March 2, 2021

SUNY Empire State College and Rio Salado College Establish Academic Pathways to Increase Access to Education

Partnership Allows Rio Salado Graduates to Transfer up to 79 Credits to SUNY Empire

All Programs Available Completely Online, Affording Students a Flexible, Convenient Schedule

Addiction Studies Program Continues to Grow in Response to Workforce Demand for Qualified Professionals

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(SARATOGA SPRINGS, NEW YORK - March 2, 2021) SUNY Empire State College and Rio Salado College, a member of the Maricopa Community College District located in Tempe, Arizona, recently finalized a transfer agreement highlighting four academic programs to help graduates who have earned an associate degree transfer to continue their education. 

The partnership agreement allows Rio Salado students to transfer up to 79 lower-division credits to SUNY Empire, more than half the 124 total credits required to complete a bachelor’s degree. This allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as one year after their associate degree, and then enter the workforce even sooner. As part of the agreement, SUNY Empire will guarantee admission to a bachelor’s degree program, waive the orientation fee for incoming students, provide a $100 scholarship upon acceptance, and will offer Rio Salado graduates affordable SUNY tuition rates. 

All programs can be completed entirely online to fit the busy lives of working professionals. Students will also benefit from SUNY Empire’s prior learning assessment process, which awards college credit for work and life experience, reducing the overall cost and time needed to complete a degree.

The four programs highlighted in the pathways transfer agreement include: 

  • Addictions and Substance Use Disorders (A.A.S.) to Addiction Studies (B.S.)
  • General Business (A.A.S.) to Business Administration (B.S.)
  • IT: Database Development (A.A.S.) and IT: Programming and Systems Analysis Level I (A.A.S) to Science, Mathematics & Technology with a concentration in Information Technology (B.S.)
  • Associate in Arts: Emphasis in Psychology (A.A.) to Psychology (B.A.)

“SUNY Empire State College prides itself on being a long-standing leader in delivering flexible education opportunities online, and this new partnership will help countless students achieve their dreams, no matter where they call home,” said SUNY Empire Officer in Charge Nathan Gonyea. “Rio Salado graduates are uniquely prepared, given their familiarity and success with remote learning platforms. We look forward to welcoming Rio Salado alumni to SUNY Empire.”

“There is an extraordinary amount of synergy between SUNY Empire State College and Rio Salado College,” said Rio Salado College Interim President Kate Smith. “SUNY Empire was founded in 1971 to break the mold of higher education. Rio Salado was founded in 1978 as the college without walls. We both began our journey to reshape education by increasing access to post-secondary learning for nontraditional students in our local communities. Today, we stand together as online educational leaders who can help shape the future of our country and online higher learning. This partnership reflects our commitment to providing pathways to social and economic mobility for all. Today we are proud to offer four new educational pathways in high-demand fields to help students increase their opportunities for finding gainful employment, while helping employers find qualified applicants.”  

One of the four transfer degrees highlighted during a virtual agreement signing event was SUNY Empire’s online Bachelor of Science in Addiction Studies program. SUNY Empire’s program, designed to help combat all forms of addiction and substance misuse by helping to meet the growing demand for professionally trained counselors, prepares students to become skilled addiction treatment specialists. The opioid crisis continues to strain critical services, creating an increased need for substance abuse counselors. Experts across the country are reporting increased episodes of relapse, and a rise in overdoses, due to COVID-19-related uncertainties. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an average of 130 Americans die every day as the result of an overdose. SUNY Empire’s program is structured around courses that address fundamental aspects of how addiction affects individuals, families, and communities, while examining the assessment, treatment, and prevention of substance abuse.

“SUNY Empire’s program provides a comprehensive overview of the knowledge students will need when they go out to work in the field of addiction,” said SUNY Empire Associate Professor Thalia MacMillan. “It has the potential to incorporate their experiences. The nice thing about the partnership between SUNY Empire and Rio Salado is that all the credits students have earned do transfer in. We’ll use what they did and learned there and continue to build off that rock-solid foundation.”  

“I believe it’s important in today’s world for students to continue their work toward earning a bachelor’s degree and I encourage those who are going to work in this field long term to eventually get a master’s degree,” said Rio Salado College Chair of the Addiction and Substance Use Disorders Kirk Bowden. 

Please click here to learn more about SUNY Empire and Rio Salado’s academic partnership.  

About SUNY Empire State College 

SUNY Empire State College educates 16,000 students per year in person, online, and through a blend of both, at locations in every region of New York and at eight international sites worldwide. Together with one of SUNY Empire’s 800 faculty mentors, each student designs their own individualized pathway to a college degree that accommodates their schedule and awards credit for prior college-level learning. SUNY Empire awards more than 3,000 degrees annually and 94 percent of graduates stay in New York state. Today, more than 91,000 SUNY Empire alumni are entrepreneurs, veterans, and active members of the military, professional athletes, teachers, medical professionals, and leaders in their field, as well as in their communities. To learn more, visit and follow the college on social media @SUNYEmpire.

About Rio Salado College

Rio Salado College is one of ten Maricopa Community Colleges and one of the largest online public community colleges in the nation, serving nearly 50,000 students annually with almost 30,000 online in 50 states and internationally. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, Rio Salado offers 600+ online classes, 135+ degree and certificate programs and general education courses. The college also provides support for dual enrollment, military and incarcerated students and serves as the largest provider of adult education in Arizona.