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 ACE Puente whose learning format is on-line. The cycle repeats again starting the summer between the junior and senior year of high school. 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, and 3) to increase the number of students earning a degree or certificate.
From its inception 26 years ago through the 2013 cohort, ACE has tracked over 13,500 high school students. On average, 85% of ACE students graduated early or on time from high school, with an average high school GPA of 3.15. In 2013, the high school graduation rate was 90% with an average high school GPA of 3.18. As of spring 2014, seventy-five percent (75%) of ACE graduates enrolled in college. ACE graduates not only enroll in college, they excel in college. Over 81% of ACE students attending college earned semester GPAs of 2.0 or higher across both 2-year and 4-year institutions. In addition, 2,374 ACE students have earned one or more certificates or degrees to date (for a grand total 4,262 certificates and degrees). For highest degree earned, there have been 337 Certificates, 837 Associate degrees, 1119 Bachelor degrees, 80 Masters degrees, 6 professional degrees, and 3 Doctorate degrees awarded.