The Collegiate Recovery Impact

March 22, 2019

Many unfamiliar to collegiate recovery may be surprised to know there are flourishing communities of support at universities across the country. These communities are comprised of and designed to support students in recovery from a substance use disorder. Collegiate recovery programs (CRPs) are a growing movement to foster supportive environments on campus for students by offering services like academic support, fun sober events, a variety of on-campus recovery meetings, peer support, hang-out spaces, sober housing, and many more beneficial aspects of the student experience for an individual in recovery.

The roots of the collegiate recovery movement trace back to the 1970s with the work of Bruce Donovan at Brown University. Within the next decade we saw programs emerge at Rutgers University and Texas Tech University, two of the largest programs to date. As we entered into the year 2000 and beyond, we saw a rapid increase in collegiate recovery efforts across the country. The emerging opioid crisis, the grassroots recovery movement, and college student affairs embracing holistic wellness all contributed to this rapid growth, among other factors. In early 2010, the Association of Recovery in Higher Education was founded by a group of collegiate recovery leaders from throughout the country. Though the field has progressed tremendously over the past 40 years, it’s still just scratching the surface.

Why do we need collegiate recovery? We’re living in a time where nearly 2/3 of college students leaving school are doing so because of behavioral health concerns. Nearly 1/4 of college students meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. The addiction crisis is costing society, communities, and higher education an incomparable amount of money. We have a civil and moral obligation to provide adequate support services for this rapidly growing student population.

Stress of any kind can be hard to handle while in recovery and that makes college especially tricky. Combine this with the addition of new and more frequent opportunities to drink and use drugs at parties and other events, and recovery can feel like a never-ending obstacle. Spaces created specifically for those in recovery are crucial so that on Friday nights, students can hang out with other sober friends or at a recovery meeting instead of feeling like a frat party is their only opportunity to connect and socialize with other young people.

Chava Evans, a student in recovery at Virginia Commonwealth University, had this to say about the collegiate recovery program at his college, “I got sober my last year of high school and honestly, I don’t know if I would have been able to stay that way once I got to college. I really felt out of place not going to parties and staying out late on weekends until I met other students in recovery. I wanted to gain friends, but instead I gained a family.”

While collegiate recovery programs are made to support students, the foundation starts with staff and administrative support. Students and campuses aren’t one-size fits all and so recovery programs can’t be either. What can start as a group of ten students could easily turn into 20 and then 50. Starting a CRPisn’t necessarily the easiest thing, depending on what university you’re at, but we knew that it changes lives. To us, and the students they serve, one life saved, and one degree earned, is effort well spent.
– Tim and Chava


Chava Evans is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).  Tim Rabolt is the Executive Director of the Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE). Prior to joining ARHE, Tim worked in the DC area as a Project Manager with Altarum, a public health research and consulting organization.  Tim graduated from The George Washington University in 2015 with his Bachelor’s in Business Administration, and then again in 2017 with his Master’s of Arts in Education and Human Development. Tim received numerous awards during his time at GWU, most notably The George Washington Award for his work in recovery advocacy. The GW Award is the university’s highest honor. During his time at GWU, he founded GW Students for Recovery and interned for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He’s been in recovery since April of 2011 during his senior year of

The Ammon Foundation believes that when individuals are holistically and strategically supported to build purposeful lives, the likelihood of them maintaining their recovery substantially increases. We provide this support via our two core programs – Ammon Recovery Scholars Program and Ammon Empowerment Workshop Program. To find out more about our programs, or to apply for an educational scholarship, please click here.