For many students, college life represents the first opportunity to navigate the temptations of drug and alcohol use without hands-on parent supervision. Or, as Dr. Robert DuPont, former White House Drug Czar and current leader of the Institute for Behavior and Health puts it: “You’re surrounded by people who are using alcohol and drugs in addictive ways. Someone else is paying the bills and there’s no supervision.”1
One way colleges and universities are helping students cope with these challenges is by providing what are known as Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRP) as well as Collegiate Recovery Communities — more commonly known as sober dorms – to combat what addiction researcher Alexandre Laudet refers to as the “abstinence-hostile” nature of the typical college campus.2
Currently, over 100 institutions are offering some type of a CRP – a 3X increase since 2013. With the widening opioid crisis, more schools are considering and implementing programs. You can find an updated directory of accredited programs at the website of the Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE). Here’s a quick look at what a few leading institutions are doing to take care of their students:
As New Jersey’s state university, Rutgers is compelled by a recent law that requires all state colleges and universities in New Jersey to offer sober housing if at least a quarter of the students live on campus. Legal requirement or not, Rutgers has long been a pioneer in developing innovative programs to support student sobriety. In 1983, the university hired Lisa Laitman as its first alcohol recovery counselor. Laitman, now the Director of Rutgers’ Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program, opened the university’s first Recovery House on its New Brunswick campus.
So what’s life like in one of Rutgers’ sober dorms? “It’s a safe space with people who were trying to do what I was trying to do,” said Ryan, now 25, who asked to be identified only by his first name to protect his privacy. “No one was talking about going out and getting drunk. It was the antithesis of my previous dorm experiences, where the shackles are off and people go crazy.”3
The program has been so successful that students are transferring to Rutgers with the expressed purpose of joining the school’s recovery program and living in a sober dorm, Laitman said.
University of Vermont
In 2010, the University of Vermont initiated its Catamount Recovery Program to provide support for students recovering from drug and alcohol addiction – offering a sober housing option for all students, including incoming freshmen. To qualify for the housing, students must have been sober for the past six months. They are required to sign a contract that says that they will be removed from the house if they use drugs or alcohol; allow another person to do so; or break another student’s confidentiality. UVM also recently added a Wellness Environment (WE) residence for incoming freshmen who are committed to substance-free living but who are not in recovery.
University of Texas
UT announced it will provide the opportunity for up to 24 students in a new sober living facility opening in the fall of 2017 – the latest addition to a recovery program the university has administered for over 10 years. “We want to create a supportive space for students who have this interest and connect them with other like-minded students,” Aaron Voyles, associate director at the University of Texas said. UT Center for Students and Recovery director Sierra Castedo adds, ”UT recognized the need to support those students who are already excelling here but need a little additional support to get the most out of their college experience.” 4
Oregon State University
Also expanding on an existing CRP, Oregon State recently converted its Dixon Lodge student center into The Recovery and Learning Center – featuring dual-occupancy rooms, a community kitchen, and spaces for regular meetings and workshops. For 8 students, this innovative option can make all the difference, as John Ruyak, OSU’s drug and alcohol recovery specialist describes. “You might have a student who’s in recovery, living in a residence hall and committed to being substance-free, but they have a hallmate that comes back and has been using. That can be triggering for that student.” 5
Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Carnegie Mellon, Case Western Reserve, Emory, George Washington, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Texas Tech, Ohio State, and Vanderbilt are just a few of the other schools offering sober living options.
College recovery programs are important because they “give students an opportunity to gain traction in recovery, especially early on, said William Moyers, a best-selling author, recovery advocate and vice president of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, “even while returning to the stresses of academia and temptations of life on a college campus.”6
Despite all the important work being done to increase the level and sophistication of student support services, in some cases withdrawing from college might be in the student’s best interest. In that case, tuition insurance can be an important and valuable tool – providing the financial flexibility that can enable students to return to school when they are healthy.
Not all tuition insurance providers, however, look at mental health and addiction the same. Some providers exclude substance abuse from the list of covered reasons – or place significant limits on reimbursement for withdrawals that occur as the result of mental health disorders and illnesses.
Allianz Tuition Insurance offers multiple plans, some of which provide reimbursement up to 100% for a withdrawal as the result of a mental health disorder.