The land-grant heritage of South Dakota State University, which began with a college founded in 1881, originates from local and national legislation dating back to 1862. The Morrill Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln in July of that year, embodied a revolutionary idea in higher education. The legislation created a new type of educational institution, one to give instruction in both liberal and practical arts to people in all parts of the country who needed to work for a living. In 1889, when South Dakota achieved statehood, Congress, acting under the Morrill Act of 1862, granted 160,000 acres of land for the use and support of the “agricultural college.” By accepting this land allocation, the State had to designate the Agricultural College as a land-grant college.
In 1887, the Hatch Act established Agricultural Experiment Stations at land-grant colleges throughout the United States to conduct research and disseminate information relating to agriculture and home economics. In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act formally established the Cooperative Extension Service to extend the research and knowledge of land-grant colleges and current agricultural and homemaking information to the people of each state. In 1917, the Smith-Hughes Act, provided for the preparation of teachers for secondary-school level instruction in
agriculture, industrial arts, and home economics. By 1928 South Dakota State College had been chosen to conduct this program. In 1994 the Federal Government granted 29 tribal college (four in South Dakota) land-grant status. Tribal land-grant college extension programs are conducted in cooperation with the traditional (1862) land-grant institutions; therefore, SDSU has an on-going relationship with the tribal colleges through the land-grant linkage. As of 1923 South Dakota State College had an instructional program organized under five divisions: Agriculture, Engineering, General Science, Home Economics, and Pharmacy. Thirty years later, General Science was renamed the Division of Science and Applied Arts. The Nursing Division was created in 1956. The following year all graduate work was organized into the Graduate Division.
Status as a university began when the South Dakota Legislature changed the name of South Dakota State College to South Dakota State University on July 1, 1964. At that time the following colleges were created: Agriculture and Biological Sciences, Arts and Science, Engineering, Home Economics, Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Graduate School. In 1965 Ph.D. programs were established in Agronomy, Agricultural Economics (later discontinued), Animal Science, and Plant Pathology (later discontinued). A decade later, in 1974, the College of General Registration was established to provide assistance to student undecided about a major, pre-professional students,
or students who wanted a one or two year general studies program. In 1975 the Department of Education was reorganized and renamed the Division of Education. In 1989 the Division of Education was granted college status. The College of Home Economics was renamed the College of Family and Consumer Affairs.
SDSU consists of the following colleges:
- College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences
- College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
- College of Education & Human Sciences
- College of Nursing
- College of Pharmacy & Allied Health Professions
- Graduate School
- Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering
- University College
- Van D. & Barbara B. Fishback Honors College