In May of 2014, I ventured out to Minneapolis for the 6th National Collegiate Recovery Conference at Augsburg College (now Augsburg University). Until learning about this conference, I had no idea about the true reach of collegiate recovery. I didn’t know about Brown, Rutgers, and Texas Tech. I did not even know a single attendee at the conference. All I knew was that my experience as a student in recovery may be a part of something much larger.
As the conference concluded, I immediately joined as a member of the Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE). I found my way onto the Board of Directors later that summer as a student representative, and the rest is history. I’ve been incredibly privileged and fortunate to see things up close at a national level for the past six years. Have there been ups and downs in the field and within the Association? Absolutely. Today, however, the state of the field and of the Association are stronger than they have ever been.
Our 2019 Impact Report captures a lot of our progress in the past year. The growth of the Association is increasingly tied to the growth of the collegiate recovery field at large. Though the number of programs and developing programs is significant, especially compared to eight years ago when we only had 14 members, we are still only scratching the surface. We experienced a 77 percent growth in overall membership in 2019, with the milestone of 150 institutional members well within reach for 2020. With 4,583 degree-granting institutions in the United States, that 150 would only represent 3.3 percent of institutions. Even if we only looked at the 3,004 four-year colleges and universities, it’s still just 5 percent.
Progress within behavioral health and higher education have also assisted the growth of collegiate recovery immensely. It’s becoming less of an unknown topic and developing into a critical piece of the fabric of the student experience in America. It’s not just in a handful of states either — we really are seeing the growth expand our map more and more each month. We have seen collegiate recovery developments outside the contiguous United States in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, we’ve seen multiple schools in Canada developing services, and now we have seen multiple institutions in the United Kingdom develop out collegiate recovery programs. We’ve even been contacted by community members in Africa wondering about the work we do and how they can develop their own recovery support services.
ARHE is operating at its highest level in history — but we are still a small operation. Financial obstacles that were rooted in mistimed decisions and unfortunate shared initiatives stunted the growth for long periods of time. Our Board of Directors, committees, and staff have stepped up in the second half of 2019 to get us to where we are today. While students are at the heart of collegiate recovery, it’s the staff that are at the heart of the Association. Their service to ARHE over the years is what we can be thankful for more than anything else. I am confident I’ll be able to say the same as I give our remarks and mid-year update at our Annual Meeting on Wednesday, June 24, in San Diego. We hope to see you there.