receive a median annual salary of $87,000, while its nurse anesthetists take home an impressive $165,000 annually.

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To help South Dakota’s future nurses find the right program at the right cost, we’ve listed below the state’s top nursing schools ranked from most to least expensive.

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