The Maricopa Achieving a College Education (ACE) Program is a collaboration of area universities, high schools, "at risk" students, and their parents. According to a study sponsored by the Ford Foundation in 1999, nine essential elements make the ACE program a success with students and parents: 1) the creation of student cohort groups, 2) a focus on at-risk students, 3) high academic standards, 4) a non-threatening environment, 5) continuous contact with students, 6) family involvement, 7) strong collaboration between institutions, 8) long overlap of transition points, and 9) scholarships and financial aid information. The ACE cycle takes two years and integrates the nine essential elements.
During the summer between sophomore and junior year, a student takes college classes totaling six credit hours. Each fall and spring semester, a student takes one 3-credit hour course. Classes are taken at a Maricopa Community College with the exception of Rio Salado ACE, which has an on-line format. The cycle repeats again starting the summer between the junior and senior year of high school, so that students may earn up to 24 college credits while in the program. Students participate in the program as a cohort. Students and their families participate in an orientation and a series of ongoing activities and events, such as financial aid and career workshops, designed to keep them informed and connected throughout the two years.
ACE's three goals are:
1) to increase the number of students graduating from high school
2) to increase the number of students continuing on to college
3) to increase the number of students earning a degree or certificate.
From its inception 29 years ago through the 2014 cohort, ACE has tracked over 14,000 high school students.
- On average, 86% of ACE students graduated early or on time from high school, with an average high school GPA of 3.16.
- In 2015, the high school graduation rate was 92% with an average high school GPA of 3.03.
- As of spring 2016, 80% (nearly 10,500) of ACE graduates enrolled in college with over 3,000 currently enrolled.
- 3,472 ACE students have earned one or more certificates or degrees to date (for a grand total 6,062 certificates and degrees).
- For highest degree earned, there have been 418 Certificates, 1,152 Associate degrees, 1,743 Bachelor degrees, 143 Masters degrees, 12 professional degrees, and 4 Doctorate degrees awarded.
- Over 80% of ACE students attending college earned semester GPAs of 2.0 or higher at 2-year and over 84% have a GPA of 2.0 or higher at 4-year institutions.
*going on to college data includes the Adult ACE program