A Conversation on Community Colleges

Where research and personal experiences meet

Kristen Harper – TYR Technical Assistance Coordinator, Interviewer

Erin Jones, Principal Investigator, TYR Research Initiatives, Interviewee

Brett Frazier, Georgia Southern University Program Coordinator, former collegiate recovery student

Kristen Harper, TYR’s Technical Assistance Coordinator speaks with Erin Jones, Principal Investigator for TYR’s Community College Pilot Study, along with a former collegiate recovery student who found community colleges to be an important bridge to furthering his educational goals while maintaining his recovery.

Kristen – Erin, thank you for speaking with me today about TYR’s Community College Pilot Program. I am excited to chat about this initiative and why it is a critical piece of collegiate recovery support. Can you briefly explain the goals of this project?

Erin- Back in 2016 TYR published Recovery Support in and around Community Colleges Campuses in the U.S. We were getting feedback from the collegiate recovery directors at 4-year schools that local community colleges were interested in initiating collegiate recovery efforts. Additionally, we had been identifying service gaps for a few years through our technical assistance work with TYR grantees, as well as the work with recovery high schools and Association of Recovery Schools (ARS). We did a landscape study with established collegiate recovery programs and recovery high schools in 2016. TYR spent 6 months trying to find community colleges offering recovery support services.

Kristen – Why does TYR’s founder, Stacie Mathewson, believe that community colleges are the ‘next frontier’ for collegiate recovery? What is unique about 2-year colleges?

Erin – Stacie had a hunch that community colleges are where most people in recovery who want to pursue higher education start off after finishing treatment. Many ask themselves, what is next step, get job or go to school? If the answer is go to school, the reality is most start at a community college, not a 4-year university. We also see folks in recovery are drawn to the counseling or social work fields. They may start with a certification program at a community college. What is unique, especially, about the populations at 2-year vs. 4-year schools, is that many of them have not had a positive experience with academics and the thought of a giant campus could be intimidating. Community colleges offer a new and often a more manageable experience for this population.

Kristen – Brett, you started off going to a community college while still living in a recovery residence. What was attractive to you about starting off at a community college rather than a 4-year university?

Brett – Well, to be honest, I am not sure I could have gotten into a 4-year university if I had not started at a community college first. I had tried school before I found recovery, but I wasn’t very successful. In high school, I was either absent physically or absent mentally because of my substance use disorder, so I did not have the SAT score or grades to get into a university. When I got into recovery, I had already accepted the idea that my lifelong goal of graduating from a university may have been lost to my battle with addiction. 

Erin- TYR wants to continue to paint the picture of the national landscape for community colleges. We welcome people to challenge us and tell us if what we are finding in our research is accurate. Join us in rapidly sharing these experiences so more people can learn from others’ experiences. Tell us if you are doing this and we don’t know about you. We want to include you in this story. Contact us at for more information.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This TYR article has been excerpted from an in depth feature moderated by Kristen Harper on Recovery in Community Colleges to be published online and in print later this Fall.  Please visit our website for more information:

Written by Kristen Harper

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