Saturday, December 29, 2012

American Sign Language Now Available Online at RSC

ASU Student Ashley Tucker completes her language
requirement with RSC's online American Sign Language course. 
Sign language has grown increasingly popular amongst those interested in learning another language. In fact, American Sign Language is now the second most popular language for online learners at Rio Salado College.

In her 18 years in the language department at RSC, Faculty Chair Angela Felix has watched the teaching of languages transition from traditional in-person classes to an online format. “The online Sign Language class started in 2009,” said Felix. “It was slow going in the beginning, like it was when we started Spanish 15 or 16 years ago.”

The department had experience with online delivery of audible languages like German, French and Spanish, but the sign language class needed unique solutions.

“We had done a lot of work with voice recognition technology for our other language courses online,” said Felix. “When we embarked on this journey with sign language, we honestly did not know what to do.”

The greatest challenge that the school faced was learning how to get the same voice recognition component that existed in other courses to work for the non-spoken language.

“We thought that it was a better idea to use something that was common rather than do something different that would be unfamiliar so we incorporated YouTube,” said Felix.

Most students already know how to use YouTube, so they can focus on learning the language instead of learning new technology.

“We leap frogged over that obstacle,” said Felix. “It has really facilitated the learning experience and students can focus on the content rather than the technology.”

The course follows the same district-approved competencies, so students can be confident they are getting the same quality as they would in an in-person course.

“We’re following the same learning outcomes that are required at the state universities, we’re just finding a more personalized way to do so,” said Felix.

It is because of these requirements that students like Ashley Tucker of Arizona State University is able to take the course without worrying about whether or not it will transfer.

“I found out that Rio had it online and that I could get it done faster through Rio Salado,” said Tucker. “I actually am graduating a semester earlier because I was able to take my classes through them.”

Ashley has completed two semesters of Sign Language and says taking it online and using YouTube is very intuitive.

“I think it’s so easy,” said Tucker. “I’m not super techy and even I can handle it. I’m like a pro now.”

Even without the in-person aspect of the class, Tucker feels her instructors have made it easy to interact.

“Even though I haven’t had the face time, my teacher puts in the effort. She knows who I am, she knows this is important, she knows I’m graduating and that’s been wonderful.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Paying For College: Spring Loan Disbursements

Federal law requires student loans that are issued to students who begin their academic year during the spring term to be released in two equal installments.

This rule is complicated and can be confusing for new students, so we’d like to provide a brief overview of how it works.

  • This rule only applies to students who begin their academic year during the spring term. If you started your academic year in the fall term, this does not apply to you.
  • This rule only applies to student loans. It does not apply to grants or scholarships.
  • Students must be actively participating in 6 or more credit hours to receive student loan money. This means your classes must be in-progress and that you are working on coursework for 6 credit hours’ worth of classes. Note:  If you stagger your start dates at the beginning of the term, you will not be eligible to receive loan money until you have ramped up to at least 6 active credit hours.
  • If you start the term with 6 or more credits, in most cases you will receive your first loan installment during the third week of class. If you are a first time borrower, you will not receive your loan money until after a 30-day delay required by the federal government.
  • In almost all cases, your second installment will be released at the midpoint of your semester block.
We encourage students to use the financial aid disbursement calculator to estimate the date when they will receive their financial aid money.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cookie's Tips to Stay Well Through The Holidays

Written by Rio Salado College Intern, Matt Loper

With the holidays around the corner, some might be worried about how to keep a strong mind and body with the extra stress and food that this season can be known for.

Cookie Potter, coordinator of wellness education for Rio Salado College, shares some holiday wellness tips. She says that if you are going out of town, having visitors, or looking for some time off work, that eating and exercise routines can be easily interrupted, but there are ways to make sure you don’t let things get out of hand.

While traveling, make sure to stretch to help your body better handle the stress and long hours of sitting. When scoping out hotels, looks for options that have fitness centers or you can look for gyms around the area you can go to.

“I look for local yoga studios, and I take a class,” Potter said.

Travelers should also prepare for contact with large groups of fellow travelers that can take a toll on the immune system.

“You want to make sure before you even go on your trip, you’re boosting your immune system,” Potter said.

If you are staying home or expecting visitors, you can still make plans before the holidays come to make sure you keep your fitness where you want. Planning ahead of time will make it easier to accomplish your goals.

If your holiday season includes family gatherings and parties, over eating can be a big concern.

Potter suggests having a healthy snack right before heading to a party so that you aren’t too hungry. She also said that sometimes you might feel hungry, but your body could be asking for something else.

“Sometimes you think you are hungry but you are really dehydrated,” she said.

Planning ahead how much you are going to eat and setting limits for yourself can make it easier to say no to second or third helpings. Writing goals down for eating and exercise is a good way to hold yourself accountable and help you avoid seasonal setbacks along with added stress and anxiety.

Regular stretching and relaxing can help calm the worried mind and bring some peaceful moments into a hectic time. If you are feeling stressed, it is important to give your body a boost with some strengthening nutrients.

“Because the holidays can be stressful, I think about vitamin supplements,” Potter said.

For those who may feel sad or lonely, one of the best ways to kick the holiday blues is to help someone else in need.

“Get out and volunteer,” Potter suggested.

For those who may find themselves without plans for the holiday, service is an option as well, and you can even bring the relatives.

So whether you are facing traveling, family, massive amounts of calories, or looking for a chance to give to others, make sure that while you are taking care of everything that needs to get done, take care of your well-being.

This article can also be found in the December 22 edition of The Tempe Republic.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Current Magazine Winter Edition Available Now

Open publication

The winter edition of Rio Salado College's quarterly publication, Current, is available in print or online.  The magazine was themed around holiday and mail-order catalogs and features a variety of fun articles of interest to the RSC community.

Featured In this issue:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kyrsten Sinema Meets With Local Mayors at EVVEC

Don't worry. They did not demand the sum of...One Million Dollars. 
Community Leaders Discuss Veteran Issues at EVVEC

Arizona Congresswoman-elect Kyrsten Sinema, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell met to discuss veterans’ issues at the East Valley Veterans Education Center earlier today.

“It's incredible to have this veteran center in the East Valley,” Sinema said. “We have a lot of veterans in this area and it's a great testament to our commitment to serve their needs.”

Leaving politics at the door, the four community leaders sat down to take a serious look at the problems facing military veterans and their families.

“One of the reasons I'm excited about being at this facility is that it is nonpartisan,” Sinema said. “We can all come together to serve those who serve our country.”

EVVEC, hosted by Rio Salado College, is a collaborative effort of five of the ten Maricopa County Community College District colleges. Its purpose is to provide one-stop support to veterans and their families.

For more more fun photos or to learn about EVVEC, visit

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Required Documents

Paying For College: Required Documents
Before starting a degree, certificate or official college transfer program, Rio Salado College requires students to:

  • Authenticate Identity – To protect students from identity theft, all students are required to provide proof of identity. In most cases this will be a COLOR copy of your current and valid driver’s license. For a full list of acceptable ID and delivery methods, visit the Financial Aid Website. It is important to follow all instructions carefully to avoid delays. Note: Proof of identity MUST be in COLOR. 
  • Verify Residency –All students must be classified as either a resident or non-resident for tuition purposes. Students who cannot provide acceptable documentation of legal residency in the United States will be considered an out-of-state student. They will not qualify for in-state tuition or state-based financial aid. 
  • Verify Prior Education – Certificate and degree seeking students are required to have their prior education verified by the Office of Admissions and Records. When providing transcripts or other documentation of prior education, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully and avoid mistakes that could cause the documents to be rejected. 

Financial aid will not be processed until after authentication of identity and prior education has been verified.

Note: Validation of prior education does NOT include a transcript evaluation. We strongly encourage students to Take the Next Step and submit a FREE transcript evaluation form as they are completing the prior education validation process.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Corporate Partnerships Offer Unique Opportunities

As we navigate our holiday shopping, it's easy to overlook the workers who keep the shelves full of our favorite holiday ingredients and point us in the right direction when we've completely lost our way in the baking aisle.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the grocery industry is one of the largest in the country and its 2.5 million employees are exceptionally diverse in both their purpose and their perspective. Some grocery store workers are there temporarily to earn extra money through the holidays while others hope to work their way up the ranks and make a career of it.

Coca-Cola employee and Rio Salado College student Larry Christensen is a dedicated worker and committed student who has struggled over the years to balance his work with his education.

"I started taking classes through the Maricopa Community Colleges system in the late 70's," Christensen said. "But like a lot of people, life got in the way."

According to Christensen it was difficult to commit to a college schedule when his work schedule was so eratic.

"I would start classes while working days and then get transferred to nights or vice versa," Christensen said. "I moved to different parts of the valley and started a family. Luckily for me, the Maricopa District offers a lot of options."

The option Christensen chose was the Retail Management Certificate offered through collaboration with the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) and Arizona Food Marketing Alliance (AFMA). The program is offered online through Rio Salado College and in-person at several participating colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD).

"Coca-Cola would host the classes at their Tempe location and Rio Salado would provide the administration, teachers and any other needed services," Christensen said. "The classes were held once a week for 8 to 10 weeks."

Christensen was appreciative of the flexibility of the certificate program and the understanding of the knowledgeable instructors.

"Rio acknowledged that holidays are an important part of Coca-Cola's business and started classes at different times, or gave us the opportunity to skip weeks as needed for our business," Christensen said. "The teachers also understood that a work day isn't always 8 to 5, no matter what the job description says."

Christensen also praised the program’s instructors whose real world knowledge and experience added value to the course material.

"The teachers have an understanding of their subjects because they worked in those fields," Christensen said. "The human resources teacher had been in the human resources departments of several companies and was able to help the students understand how the department works. The retail merchandising teacher worked for Safeway and helped us to understand philosophies that went way beyond the books."

Visit to learn more about partnership opportunities at Rio Salado College

This story can also be found in the December 15 edition of The Tempe Republic. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rio Salado College Named 2012 Performance Excellence Award Winner

PHOENIX, AZ (December 12, 2012). The Arizona Quality Alliance recently named Rio Salado College a 2012 Showcase in Excellence Award winner for the college’s Course Lifecycle Process.

According to Karen Shepard, Executive Director of the Arizona Quality Alliance, the Showcase in Excellence Award program is based on the Malcolm Baldrige Award criteria and encourages excellence in quality, performance and outcomes.

“AQA is proud to continue empowering organizations to pursue performance excellence, improve outcomes and contribute to the economic strength of their community and state,” Shepard said.

Rio Salado College Vice President of Academic Affairs Dana Offerman said receiving the award reinforces the college’s culture of innovation and its commitment to relentless improvement.

“We are pleased to be recognized for our Course Lifecycle Process,” said Offerman. “This data-driven system allows us to analyze and evaluate our courses while being responsive to the changing needs in higher education.”

The Course Lifecycle Process is a custom built product.  It works with Rio Salado’s existing systems to track each course from proposal until retirement. By providing empirical data for review, the process allows decision makers to respond intelligently to changes in the higher education environment.

Awards will be presented at a banquet to be held from 11:30am-1:00pm on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at the Chaparral Suites Resort, 5001 N. Scottsdale Road.

About Rio Salado College:
Rio Salado College was established in 1978 by the Maricopa Community College District to provide the next step in education for non-traditional students. The college, headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, is one of the largest online public community colleges in the nation serving more than 67,000 students annually. In addition to providing high-quality instruction for 100+ degree and certificate pathways, Rio Salado is dedicated to providing flexible, affordable access through;  adult basic education, collaborative partnerships, early college initiatives and online learning.

About Arizona Quality Alliance
The Arizona Quality Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that advances improvement and excellence in organizations, communities and individuals throughout Arizona, Nevada and Utah. The AQA is administered by a professional staff under the leadership and guidance of its members and elected Board of Directors. The AQA is also a member of the Alliance for Performance Excellence, a national network of state programs that advance improvement in organizations by using the Baldrige Criteria.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Advances Scheduled For Jan. 7 Start Date

Paying for College: Book Advances

Holiday closures and limited service hours may have an impact on the timing of Book Advance disbursements for students who begin classes January 7.

Book Advance money for the January 7 start date will be released to eligible students beginning December 17. Although this is 10 days earlier than the standard Book Advance schedule, students should not expect to receive book advance money prior to the holiday break.

The early release of book advance money is only for eligible students who are enrolled in classes that begin January 7. No other start dates will be affected.

The Book Advances will be manually processed by the Financial Aid department as a courtesy to help avoid delays when purchasing books. Students with the January 7 start date should also plan for limited bank hours, shipping delays and other holiday-related interruptions that could cause problems when ordering books online.

For more information on the Book Advance program and eligibility requirements visit

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Savor the Winter Season Locally

When you think of growing produce, herbs, and spices, Arizona may not be the location that comes to mind, but, as it turns out, it is the perfect place to grow these edibles.

“Winter is the biggest season for growing produce in Arizona,” said Joshua Sundberg, sustainable gardening instructor at Rio Salado College. “You don’t lose food to the winter here, and you don’t even really lose it to the heat. This is one place where you can literally have a garden year round.”

During winter, greens and other vegetables like kale, arugula, broccoli, eggplant, cabbages, tomatoes, and peppers are readily available.

Sundberg says some of these foods and others are even better when left on the vine.

“Some plants like melons and others are better the longer they are left on the vine,” Sundberg said. “As the plant is ripens, all of the acids turn into sugar making it sweeter.”

This is also the case with peppers.

“Peppers that are watered a little bit less have to work harder to provide a better product so you get hotter, sweeter peppers,” Sundberg said.

Spice up your Cuisine 
Another plus for Arizona’s growing season is the ability to keep herbs in your garden year round.

“Rosemary, basil, pineapple sage, and lemon grass are a few examples,” Sundberg said.

As the season changes, the Café at Rio tries to focus on herbs like these and other seasonal foods.

“Over the winter, greens from our garden and local farms will be featured in the Café,” Sundberg said. “We love to use broccoli rabe and arugula, and I’ve planted rainbow chard this year. It has a really awesome splash of color.”

Sundberg says the nice thing about having a garden on-site is that things are usually harvested based on need which helps to reduce the amount of leftovers.

When dealing with leftovers this holiday season, Sundberg suggests turning those foods into compost or using them in combination with other foods to make an entirely new dish.

Here’s one chard recipe to try this holiday season.

Sautéed Swiss Chard With Parmesan and Lemon Serves 2-4

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 medium yellow onion,  julienned

2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin

1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and black pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil.

Add onion and sauté until translucent.

Add garlic, sauté for 30 seconds and then add greens.

Sauté greens for 1 minute and then add water. 

Cover skillet and reduce heat to medium. Let greens steam for 2 minutes.

Top greens with Parmesan cheese and fresh squeezed lemon juice. 

Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Note: Many recipes call for you to remove the center stem of greens. If your greens are young and tender, this is not necessary. Try this recipe as an appetizer served on top of garlic-rubbed bruschetta toast or as a side dish with your favorite fish. 

This article can also be found in the December 7 edition of the Tempe Republic.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Financial Aid Eligibility

Paying for College: Financial Aid Eligibility
Students are required to maintain a satisfactory grade point average and make progress toward their degree in order to use federal student aid to pay for college.

As students complete their courses each academic term, Rio Salado College automatically evaluates whether the Standards of Academic Progress (SAP) set forth by the Maricopa County Community College District have been met.

Automated SAP programing determines financial aid eligibility based on:
  • Grade Point Average – Students must meet a minimum GPA based on the total number of credits attempted.  
  • Progress – Students must successfully complete 2/3 of all courses attempted. Progress is calculated cumulatively and carries over from one term to the next. 
  • Maximum Time Frame – Students who have already attempted more than 150% of the required credits for a program will no longer be able to pay for the program using federal financial aid. 
Students who do not meet all three criteria for satisfactory academic progress are no longer eligible to receive financial aid and are sometimes asked to return a portion of the aid they've already received.

Students who have lost their financial aid eligibility due to unsatisfactory academic progress or to the time frame requirement may appeal the decision using the Appeal for Satisfactory Academic Progress and Appeal for Maximum Timeframe forms. Keep in mind that submitting an appeal does not guarantee eligibility will be restored.

Visit to learn more about financial aid eligibility requirements.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

RSC’s Public Website Gets a New Look!

Just in time for the Holidays, Rio Salado’s public website,, is getting a makeover. Beginning Wednesday, Dec. 5, visitors to the website will notice a completely redesigned homepage that features a streamlined layout. The new “StartAtRio” initiative will be highlighted on the site, as well as a focus on Online Learning and the RSC Community. Along with a new color scheme, users will notice some changes to site navigation including a new footer, and more prominently placed social media accessibility.

In addition, the Programs webpage is also getting a new look. Page content remains the same, but has been reorganized in an easy-to-read format. The new webpages are also mobile-device friendly, to appeal to our student base.

To see before and after screen shots highlighting all the changes, click here.

Note: Any website updates/change requests will be on hold until after the launch on Wednesday.