Spotlight: Rio Salado College Innovation Shines on Student Success

In the face of many difficulties, which include massive budget cuts, low graduation rates, and students that need an abundance of guidance and support to stay on track, community colleges throughout the nation are finding ways to keep their doors open and graduate students on time. No school has been more successful in making the most out of a less-than-ideal situation than Rio Salado College.
Rio Salado is part of the Maricopa Community College District, a ten-campus system in Phoenix that offers over 10,000 courses for it’s 250,000 students on campus and online. It is one of the largest higher education institutions in the United States. Rio Salado accounts for roughly 60,000 of the system’s students, many of which attend part-time in order to accommodate work schedules and family needs due to economic disadvantages.
Students who come from poverty have the odds stacked against them with regard to graduation. The graduation rate for community college students in the United States is at most 40 percent, but that number falls drastically for poor and working-class students. According to the New York Times, only about one-quarter of college freshmen born into families in the bottom half of the income spectrum will go on to get an undergraduate degree within six years. Yet, 90 percent of students in the top one-quarter of the income spectrum will obtain their degree. Quite simply, socioeconomic status will greatly determine whether a student
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Getting college scholarships is a process that involves much more than filling out applications and writing essays. There are both practical and creative steps that must be taken that can help you win as many scholarships as possible. As a current or future community college student, you’re already one step ahead by choosing a school that is far less expensive than four-year or private school options. With a little work, you can make your community college expenses even less.
It’s never too early to start searching for scholarships. As surprising as it may sound, there are many college scholarship programs available for students in their freshman, sophomore, or junior years of high school, as well as for students in elementary and middle school! That being the case, waiting until your senior year to locate and apply for scholarships puts you at risk because you could be missing out on all kinds of scholarship opportunities.
It’s also vital to start your scholarship search early because it’s a time consuming process and one that requires a healthy commitment of time and energy. Each application will have its own unique requirements, and the time it takes to gather transcripts, letters or recommendation, and other required materials can be up to several weeks. And while there are thousands of students who receive scholarships each year, not everyone will get something in return for all their hard work on their application materials. Although it can be discouraging to not receive
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The lure of an affordable college education brings countless thousands of students just like you to community college campuses each semester. With a greater breadth and depth of course offerings and degree programs available than ever before, community colleges represent an excellent value for many students who seek to build their skills for future educational and career endeavors. Now, in addition to many associate’s degrees and professional certificate programs, community colleges throughout the country are offering select bachelor’s degree programs, furthering the appeal of the community college route. However, despite many advantages to these programs they are not for everyone.
Degree Programs Around the Nation
The movement to allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees is borne out of the needs of the modern workforce. Education and economic officials recognize that with major gaps in the workforce in the areas of healthcare, energy exploration, and information technology in particular, new workers need to be trained. Community colleges represent an excellent opportunity to train these workers because they are typically at the forefront of educational innovation and are much more able to respond to the changing needs of the workforce than is a four-year institution.
This new wave of educational opportunity is present in all corners of the country. More than a dozen community colleges in Washington State now offer baccalaureate degrees. More than two-dozen two-year institutions in Florida offer four-year degree options. Texas, Hawaii, and West Virginia community colleges have gotten on board with offering bachelor’s degree programs as well. In
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There are many perks to attending community college. From a financial standpoint, a community college education is far less expensive than one from a four-year school. Class sizes at community colleges tend to be smaller, so students can usually count on more individualized attention from your professors. Community college campuses are often closer to home as well, so students have an easier commute if they live off campus. If they live on campus, there are more social and recreational programs available today than ever before.
But going to college can still be a hard transition to make. The coursework is more rigorous than in high school, which can cause some students to struggle to keep pace. Some students enter community college without all the skills they need to be successful as well. Fortunately, community colleges have made student support services a primary focus of improvement over the course of the last twenty years. With academic support services like tutoring and remedial classes, on-campus advising and counseling services, and job-placement and transfer assistance programs, campuses offer assistance for students’ most common needs.  
Remedial Coursework Revisited
According to a report by the Community College Research Center, about six in ten community college students are referred to some kind of remedial course. For a healthy portion of those students, more than one remedial course is required. Being told you have to take a basic course in college can be surprising – and disconcerting – because most community college students
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It’s seen by some as the “easy way out.” Minimal entrance requirements, open enrollment, and a wide variety of basic and remedial courses give some people the impression that the community college experience is one that is not academically rigorous. Although there might have been some element of truth to this stigma a few decades ago, community colleges of today are on the leading edge of education, particularly for new and emerging career areas that are experiencing explosive growth. Yet, many myths about community colleges still exist.
Myth #1: Students Rejected from Four Year Colleges
Perhaps the most pervasive stereotype about students that attend community college is that they are there out of academic necessity, not choice. Some people assume that the more stringent entrance criteria held by four-year institutions is just too much for ‘those students’ to meet, forcing them to study instead at a local junior college. While academic necessity is a reason for some students to attend a two-year institution, the overarching reason why students choose to attend a community college is cost effectiveness.
The per-year cost of a university education is roughly three times that of the per-year cost of attending a two-year school. With many 21st century careers needing only an associate’s degree and increasingly smooth transfer procedures from community colleges to universities, completing the first two years of one’s education at a two-year institution makes a lot of financial sense. The flexible nature of community college scheduling combined with the availability of scholarships and grants
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