Montgomery College, MCPS, USG Partnership Results in Increased Student GPAs, Higher Retention Rates

Montgomery College student Selena Martinez admits that her troubled home life was devoid of positive role models and that she had no motivation to even finish high school. Today, she’s just one of the rapidly growing number of student success stories stemming from an educational partnership called ACES, Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success.

ACES is a collaborative effort between Montgomery College, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), and the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) to support students and provide a seamless path to a bachelor’s degree.

“When I joined ACES, they gave me the motivation and the inspiration that I needed to really become someone in life,” said Martinez, a recent MCPS graduate and current student at Montgomery College. “ACES is your support group, they literally tell you that you can do it. I am happy where I am now.”

The ACES program now serves 1,710 students and continues to demonstrate positive results with participating students outpacing their peer students on an array of progress and completion metrics.

“We have taken hands on, deliberate approaches to closing the achievement gap and the success rates of our ACES students are a testament to their efficacy,” said Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard. “When underrepresented students are given the opportunity, the resources and the guidance of dedicated role models, there are no limits to how high they can soar.”

The course pass rates at the College for ACES students have surpassed non-ACES recent high school graduates, 77 percent for ACES, 72 percent for others; their GPAs are higher, 2.65 for ACES, 2.12 for others; and their fall-to-spring retention has soared over their peers, 91 percent for ACES and 71 percent for others.

“ACES is an excellent example of the great things we can do for students when our educational institutions work together to eliminate the barriers that too often get in the way of students who need additional support,” said Larry A. Bowers, MCPS interim superintendent of schools. “The real strength of the ACES program is that it enables the students—many of whom are the first in their family to go to college—to not only complete college but also to be well prepared for a successful and rewarding career.”

The cornerstones of the ACES student support program are the academic coaches, embedded in 10 Montgomery County public high schools and at all three MC campus locations. The coaches are Montgomery College employees and provide both academic and student support, using a case management approach. Coaches meet individually with students and provide test preparation, tutoring, assistance with college applications and financial aid/scholarship applications, college visits, college transfer workshops, and other support services as needed. ACES coaches identify and address barriers to student success that may prevent a student from degree completion.

“It’s hard to speak up when you’re in need,” said Rachel Akusa, a Montgomery College student and MCPS grad. “But my ACES coach was someone that I could confide in and sometimes all I needed was that ear to hear me out.”

The program is up to 584 seniors and 645 juniors at the partner high schools. There are 481 ACES students now enrolled at the College. Four hundred completed the FAFSA and 102 have full tuition from federal and/or state sources. The Montgomery College Foundation provided need-based scholarships to 127 students.

“Together, our institutions have made a commitment to expand opportunities for thousands of students who thought going to college was not an option,” said USG Executive Director Stewart Edelstein. “We see first-hand that ACES changes the lives of students and their aspirations. USG is honored to be a part of this educational partnership and we look forward to having the first class of ACES students on our campus this coming year.”

Last year, 1,333 students were served with 430 high school seniors, 563 juniors, and 329 degree-seeking students at MC. In addition, 90 percent of ACES students received financial aid compared to 51.6 percent for others.

Expansion Plans
Springbrook High School has already been approved for entry into the program and the College is seeking to expand ACES to both Blake and Paint Branch High Schools. With this expansion, an additional 360 students will be reached. Also, Montgomery College will hire two additional campus coaches to support the 800 ACES students expected on campus next year.

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Montgomery College is a public, open admissions community college with campuses in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, plus workforce development/continuing education centers and off-site programs throughout Montgomery County, Md. The College serves nearly 60,000 students a year, through both credit and noncredit programs, in more than 130 areas of study.

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