About The Scholarship

The South Dakota Freedom Scholarship is South Dakota’s first public / private partnership for a need-based scholarship, made possible by the generosity of First PREMIER Bank / PREMIER Bankcard, the State of South Dakota under the leadership of Governor Kristi Noem, Avera Health and Sanford Health. With gifts and commitments now totaling $225M, the Freedom Scholarship Endowment is the state’s largest financial need-based scholarship. $5.2M is to be allocated for the 2023-2024 year. Managed by the South Dakota Community Foundation, this funding is in an endowment that will continue to provide scholarships in perpetuity.

Our Purpose 

There is an obvious financial gap in post-secondary education in South Dakota. This scholarship is a state-wide initiative to encourage students of all economic backgrounds to live and work in South Dakota after graduation, a pursuit only made possible by the generous contributions from donors across the state. Visit our Funding page to learn more about our donors, their contributions and how you can support the South Dakota Freedom Scholarship. 

Participating Schools 

Students attending the following South Dakota schools are eligible to apply for Freedom Scholarship funds in 2023. (Note: Oglala Lakota College and Sinte Gleska University are NOT participating in the 2023-2024 year.)


Our Founders

In 2021, Governor Noem announced the five founding board members of the South Dakota Freedom Scholarship: Dana Dykhouse, Miles Beacom, Phyllis Heineman, Diana Vanderwoude and Chris Houwman. Chaired by Dykhouse, this committee is spearheading all efforts to establish the South Dakota Freedom Scholarship for the 2022-2023 school year.

With management from the South Dakota Community Foundation, the board will continue to oversee the scholarship fund past the pilot year — providing scholarships in perpetuity, with the goal of growing to at least $200 million.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the interest rates and terms should my scholarship turn into a loan?

The Freedom Scholarship Board has set the interest rate at 4% for students who receive a scholarship for the 2022-2023 school year. If your scholarship turns into a loan, the repayment plan, which also appears in the paperwork you sign, will be 120 monthly payments (or 10 years).


What is the deadline to sign my scholarship paperwork?

Each of the participating universities has set its own deadline for the paperwork. Please refer to page 11 on your Adobe Sign document for your deadline.


What if I plan to go to graduate school (in South Dakota or outside of South Dakota) or have an obligation to the military to fulfill?

There is a process to request a deferment for the employment requirement when you begin graduate school or a military commitment. Once you earn your additional degree or complete your military obligation, there is an expectation that you would join the workforce in South Dakota within six months and begin your three-year employment obligation.


Can I receive the Freedom Scholarship for more than one school year?

Yes, it is possible but not guaranteed. It will be important to complete your FAFSA each year and stay in touch with your university’s financial aid office about your eligibility. Each university determines which students receive the Freedom Scholarship each year.


What if I have extenuating circumstances that cause me to graduate after five years of school?

The Freedom Scholarship Board will hear appeals from individuals for whom a hardship or extenuating circumstance has occurred.


What if my GPA drops below the required 2.0 for the Freedom Scholarship?

If your GPA drops below 2.0 while receiving a scholarship, you may not be eligible for it the following year. Your university will make that determination based on what they know.


Do I have to work in a field related to the baccalaureate that I earned?

No, there is no requirement to work in the same field as your degree.


Is there a grace period between graduation and the start of the employment obligation?

Yes. There is a six-month grace period between graduation and the start of your employment obligation.


How will I verify my employment?

The Freedom Scholarship staff will need your help and the help of your employer to verify your employment every 12 months. The process will require the signature of your employer’s supervisor.

How will I verify that I am living in South Dakota while working for a South Dakota employer?

There is a process to show that you are residing in South Dakota.