Black Hills State University


Black Hills State University (BHSU) is a public university in Spearfish, South Dakota. The university began as the Dakota Territory Spearfish Normal School in 1883. It grew into Black Hills Teacher College, then Black Hills State College, before becoming a full-fledged university. Today it is situated on 123 acres in Spearfish with branch campuses in Rapid City, Pierre, Yankton, and Sioux Falls. Students come from nearly every U.S. state and several foreign countries.

Accreditation is granted by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education, National Association of Schools of Music, North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, and National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.


Information Summary

Ranks 14th in South Dakota and 1370th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 75.0
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $21,211
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 24 / 1180
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 17 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 62% / 39%
Enrollment Total (all students) 4,035


Academic divisions are organized into three separate colleges: College of Education, College of Arts and Sciences, and College of Business. Through these three schools, the university offers over 80 baccalaureate majors, 5 master degrees, 4 associate degrees, and 20 pre-professional certificates. The university is particularly well known for its American Indian Studies, Strategic Leadership, and Integrative Genomics.

Online Education

The university has a strong online education program. Most general education requirements and several complete degrees can be earned online, including a Bachelor of General Studies; Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (with a specialization in Management); Master of Education in Reading; Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction; and Master of Science in Strategic Leadership.

One of the most popular online programs is the Professional Writing certificate, which is geared towards business professionals who wish to upgrade their skills in writing clearly and persuasively in their work. Curriculum of this program can be individualized to meet the particular professional needs of the student.

Most Popular Fields of Study


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Unique Programs

Several programs at the school are operated as community partnerships, strengthening both the university and the great Black Hills area. These programs include:

  • Western South Dakota DNA Core Facility (WestCore)
  • Center for the Advancement of Mathematics and Science Education (CAMSE)
  • Center for Conservation of Biological Resources
  • Center for American Indian Studies (CAIS)
  • Black Hills Herbarium
  • South Dakota Center for Enterprise Opportunities
  • Center for Economic Education
  • Center for Business, Entrepreneurship, and Tourism
  • Center for Enterprise Opportunity


Admissions are moderately competitive. Prospective students should have a grade point average of at least 2.6, an ACT score of at least 18 or an SAT score of at least 870, and a high school class rank in the top 60% of their graduating class. Students should also come with the university having studied at least 4 years of English, 3 years of mathematics (algebra or advanced), 3 years of a laboratory science, 3 years of a social science, and one year of fine arts.

Financial Aid

In addition to the wide range of state and federal financial aid options available to college and university students in South Dakota, the university offers several of their own need- and merit-based scholarships.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 3230th for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in South Dakota.


Living on Campus

Students can live on campus in one of five residence halls or one of eight apartment complex buildings. In all, nearly 900 students live on campus.

Dining on Campus

In addition to traditional, buffet-style dining halls, the campus offers convenient dining from the following food outlets:

  • PAO is a Mongolian BBQ featuring vegetable-heavy rice noodle and yakisoba options
  • The Grille is a traditional burger and fries restaurant, with chicken, philly cheese steaks, quesadillas, and more.
  • Bravo is a casual Italian dining establishment offering hearth-fired pizzas and a variety of pastas.
  • Market Place Entrees features Midwestern home-style cooking.
  • Sweet Peppers Deli offers freshly grilled paninis and other sandwiches as well as a variety of soups.
  • Field of Greens sells a wide variety of salads, including an option to create your own.
  • Bakery offers soft serve ice cream, create-your-own sundaes, and a variety of baked goods.

Clubs and Organizations

There are over 50 student organizations on campus to meet the personal and professional interests of a wide range of students. They include such options as Anime Collective, Caving Club, Circus Club, Lakota Omniciye, People for the Ethical Treatment of the Environment, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. The student newspaper is The Jacket Journal, the radio station is KBHU-FM, and the TV station is KBHU-TV. BHSU also boasts a large number of student music groups, including the Black Hill Singers, Black Hills Symphony, Dakota Chamber Orchestra, Concert Band, Concert Choir, Jazz Ensemble, and Pep Band.

Furthermore, the university is also particularly notable for its large number of spiritual organizations, including:

  • Campus Ventures, an ecumenical, Jesus-centered group
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  • Latter Day Saints Students Organization, a group of Latter Day Saints
  • Lutheran Campus Ministries
  • The Newman Center, a Catholic organization that offers a free, home-cooked meal every Sunday evening.
  • Yellow Jackets for Christ, a group promoting scriptural faith and morality

Child Care

The Little Jackets Learning Center provides high quality child care for students, staff, and faculty. Children aged 4 weeks to 12 years are welcome. Children aged two and under are cared for at the ratio of one caregiver per five children; children aged three and older are cared for with one caregiver per ten children.

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


The athletics department is known as the Yellow Jackets. The Yellow Jackets are members of the NAIA, the Dakota Athletic Conference, and the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. The university is on track to enter the NCAA Division II in 2013. Men’s sports include track and field, cross country, basketball, football, and rodeo. Women’s sports include track and field, cross country, softball, basketball, golf, and rodeo.

Local Community

Spearfish is located ten minutes from the Wyoming border, less than an hour from Rapid City, and about an hour from Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, and Devil’s Tower. Students with an interest in outdoor recreation make good use of Spearfish Canyon, which offers opportunities for hiking, biking, rock climbing, and fishing. Other features of the area include the Matthews Opera House and the DC Booth Historic Fish Hatchery. Spearfish has been named one of America’s Best Adventure Towns by National Geographic Adventure.


Well-known alumni include:

  • American strongman Brian Shaw
  • Novelist Cliff Graham
  • NFL tight end Zac Alcorn
  • Artist Dick Termes
  • Acting Director of the Army National Guard Major General Raymond Carpenter
  • US Congressman Clint Roberts
  • Comedians Terry Ree and Bruce Williams

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