Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is the region's top tech and engineering college.
The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is the region's top tech and engineering college.
Black Hills Knowledge Network photo/Chelsea Gortmaker

Rapid City - Education & Training

Rapid City is an educational and training hub for the Black Hills region. With the second largest school district in the state, it is also home to the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSM&T), Black Hills State University - Rapid City (BHSU), Oglala Lakota College (OLC), National American University (NAU), and Western Dakota Tech (WDTI). Read more about education and training in Rapid City below. 

Preschool & Early Education

Several Rapid City Area Schools operate pre-schools within the district, but other options are available for parents of preschool aged children and younger. The YMCA of Rapid City also offers preschool programs for children ranging in ages one to five years old.

Many private preschools are also available in the Rapid City Area, including Cinnamon Hill Preschool, Friend-Ship Preschool, and Little Nest Preschool. Find a complete listing of Rapid City preschools here.

The Starting Strong initiative, began in 2012 in Rapid City and has a growing number of families to participate in the pilot program. Tuition is paid for through donations, and is sent directly to local volunteer providers who have met guidelines and offer the program.


Rapid City Area School District

According to the South Dakota Department of Education’s Profile, Rapid City Area School District 51-4 enrolled a total of 13,955 students in the fall of 2014. With 26 schools and approximately 1037 teachers, the district is the second largest in South Dakota. Approximately 19 percent of all students are of American Indian descent. More than a third of the district’s students meet the federal poverty guidelines for free and reduced lunches.

The high school graduation rate was 74.1 percent in 2015, up from 71 percent in 2014 and significantly lower than the state average of 83.9 percent, according to the South Dakota Department of Education’s 2014-2015 report card. In 2016, the graduation rate was 75.91 percent. According to the 2015-2016 Profile of Rapid City Area School District 51-4, there was a 3.2 percent dropout rate, the district graduated 743 students. 535 students took the ACT exam with an average composite score of 21.5.

Rapid City is also home to several private education institutions, including Rapid City Christian School and the Rapid City Catholic School System.

Higher Education

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology: Founded in 1885 to provide instruction in the mining industry, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has become an exceptional university that focuses in science and engineering research and offers bachelors, masters, and doctoral education.

Black Hills State University – Rapid City: Located off of Interstate 90 at Exit 61, BHSU-RC offers courses from universities across South Dakota, including Black Hills State University, the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University, and Northern State University. The campus was opened in 2011 by the South Dakota Board of Regents with the hope of catering to non-traditional students and offering a regional hub for higher education, where students can take satellite classes through the state’s universities.

National American University: National American University is a for-profit university with campuses all over the United States. Located off Highway 16 south of Rapid City, NAU offers flexible class schedules that allow students to go to school along with balancing professional and personal responsibilities. Several different levels of education can be earned through NAU programs, such as Diploma, Associates, Bachelors, and Masters degrees. Programs include Accounting, Business, Information Technology, and Health Services.

Career & Technical

Black Hills Beauty College: Started in 1978, Black Hills Beauty College strives to train those pursuing a career in cosmetology and the beauty industry. Services provided at the school include hair cutting and styling, skin care services, and nail services and are performed by supervised students.

Western Dakota Technical Institute: Located in Rapid City, Western Dakota Tech is the only technical institute in Western South Dakota. Western Dakota Tech (WDT) offers more than twenty programs in fields such as health services, science & technology, and construction trades. Over 94 percent of WDT’s recent graduates are either working or continuing their education, and over 82 percent of those placed in careers are working in state.

Other Educational Opportunities

Community Education of the Black Hills: Operated by Black Hills Special Services Cooperative, Community Education of the Black Hills offers adult learning classes in Rapid City, including recreation and educational classes.


The Rapid City Area School District offers support to families within the district who choose to homeschool their child/children.

More Information

Compare education attainment levels for Pennington County, State of South Dakota and United States.  Data found at 2010 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau

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525 University Loop, Suite 202
Rapid City, SD 57701
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