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How Raising the Bar Helps Re-Entry Students Succeed (Part 4)

The EvoLLLution | How Raising the Bar Helps Re-Entry Students Succeed (Part 4)
It is both affordable and effective for colleges and universities serving students who have previously failed in their postsecondary endeavors to create targeted strategies to support their success.

This series discusses the results of the Pacific Crest Online Recovery Course, exploring how to help students who are returning to postsecondary education learn to learn.

The Barriers Re-Considered

The seven conceptual barriers have been overcome.

Commitment to rigorous standards

The bar was not lowered; instead, the bar was used to help set high expectation to challenge students to develop the knowledge, skills and mindset required to succeed in the course, their program, professionally and in life.

Can’t afford to redistribute limited resources to those students who have failed

During the pilot, the cost of success was limited because only students who passed the course successfully were paid for, and the final implementation was set up where the facilitation of the course was a part-time role for a current professional already positioned to help this population of students. Finally, most of the cost was in student time where their investment in the course helped them to get ready for success.

Avoid even larger student debt with nothing to show for it

Not enough time has elapsed to show the full impact on program completion, but the students have passed a course that is at least as rigorous as the toughest course in the school. Further, these students are equipped with the skills and life vision to help them complete. Realistically, they still have the potential life conditions from before, but are better equipped to handle them using problem solving and self-management. As a result, we expect these students to meet or exceed current graduation rates.

Belief that failed students’ risk factors were too great to overcome

Both academic and personal risk factors have been addressed with development of knowledge, skills, and mindset. Students’ increase in self-confidence and growth mindset provide the setting for effective use of the skills and knowledge.

Many faculty members would resist implementation without proof

The pilot developed the proof needed for expansion of the Psychology of Learning & Success to other populations. The institution created a re-admissions policy that was stricter than their existing practices and resulted in students who were now prepared to complete their program. Ultimately, the institution took over the course at the end of the research.

Solution too difficult to implement

The solution was indeed different than the current model. However, the students needed a model that forced their old approaches to fail so that new approaches would be learned.

The cost per student might be too high

The course requires more intense interaction with students than the standard course. As mentioned, the student bears part of this cost. The contract allowed the institution to only compensate Pacific Crest for successful completions. The total cost per student is less than one-third the returning student tuition for one term.


  1. The recovery course captures reasons for failure and develops solutions that likely would address success for all students
  2. Improve student success measures used by the college, such as matriculation and the 6-year graduation rate.
  3. Students replace their negative feelings with positive feelings when a college provides a recovery course.
  4. Students who recover become future recruiters. They share their gratitude and experience via social media, word of mouth, and testimonials.
  5. The cost of recovering these students is much lower than any strategy to replace them.
  6. The recovery course can be a signature component of any assessment system to demonstrate an institution’s commitment to learning
  7. It is the ethical thing to do – colleges have a responsibility for helping all admitted students.
  8. Best practices for student mentoring from this course are transferable to other educators.
  9. The academic leadership may leverage the impact in this course to catalyze other strategic changes.


We encourage all institutions to create “appropriate prior and current conditions of learning” to help more students to complete their programs. The experience with this pilot shows that creating the conditions for learning is not only possible, it is affordable and effective.


The students worked hard for their success and have our sincere respect and thanks for teaching us so much. The students quoted in the article graciously consented to the use of their words and stories.

Series References

Apple, D. K., Morgan, J., & Hintze, D. (2013). Learning to learn: Becoming a self-grower. Hampton, NH: Pacific Crest.

This was the final installment in Leasure and Apple’s four-part series on the Pacific Crest Online Recovery Course. For more details on the project, you can download the project report here.

Previous Articles:

How Raising the Bar Helps Re-Entry Students Succeed (Part 1)

How Raising the Bar Helps Re-Entry Students Succeed (Part 2)

How Raising the Bar Helps Re-Entry Students Succeed (Part 3)

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