Achieving a College Education (ACE) Program- Maricopa Community College District

Academic Level
Issue Area
Key Personnel
Program Focus
Dual Degree/Dual Credit/Early College High School,
Summer Bridge


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.

Program Description

The Maricopa Achieving a College Education (ACE) Program, now in its 30th year, 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.


From its inception 30 years ago through the 2016 cohort, ACE has tracked over 17,000 high school students. On average, over the last five years 91% of ACE students graduated early or on time from high school, with an average high school GPA of 3.21. In 2017, the high school graduation rate was 92% with an average high school GPA of 3.33. As of Spring 2018, 81% (11,647 students) of ACE graduates enrolled in college with over 5,000 currently enrolled. Moreover, 5,074 ACE students have earned one or more certificates or degrees to date (for a grand total 9,868 certificates and degrees). For highest degree earned, there have been 495 Certificates, 1,751 Associate degrees, 2,542 Bachelor degrees, 253 Masters degrees, 23 professional degrees, and 10 Doctorate degrees awarded. ACE graduates excel in college. Over 82% of ACE students attending college earned semester GPAs of 2.0 or higher at 2-year and over 85% have a GPA of 2.0 or higher at 4-year institutions.