Rio Salado College
2323 W. 14th Street
Tempe, AZ 85281
Accrediting Agency:
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Rio Salado College is a two-year, public community college located in Tempe, Ariz., and claims to be the largest online public community college in the country. The college was founded in 1978 by the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD), opening with an astounding 8,000 students taking classes for credit. Since then, the college has grown to enroll more than 60,000 students each year. Rio Salado College initiated the first distance learning program in the MCCCD back in the late 1970s, and has offered online education options for more than 15 years. Today, more than 45,000 students take online classes at Rio Salado College each year, according to the school’s website. Rio Salado College strives to make higher education both affordable and accessible, offering a block calendar system with 48 start dates a year so that students can begin their studies immediately rather than waiting for the standard fall, spring, and summer semesters put in place at other colleges.

Programs Offered

Rio Salado College offers more than 50 certificates and degrees and prides itself in offering more than 600 online classes to give students added flexibility in attending school. Academic programs are available in a wide range of areas and include programs that can be transferred to four-year institutions and programs that prepare students to enter the workforce directly, as well as adult basic education and GED classes. A small sampling of programs available at Rio includes accounting, computer technology, law enforcement technology, paralegal studies, military leadership, sustainable food systems, and teacher education. Online courses at Rio Salado College are delivered through a learning management system called RioLearn. The system allows students to access their online courses, turn in assignments, communicate with their instructors and classmates, and access student services such as the library, counseling, and advising.


Rio Salado College has been accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission, since 1981. In addition, the college’s programs in dental hygiene, dental assisting, and nursing hold accreditation from specialized accrediting agencies, according to College Navigator.


Like many community colleges, Rio Salado College has an open admissions policy. Students begin the admissions process by creating an account at and receiving a Maricopa Enterprise ID and student ID. Students then get admitted to Rio by creating a student account online through MCCCD Admissions and selecting Rio from a listing of MCCCD schools. The application process will require students to verify their identity and verify their prior education. Verifying identity will require a valid driver’s license (certain states excluded) or ID card, passport, or military ID (see here for more information). Verification of prior education is usually shown by having your high school transcript, GED, or transcripts from colleges where you have completed prior credits sent to Rio (see herefor more information).


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