Monday, October 19, 2009

Language Classes See Record Enrollment

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado PR Manager, 480.517.8472

Rio Salado College’s foreign language program is booming. The Tempe-based college is seeing a record number of students signing up for its online classes.

“We have more students registered for classes at this point in the semester than we did all of last fall,” said Angela Felix, faculty chair of languages at Rio Salado College. “And last fall we saw our largest enrollment.”

Due to the convenience of online learning and community college affordability, many students from surrounding colleges and universities have opted to take their required language class at Rio Salado.

“Our classes start every Monday and never close or cancel due to low enrollment like other colleges,” said Felix. “Also, the flexibility of online classes allows students to complete the course at their own pace, and provides the option to take classes at the traditional 14 weeks or at an accelerated pace. They don’t have to drive to a campus and they can take the class at their convenience.”

According to Felix, the program’s popularity goes beyond affordability and convenience. Rio Salado’s foreign language classes use a state-of-the art voice recognition technology called Auralog, which allows students to perfect pronunciation, build their vocabulary, and improve sentence structure. Auralog tracks the student’s voice, graphing correct sounds and those that are incorrect. The diagrams help the students position their mouth for perfect speech.
“The voice recognition software really makes a difference in learning a language online,” said Felix. “Our online students do just as well as students in a classroom. Students who are hesitant or shy about saying difficult new words in front of a class enjoy the ability to perfect their pronunciation in a familiar environment where they feel most comfortable.”

For questions that cannot be answered with the program, the students benefit from Rio Salado’s 24/7 helpdesk support from expert instructors. The entire program is like having a private tutor assisting you along the way, said Felix.

While the cost of hiring a private language tutor is expensive, the cost of the program is relatively affordable, which is another contributing factor to the enrollment increase. With the interactive voice recognition software students aren’t required to purchase textbooks. Auralog provides all the materials students need to become proficient in speaking another language, said Felix. Auralog cost just $70 compared to textbooks that run at double Auralog’s price or more. The state-of-the-art software is the same that can be purchased for approximately $450 by the general public.

“Our students are really excited about this,” said Felix. “They love the cutting-edge technology over having to buy expensive textbooks, but really appreciate having a knowledgeable faculty member available for guidance and help.”

Rio Salado College’s seven language classes include: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. The college also offers sign language classes, which allow students to use the social networking site YouTube to submit assignments. For more information about the language programs offered by Rio Salado College, please visit http://www.riosalado.edu/programs/general_education/Pages/languages.aspx.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rio Salado Named America’s Greenest Campus

Rio Salado College has been named America’s Greenest Campus by Climate Culture on Wednesday for having the highest average of carbon reduction per person. The college also was awarded $5,000 to be put toward green initiatives.

Rio Salado College beat out nearly 500 colleges and universities across the country in the America’s Greenest Campus (AGC) contest, which started in April. All of the participating schools combined to save $4.5 million in energy costs and reduce their collective carbon output by 18.6 million pounds, which is equivalent to the annual amount of carbon emitted by 1,900 cars.

In effect, the award recognizes Rio Salado for having the smallest carbon footprint among all the entrants. Rio Salado’s official carbon footprint, as documented for the American College and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment, is .84 tons of C02e.

The miniscule footprint is the result of Rio Salado’s efficient learning formats, which include 550 online courses, in-person classes on-site at corporations and government agencies, and accelerated formats.
America's Greenest Campus is the first nationwide contest among colleges to reduce the carbon footprints of their students, faculty, alumni and staff. AGC partners include Climate Culture, SmartPower, Sierra Student Coalition, National Association of Environmental Law Societies and U.S. Department of Energy.
“Environmental viability is part of the culture at our college,” said Rio Salado President Linda Thor. “We want to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

Rio Salado College is planning to use the money to help fund the Community Garden Project at its main campus, 2323 W. 14th St., Tempe. The community garden will be open to Rio Salado students pursuing a degree or certificate in its Sustainable Foods Program and Rio Salado employees. Food from the garden will be used in the Café @ Rio.

Classes will emphasize the movement toward sustainable food systems, including researching food sources, purchasing locally, and building relationships with local producers. As students progress through the program, they will complete fundamental culinary course work, focus on real food and prepare for hands-on learning experiences in the Café. The Café will work toward a goal of zero-waste.

To learn more about Rio Salado's efforts, click HERE.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Classes help prepare professionals for BPI certification test

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado PR Manager, 480.517.8472


Arizona has received about $28.5 million of the $57 million in stimulus money, which is earmarked for weatherization projects across the state. The funds are part of an effort through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help low-income residents improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

This funding is doing more than helping Arizona’s low-income residents. It is creating job opportunities in the home performance workforce throughout the state, too. To help job seekers begin a career in the home performance workforce, Tempe-based Rio Salado College recently started offering the Building Performance Analyst Certificate through a joint partnership with the Southwest Building Science Training Center.

“We continue to experience a dramatic growth in the weatherization and home performance industry that will require a large number of highly trained individuals to deliver this service in Arizona,” said Gavin Hastings, Energy Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator for Foundation for Senior Living (FSL) Home Improvements. “The partnership allows individuals wanting to become energy auditors the opportunity to learn online from a local resource.”


The certificate consists of two non-credit online test-prep courses, which are designed to prepare candidates for their in-person field training classes and exams for Building Performance Institute (BPI) certification at the Southwest Building Science Training Center in Phoenix. BPI certification is a common requirement for contractors doing weatherization work, and the Southwest Building Science Training Center is the only affiliate in Arizona where workers can get BPI certification.

The class content will help students will gain an understanding of a broad range of trades and occupations, such as HVAC technician, envelope workers such as air sealing, insulation, and vapor barrier workers, siding and window specialists, and a number of other workforce groups. The students will gain an understanding of how each subsystem interacts with and affects the others to achieve building performance.

The Principles of Building Science course explains the science that an individual in the building, remodeling, or trade industry needs to know if they are working to make buildings perform more efficiently. The course helps prepare individuals for BPI, NATE, NARI, RESNET, and other industry credentials for green buildings.

The Comprehensive Building Assessment is an intermediate course geared toward conducting visual building inspections, performing diagnostic testing, and determining residential building improvement opportunities in the field; then documenting the performance of the home, prioritizing improvements, and preparing a work scope that will guide the homeowners decision making process for making the improvements.

“This model is great for individuals with little or no contracting experience as they gain a more comprehensive education in construction principles, building component, and principles of building science,” said Hastings.

For more information about Rio Salado College’s Building Performance Analyst Certificate, please visit www.riosalado.edu/certifications.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rio Salado, Guests Offering Workshops at Going Green Fair

Communiversity @ Surprise partners hosting open house

On Saturday, Oct. 17, the Communiversity @ Surprise is taking part in the City of Surprise’s second annual Going Green Fair by hosting an educational fair and offering green workshops. Rio Salado College is presenting two free workshops, while AKA Green and APS will each present a workshop. (See below for workshop details).

To register for Rio Salado or APS workshops, call 480.384.9001 or visit the Communiversity at 15950 W. Civic Center Plaza, Surprise. To register for the AKA Green workshop, please visit www.akagreen.com/workshop.php.

During the fair, the Communiversity @ Surprise partners — Rio Salado College, Phoenix College, Glendale Community College, Ottawa University, University of the Incarnate Word, and Western International University — will have representatives available to help perspective students learn about classes and degree pathways offered at the site.

WORKSHOPS
1. Green Home Remodeling 101 (Offered by AKA Green)
Are you thinking of remodeling a portion of your home or still have part of that kitchen left to do? This workshop is for you — homeowners who have heard about green building and want to know how it relates to home improvement projects they plan to undertake. This two-hour workshop is a survey course that covers green building concepts as a homeowner can apply them to minor or major home renovations. Concepts covered include basic building envelope principles (energy), materials, indoor air quality, materials re-use and recycling, energy conservation and water conservation. Includes lessons learned from a.k.a. Green partner Mick Dalrymple’s documented ongoing efforts to turn a 1975 home into an eco-friendly, family-friendly, Net-Zero Energy Home through remodeling.
Presenter: Mick Dalrymple, AKA Green
Time: 10 a.m. – noon
Cost: $39 per person ($70 for two people)

2. Bringing Sustainable Gardening Home (Offered by Rio Salado College)
· What is sustainable gardening and why should I care? Time for a paradigm shift.
· Sustainable vs. organic (there’s a difference?)
· Soil management comes first (don’t treat your soil like dirt)· Composting can be sexy
· Building raised beds with recycled/reused materials· Growing vegetables and flowers together(companion planting) for pest resistance and beauty
· Proper water usage (we have a drinking problem).
Presenter: Peter Conden, Rio Salado Community College
Time: 1 – 2 p.m.
Cost: FREE

3. We Are What We Eat (Offered by Rio Salado College)
There is a new movement in the food industry, which is to re-think how we produce, purchase and consume our food.
· Why this new shift?
· Is our current food system sustainable?
· What are the best choices for me and my family?
· How can I make these changes and still enjoy my favorite foods?
· This session will address these questions and provide an overview of the process from “seed to supper.”
Presenter: Shannon Corona, Rio Salado Community College
Time: 9 – 10 a.m.
Cost: FREE

4. Simple Things To Do To Lower Energy Bills (Offered by APS)
Wondering how to lower your energy bill? Curious about how solar energy works or if it's something you should consider for your home? Rex Stepp, of the Renewable Energy group at APS, will be presenting information on simple things you can do today to lower your energy costs as well as discussing how to take advantage of Arizona's 300 days of sunshine with today's solar technology. Along with discussing various ways to use solar energy, you'll also learn about the great incentives and tax credits currently available that can cover well over half the cost of going solar.
Presenter: Rex Stepp, APS
Time: Noon to 1 p.m.
Cost: FREE

Monday, October 5, 2009

Receive a Tax Credit While Earning College Credit

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado PR Manager
Attention college students! Start saving your school receipts. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's (ARRA) newly-created American Opportunity Tax Credit, college students and their parents may be eligible for more tax credits.

"The amount of the credit is higher," said Eric Smith, media relations specialist at the Internal Revenue Service. "It now goes up to $2,500 per student. So, that is definitely an increase, and to get that maximum credit of $2,500, you need to spend $4,000 on qualifying expenses. That's mainly tuition and fees, but it can also include books."

The American Opportunity Credit is good for the first four years of school, which is twice as long as the old Hope Credit, which was good for the first two years. There are additional changes that benefit students and parents.

"The income limits have been raised for the American Opportunity Credit," said Smith. "There are some people who didn't qualify under the old law who now qualify under the new law. Also, there's a change for people with lower incomes. That is to say you can get the American Opportunity Credit even if you owe no tax, and that wasn't true with the old Hope Credit.
For someone who doesn’t owe tax, they cannot get the full $2,500. Instead, it is capped at $1,000, which is major improvement considering they couldn’t receive anything under the old law."

According to Smith, students and their parents must file a tax return to get the credit. Pointing out that often it is better for the parent to claim the credit instead of the student.

"It may depend on who’s paying the cost," said Smith. "The key here is that students and parents shouldn’t leave this money lying on the table."

For people who need the money sooner rather than later there is a way to benefit now.

"You still have to claim it when you file your return next year, but the actual benefit or the tax savings, you can get at least some of that now," said Smith. "If you're working and you have tax taken out of your paycheck. You can actually reduce the amount of withholding that you have based on the credit that you expect to be able to claim."

To figure out how much of a credit someone can receive, visit www.irs.gov and use the withholding calculator, which will help determine if you qualify. If someone qualifies, they need to give their employer a new W-4 form and have less tax taken out of their paychecks.

Another new benefit, which is only available for 2009 and 2010, is using money from college savings plans. Money from these plans can be used to pay for computers, internet services, etc. A number of rules and restrictions apply, and contact a plan administrator for more information is highly suggested.

To learn more about Rio Salado College and the financial aid opportunities available, please visit http://www.riosalado.edu.