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Chris Bustamante, Ed.D.

President, Rio Salado College

Focus Area: Affordability

Tempe, Arizona
Office Representing: President

Chris Bustamante serves as the president of Rio Salado College and the Maricopa Corporate College, both located in Tempe, Ariz. Both institutions are part of the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD), which serves more than 200,000 students each year. Rio Salado College is the largest of the district’s 10 individually accredited colleges and serves nearly 53,000 students each year with approximately 28,000 students online. The Maricopa Corporate College serves business and industry through customized workforce solutions and non-credit training. Bustamante was appointed president of Rio Salado College in June 2010, and president of the Maricopa Corporate College in August 2016. His prior leadership roles at Rio Salado include servicing as the vice president of Community Development and Student Services and dean of Academic Affairs. Previously, he served in senior level government affairs positions for MCCCD and as the Assistant to the Superintendent for Community and Government Relations for the Phoenix Union High School District. Bustamante also served as a legislative aide in the Arizona House of Representatives.  

How did you first get interested in or involved in higher education issues?

"I first became interested in higher education issues when I was hired in 1992 by the Office of Government Relations at the Maricopa County Community College District," Bustamante said. "As a government relations professional for 12 years, I was responsible for advocating for and protecting the interests of the Maricopa Community Colleges at the Arizona Legislature and in Congress, and much of the work revolved around higher education issues such as financial aid.  Most recently, as a community college president and administrator, monitoring and advocating for higher education issues that are important to the college is an important focus of my work. I also chaired the Policy Committee of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors in 2015."  

Why did you apply to be a part of the Forward50? What drew you to this opportunity?

"The committee's established purposes drew me to this work," Bustamante said. "They fit well within my background and experience to effectively serve on this committee relative to my knowledge of higher education policy and in my role as a community college president and former higher education lobbyist."

Leadership roles with professional associations:

  • Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL): Past Board Chair
  • American Council on Education (ACE): Board Member, Past Chair of Commission for Education Attainment and Innovation
  • National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC): Immediate Past President
  • Higher Learning Advocates: Board Chair
  • Arizona-Mexico Commission (AMC): Co-Chair of Education Committee
  • Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE): Commission Member
  • National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA): Board Member
  • Credential Engine: Board Member

Membership(s) held with other professional associations:

  • Higher Education Research & Development Institute (HERDI): Advisory Board Member