This paper aims to examine the cooperative postsecondary online education system by looking at the online programs operated at Mesa/Rio Salado Community Colleges and Arizona State University. Maricopa County, located in Arizona, includes and surrounds the city of Phoenix and is the most populous country in the state, serving more than 260,000 students each year. In that county there are ten community colleges, which constitute the Maricopa Community Colleges system (MCCs). Each college is individually accredited, yet part of a larger system―the Maricopa County Community College District―which is one of the largest providers of higher education in the United States. The District offers approximately 1,000 occupational programs (degrees and certificates), and 37 academic associate degrees. It is the largest provider of health care workers and job training in Arizona, making it a major resource for business and industry and the place to be for students seeking education and job training.
Among the ten campuses, the largest campus college is Mesa Community College (MCC), and the largest online college is Rio Salado Community College (RSC).
These colleges have flexible course delivery options, including field based, hybrid, in person, independent study, Internet, mixed media, print-based, private instruction, evening, weekend and open-entry/open-exit choices. Students can learn in the manner that is best suited for them. If students see a four-year degree in their future, the colleges have transfer agreements with public and private colleges and universities that enable seamless transitions to four-year institutions. In addition, students learn with the lowest tuition rates compared with other colleges or universities and do not have to sacrifice work, family and other commitments to attain an education. With flexible Monday start dates (at RSC), they can enroll in online classes tailored to their own schedule, wherever and whenever they want, with 100 percent online and 100 percent flexible enrollment.
In Arizona, there are three state universities―Arizona State University (ASU), University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University, among which ASU is the largest and highest ranking school. The students who gain the required credits may transfer to these universities or take an associate degree to transfer to these universities. The students who enroll in ASU online programs, located anywhere and without constraints, have access to the educational opportunities of a great research university and all of its faculty. ASU online program students can learn the same content from the same excellent faculty who teach on the ASU’s four campuses.
In sum, MCCs in Arizona offer a variety of community-based online programs and services to help their diverse student populations achieve their educational goals. And the cooperative academic partnership between MCCs and some 40 four-year institutions ensure success for students who want to achieve their goals.