ABERDEEN, S.D. – In 2023, Northern State University launched the state’s only 2-year degree in early childhood education. Initially, the Department of Social Services partnered with Northern to provide full-tuition scholarships for five students. Now, DSS has increased the number of Early Childhood Education Scholarships to 10.

The Early Childhood Education Scholarships will provide full tuition, fees, and books for students who commit to working in a childcare field for two years after completing the program. The deadline to apply is April 1, and awardees will be announced in May.

“This program and scholarship have been the best thing that happened to me, and I am grateful for Northern making this possible,” said Kiara Bokinskie, Northern student.

The Early Childhood Education Scholarship has allowed her to focus on classes, Bokinskie said. Since the scholarship paid for most of her expenses, she didn’t need to worry about how to she was going to pay for books and tuition.

“Northern’s Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education is successfully addressing the workforce shortage in childcare and early childhood settings within our region, with our first cohort of program completers set to graduate this spring,” said Nicole Schutter.

The degree program and scholarship are part of a state- and community-wide effort to address the childcare and early childhood education shortages. Across South Dakota, there are more than 100 open positions in early childhood settings, many of which are urgently hiring. Most employers list an associate degree in early childhood education as a preferred qualification.

“Coupled with the newly announced round of full-tuition Early Childhood Education Scholarships, this degree program provides a comprehensive and affordable pathway for individuals seeking additional training in the area of early childhood education,” said Schutter. “We are looking forward to the continued growth of this program and are grateful for the partnership with DSS to serve our community and region in this manner.”

The Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education is offered online or on campus, in order to provide greater flexibility for students who are already working in childcare. Credits earned seamlessly transition toward a bachelor’s degree in elementary education or special education.

“My experience with the Early Childhood Education program has been amazing! There are so many amazing faculty members who have helped me with the scholarship process,” Bokinskie said.

See the full scholarship requirements and apply online.