Rio Salado College
During the school selection process, some students become experts at parsing cost-of-living charts. These are the data-rich tables that tell students how much it might cost to live in a specific place, if expenses due to housing, food, transportation, and entertainment are all taken into account.
By choosing a place with a lower cost of living, these students hope to spend a little less on their total education bill.
Students who study those charts might be drawn to Arizona. After all, according to Arizona Indicators, the state often comes in below average in terms of cost, especially in the years following the so-called “Great Recession.” That means students who pick Arizona often get a great value for a low price.
There are some Arizona students who don’t need to pay attention to issues of price at all. They’re still going to school, and they’re still paying for that education, but they don’t need to worry about how much Arizona costs over another state. That’s because they’re attending Rio Salado College. While this school is located in Arizona, it offers degrees on an online-only model, and according to the school’s website, some 250,000 students have taken advantage of that opportunity.
The Rio Salado College Learning Model
Students who attend Rio Salado College don’t walk into a classroom in order to learn. They don’t sit next to other students as they take courses. Instead, when it’s time to learn, these students log onto computers and take their classes in a virtual world.
Online classes aren’t necessarily passive. Students who take courses like this often have an opportunity to interact with a teacher and with other students. They might participate in chat sessions, trade email messages, or post in forums. Students might turn in papers, take online tests, or record presentations. There’s a great deal of robust learning going on, but none of that learning might be happening in a typical, traditional classroom.
Online classes like this can seem a little strange. After all, most people are accustomed to face-to-face learning sessions involving a teacher in a room filled with students. It might seem odd to place a teacher in a room that might be hundreds of miles away from any student at all, but in reality, classes like this really can help students to learn. In fact, in a study of the issue by the Online Learning Consortium, researchers found that 77 percent of academic leaders felt that students had the same learning outcome (or a superior outcome) in an online class that they might experience in a face-to-face class. The setting might be different, but the learning is the same.
The online model might be appealing to all sorts of people. In fact, Rio Salado College suggests that 60,000 people use the school each year. Those students include:
- Military members
- High school students
These students enjoy the flexibility that online classes provide. They might not be able to handle a commute and long class times, but they might be very capable of dealing with virtual learning and flexible schedules.
Cost might also be a consideration for some students. Virtual schools like this don’t require a great deal of administrative oversight. There are no huge campus buildings to maintain or massive sports teams to support. Instead, the money can be spent on program development, and the cost savings can trickle down to students. Since Rio Salado College charges just $84 per credit hour, according to the school’s website, that savings can be significant. It could push some students to choose this school above others.
Other Ways to Save
Rio Salado College administrators seem aware of the fact that students might need help with tuition and fees. As a result, administrators have pulled together a number of programs that could save students money. For example, the institution has developed a program in which students can buy textbooks at a 51 percent savings, and at the end of the course, these students could take books back to the bookstore for returns. Programs like this provide a two-phase benefit, as students save both upfront and when the course is through. That could be great for students hoping to keep costs down.
There are private things students can do, too, that could add up to big savings. For example, an analysis from the United States Census Bureau suggests that about 72 percent of students enrolled in an undergraduate college program also work while they’re in school. The money they bring in makes paying for school a little easier, and it could be quite easy to hold down a job while in a virtual school. After all, virtual students can set their own schedules for class. They can look for classes that don’t conflict with their work schedules, and they could keep on earning while they’re in school.
Holding down a job while enrolled at Rio Salado College could also help students to make connections in the workforce. They’ll have colleagues to draw on for help with references when they’re work in class is through. Sometimes, students who keep going to work while in school transition to new jobs in the companies in which they work. They don’t need to look for jobs when they’re done with school. They have jobs waiting for them, all lined up and ready to go.
In addition to working, students at Rio Salado College can make a few lifestyle changes to keep costs down. In a study of the issue, researchers found that 62 percent of students in college have budgets that help them to track expenses. Students might take a hard look at those budget figures and make cuts in key expenditures, such as:
- Fine dining
By cinching up the household just a little bit tighter, students attending Rio Salado College could make great strides toward paying for school. Each little step they take could help them to emerge from school with a smaller loan bill to pay.
Despite the cost-cutting measures and working, students might still need a little help paying for school at Rio Salado College. The tuition is reasonable, but it’s still a fee students must pay. The courses they take could be so intensive and difficult, that it could be hard for students to work and study at the same time.Those students who hope to attend Rio Salado College and who live in Arizona have a number of scholarship options to choose from. For example, the Arizona Community Foundation provides 80 different scholarship opportunities to students from Arizona. The goal is to ensure that more students in Arizona have access to the funds they need in order to attend school, and the application process is relatively straightforward. By applying, those students who live in Arizona could get a little help paying for school.Since Rio Salado College is a virtual school, students who attend could be from almost anywhere. Some might live in Arizona, but others might live in faraway states that have their own scholarship opportunities.It’s worth the time it takes to seek these scholarships out. After all, these sources of funding simply don’t have to be paid back, so a student who gets a scholarship is, in essence, getting a free check for school. That’s a great deal, and it’s really only available to students who take the time to investigate their options.About half of the online college students questioned for a 2014 study said that they considered financial aid a “critical” issue. For these students, assistance was required or they’d never get into school in the first place, no matter how great that online school might be. There are federal options for students like this. Pell Grants, which are based on need, provide a little less than $6,000 for students who can demonstrate severe difficulty in paying for school. Those who apply could be provided with the funds they need to go to Rio Salado College. Students who need help but don’t qualify for Pell Grants might very well qualify for federal loans. These products must be paid back, but they come with a number of beneficial perks. For example, students who enter into certain jobs after graduation may be eligible for balance forgiveness programs, so they won’t be asked to pay the entire bill for their Rio Salado College education.
Finally, for students who can’t get grants and scholarships, and who may have hit limits on the federal loans they can take out, private loans can be a great help. These loans can help students to pay for almost any sort of expense associated with school, including tuition, fees, housing, and more. While they must be paid back, students can shop around until they find the best prices. Students with good credit, in particular, may be in a good bargaining position.