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

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


The Maricopa Achieving a College Education(ACE) Program is nationally recognized for its proven success in motivating underrepresented students to complete high school and continue on to complete a college degree. 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 college level degree or certificate.

Program Description

For over 30 years, the ACE Program has been a collaboration between area universities, high schools, "at risk" students, and parents. The Ford Foundation sponsored a study in 1999, and found that 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.

Students take college classes during the fall, spring and summer semesters, at a Maricopa Community College and Rio Salado ACE which has an on-line format. During the two years, students may earn up to 24 college credits.

Additionally, 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.


  • Increasing high school graduation: In 2014, graduation rates were 90%, in 2015-2017 92%, and in 2018, it was 94%.
  • Average GPA of students: In 2018, ACE student’s high school GPA was 3.43 and their college GPA was 3.08.
  • 2017 impact: Of 769 students, 45% continued into a community college, 8% continued from community college to a four year, and 24% of students continued straight to a four year culminating in 78% of ACE completers continuing onto college post program completion.
  • College going impact: As of 2020, over the past five cohorts, 62% of students completing the ACE program have continued into the Maricopa Community Colleges.
  • Overall impact: 5,259 ACE alumni have earned one or more postsecondary certificates or degrees leading to a total of 10,273 degrees among graduates. This includes, 496 certificates, 1,621 Associate’s degrees, 2,802 Bachelor’s degrees, 302 Master’s degrees, 25 Professional degrees and 13 Doctoral degrees.

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