Jump-start Your Campus Toward a Collegiate Recovery Program

The Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) convened as an organization for the first time in 2009 and offered its first conference dedicated to collegiate recovery communities (CRCs) and programs (CRPs) in 2010. Since then, the number of collegiate recovery programs has exploded — more than 6,000 percent — from

three in 1997 to at least 170 in 2018. Although this number feels amazing, the reality is that only 4 percent of schools have CRPs or CRCs. To me, the goal is clear: Every college and university across the country shall provide recovery support to students through a collegiate recovery program.

Every day, ARHE regional representatives, as well as other board members, field calls and emails from schools trying to start a collegiate recovery program on their campus. Additionally, they’re being asked by reporters, treatment and recovery centers, advocacy groups, and more to teach them about collegiate recovery programs — what they are, what they do. There are conferences as well as many careers (high school guidance counselors, college admissions counselors, educational consultants) throughout the country that would benefit by learning about collegiate recovery as a resource. Collegiate recovery is a hot topic, and we have much work to do!

I wanted to take this opportunity to write about some major selling points of collegiate recovery programs. Through working with EverFi, an educational technology company, I identified research-based means for encouraging CRP development. So, whether this is how you convince your president, provost or dean to invest in one at your school; how you share with your stakeholders the benefits of a CRP on campus; or even how you fundraise for programs to enrich your students’ CRP experience, I think this is a helpful list to jump-start (or reinvigorate) your CRP.

A major selling point for having a CRP is that it impacts the school’s reputation, brand and recruitment. If your school currently has a reputation as a party school, that impacts recruitment (and retention). The development of a CRP denotes proactive leadership, which attracts students intrigued by the shift in culture. As collegiate recovery programs grow in strength and reputation on a campus, they attract students looking for a recovery program, increasing enrollment of potentially healthier students and alumni. Additionally, academic achievement (GPA and graduation rates) surpass the host institution’s overall outcomes.

From a safety, liability and risk management lens, 40 percent of students feel school administrators could do more to protect them from harm. Collegiate recovery programs serve to provide students with recovery resources, community and support.

The financial lens is one of the more powerful ways to provide administration with the motivation to invest in a collegiate recovery program on your campus. The amount of lost revenue due to substance-use-based attrition over four years is astounding. Every student who leaves school due to their substance use disorder(s) or fear that they can’t survive college in sobriety translates to lost potential of the student and financial loss to the institution in the form of tuition, room, board, books, activities and future donations to the alma mater that could’ve supported the biggest shift in their college careers.

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