From initial program research to daily feedback within instruction, the Academy for College Excellence (ACE) uses a wide range of data and evidence. Quantitative and qualitative data are regularly gathered, analyzed and applied. Along with internal studies, more than ten studies have been conducted by external evaluators. Those studies conducted before 2010 refer to the program as Digital Bridge Academy, because the name changed to the Academy for College Excellence in 2009.

ACE is a research-based practice that shifts the paradigm to practice-based research, with questions and inquiry shaped by what is learned in practice.

ACE Affective Non-Cognitive Evidence


The ACE program addresses non-cognitive skills that have typically not been developed by students most likely to enroll in the ACE program, due to the negative circumstances of their lives and their prior negative experiences as students. ACE, MPR Associates and Professor Martin Chemers—professor emeritus of psychology from the University of California Santa Cruz–developed an instrument that combines eight mediating factors from standardized instruments including academic self-efficacy, personal responsibility, college identity, four factors of mindfulness, and leadership and teamwork efficacy. ACE named this instrument the College Student Self Assessment Survey (CSSAS).

RTI International conducted a longitudinal study, and their final report, published in January 2014, shows that ACE students experience shifts in affective factors that are important for academic success. RTI generated a series of 4 reports looking at ACE cohorts at multiple colleges between spring 2010 to spring 2013. 

RTI measured psychological constructs associated with the affective dimension, which are instrumental to student success. ACE students exhibited significant gains in the 8 factors measured: academic self-efficacy, personal responsibility, college identity, four factors of mindfulness, and leadership and teamwork efficacy.  

The total n for this analysis is 769 students from 6 colleges participating in the ACE program measured at three different times:

  • Tan = Before Foundation Course
  • Dark Blue = End of Foundation Course
  • Light Blue = End of Semester

Results have shown that students who complete the ACE Foundation Course report a statistically significant improvement at a p<.001 in six of the eight affective dimensions measured.

ACE's Non-Cognitive Effect on Students - 6 College Study of 769 Students

ACE Participants' Mean Scale Scores for CSSAS Factors


  • Notes: ***p < .001; statistical significance is based on comparison with Time 1 scores.
  • The Y-axis represents the mean (average) score for each factor.
  • Survey responses were based on a five-point scale, from “strongly disagree to strongly agree” for the non-mindfulness items and from “never or very rarely true” to “always or almost always” true for the mindfulness items. 



Awards & Recognition

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¡Excelencia! in Education!

Finalist (2011)
Examples of ¡Excelencia!: What Works for Latino Students in Higher Education 2011 (PDF)

Honorable Mention (2007)

Examples of ¡Excelencia!: What Works for Latino Students in Higher Education (PDF)  Recognized as one of eight associate-level programs nationwide “...that are at the forefront of boosting Latino enrollment, performance and graduation.”

William H. Meardy Faculty Member Award

Association of Community College Trustees (2009)

Director Diego James Navarro was selected for this award from a nation-wide pool of community college faculty. "'The ACCT's Association Awards are among the most prestigious awards any... faculty or staff member can receive,' said ACCT Chair and Orange County Community College (New York) Trustee Arthur C. Anthonisen. 'It is ACCT’s privilege to shine the spotlight on these outstanding leaders.'"

Effective Program

American Youth Policy Forum (2009)

Success At Every Step: How 23 Programs Support Youth on the Path to College & Beyond (PDF)  Selected by a national policy organization as a program that has "...been proven to help young people... be prepared for success in postsecondary education and careers." The only programs highlighted in this report were "...ones that had quality evaluations."

Pacific Regional Equity Award

Association of Community College Trustees (2008)

Press release (pdf) Awarded to Cabrillo College for “…demonstrating leadership in setting policies and assuring results for the enhancement and expansion of opportunities for minorities and women in such areas as: enrollment, successful completion, participation in better paying, higher mobility college majors, campus environment, employment and promotion...” The DBA was sited as one of major factors for the selection.

Exemplary Program

U.S. Department of Education (2008)

Community Colleges Can! (pdf) One of eight community college programs selected from 100 nationwide to be studied “...as part of a national initiative to improve student preparation, access and persistence in community colleges.” 

Example Program   

Research & Planning Group for California Community Colleges with The Center for Student Success (2007)

Basic Skills as a Foundation for Student Success in California Community Colleges (pdf) (aka "Poppy Copy") Cited as one of California’s community college programs that “...connect well with the effective practices...” for basic skills students.

Practice with Promise   

Campaign for College Opportunity (2007)

Practices with Promise: A Collection of Working Solutions for College Opportunity (pdf)  Selected as one of 15 “practices” that show “...exemplary efforts that improve college access and success...” chosen from 120 California state colleges and universities.

John W. Rice Diversity & Equity Award   

California Community Colleges Board of Governors (2007)

Press release (pdf) Chosen as one of two recipients “...that clearly demonstrated an outstanding achievement in student equity.”

Model Program   

Women Employed with Chicago Jobs Council & UIC Great Cities Institute (2005)

Bridges to Careers for Low-Skilled Adults: A Program Development Guide (pdf) Recommended as one of 11 model “bridge” programs nationwide that prepares “...adults who lack basic skills to enter and succeed in postsecondary education and training leading to career-path employment."