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30 Years of Learning, Innovating & Partnering

30 Years of Learning, Innovating & Partnering  

Rio Salado Historic Achievements & Recognition


  • March 14th – Rio Salado College established by the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) Governing Board; one of seven “colleges without walls” in the nation. Walter Morrison appointed Provost.
  • Nearly 8,000 credit students register for the fall semester, creating 2,155 FTSE; 78 classroom locations in use. Rio creates the first distance learning program in the MCCCD.
  • Acquires KJZZ (originally KMCR), the regional National Public Radio affiliate offering a news and jazz format.
  • First Adult Basic Education grant serves 749 students; program eventually grows to more than 15,000 students.


  • Offered first classes at Luke Air Force Base. Later developed FasTrack, an accelerated program to serve the special needs of military students
  • Launch of Sun Sounds, a statewide radio reading service for the print-handicapped.
  • Rio Salado receives candidacy status from North Central Association.


  • Early innovations include first telephone registration in Arizona; first mail registration in District; and first information processing center in District.
  • Myrna Harrison is appointed President.


  • Receives five-year accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the maximum possible for a new institution.


  • First shopping mall center opens at Paradise Valley Mall.


  • Dr. Charles Green is appointed President.
  • U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett presents Award of Excellence to Rio’s Adult Basic Education Program.


  • Purchase of “Rio Main” at 640 North First Avenue, Phoenix
  • Accreditation renewed for six years.


  • Initiates Concurrent Enrollment program (presently known as Dual Enrollment), allowing able and ambitious high school students to receive college credit.


  • Acquires property at 619 North 7th Avenue in Phoenix for the Chemical Dependency Program (now Adult Learning Center).


  • The MCCCD Governing Board appoints Dr. Linda Thor as President of Rio Salado College. She introduces Total Quality Management (TQM) principles to the college.
  • Begin extensive efforts to develop customized corporate and government partnerships with major employers including American Express and the Phoenix Police Department.


  • Sun Sounds of Arizona named one of President George Bush’s 1,000 points of light.
  • The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools accredits Rio Salado College for 10 years, the maximum possible.


  • Launches KBAQ (89.5 FM), a classical music station.
  • Receives Governor’s Award (Pioneer Award) for Quality for applying business principles to an educational environment.


  • Administrative headquarters relocate to Tempe, Arizona following purchase of building at 2323 West 14th Street.
  • Rio becomes one of the first colleges in the U.S. to go totally online, offering Internet courses and full online support including registration, library and academic counseling services.
  • Distance learning students able to select from unprecedented 26 start dates per calendar year.
  • Grand opening of the Rio Sun Cities Lifelong Learning Center.


  • Grand opening of the $1.2 million Rio School of Dental Hygiene in partnership with the Arizona Dental Association and Delta Dental; within one year the school is ranked among the top 20 in the U.S.


  • Beginning of long-term partnership with the U.S. Army for eArmyU, bringing eLearning courses to military students around the world.
  • Online Clinical Dental Assisting is launched; marks the second partnership with the Arizona Dental Association.


  • Online Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Education is introduced; program later expands into comprehensive Teacher Education Programs with partnerships leading to baccalaureate, masters and doctoral degrees.


  • President Thor receives the Paul A. Elsner Excellence in Leadership Award from The Chair Academy.
  • Rio’s partnership with Arizona Dental Association for Online Clinical Dental Assisting receives the Golden Apple Award from the American Dental Association
    Receives the Sloan Consortium Award for Excellence in Online Access.
  • Ranked number one in the nation by the U.S. Department of Education for highest number of occupational certificates awarded annually.
  • The North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission re-accredits the college with the maximum 10-year accreditation.


  • Celebrates 25th anniversary.
  • Launch of Online Nursing Programs.
  • For the second consecutive year, a Rio student is named to the prestigious All-USA Academic First Team by USA Today, the American Association of Community Colleges, and Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.


  • Conference Center @ Rio opens.
  • Partnership with Microsoft and Dell Computers results in RioLearn, an online customized course management and delivery system.


  • New two-year Teacher-in-Residence program developed to ease severe teacher shortage.
  • College named a “Top 10 Digitally Savvy College” by the Center for Digital Education and the American Association of Community Colleges.


  • Rio Salado offers 450 online courses and a variety of degrees and certificates. The college has grown 193 percent in the past 10 years and it partners with more than 50 major employers.
  • The college purchases an adjacent, 60,000-square-foot building at 1480 S. Hohokam Drive for $14 million using 2004 bond money. The space provides conference rooms.


  • A new partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense is established to assist military personnel transitioning to civilian life with the Troops to Teachers Program.
  • Rio Salado becomes the only college in the state and one of only a few around the nation to offer online foreign language courses using Auralog, a new software system with a voice-recognition component.
  • Rio Salado President Dr. Linda Thor is honored for her courage and tenacity in the community college baccalaureate programs with the Pioneer Award from the Community College Baccalaureate Association. Dr. Thor also became a charter signer of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, an effort to address global warming.
  • RioLearn wins a Campus Technology 2007 Innovator Award from Campus Technology Magazine.
  • The Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center in Surprise holds its grand opening. The center at 12535 Smokey Drive increased the center from 5,000 to 15,000 square feet.


  • The 12,170-square-foot Rio Salado College Southwest Center in Avondale is completed.
  • The Textbook Savings Program begins saving students up to 50 percent off the price of new textbooks.
  • The virtual student union, RioLounge, is designed to offer online students similar social interactions that they would have at a traditional campus with just a click of the mouse.
Rio Salado College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.