"I'm not going through this alone": The Lived Experiences of Community College Students in a Collegiate Recovery Program

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Educational Leadership


Department of Educational Administration


Mary Ziskin


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the experiences of community college students in recovery, including their experience with a Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP). Collegiate recovery programs have been on college campuses in the United States for decades, with the first CRP dating back to 1977 at Brown University (Pennelle, 2019). Of the 138 CRP members reported by the Association of Recovery in Higher Education in 2019, only 13 of them were community colleges (ARHE, 2019b, p. 7-9). Despite roughly 35% of undergraduates in the U.S. attending community colleges (NCES, 2018), very few community colleges have a verifiable CRP in operation (TYR, 2016; ARHE, 2019b). Transforming Youth Recovery (2016) suggests that it would be beneficial to further our understanding of the role that community colleges can play beyond academics, and specifically TYR believes that "community colleges appear to be ideally suited to help support the enrichment of students in recovery" (p. 7). Despite the need and clear benefits, recovery support is largely missing on community college campuses. This gap stems primarily from the infrastructure of student support, with many community colleges reporting a desire to strengthen their student services but insufficient funding to do so (TYR, 2016, p. 27). Institutions may benefit from examining their existing student support systems prior to implementing a CRP. Because most models for CRPs come from residential, four-year institutions, they may not work well in community college settings without adaptation. Not only are CRPs uncommon on many community college campuses, but also the literature on CRPs is primarily focused on residential colleges and universities. Brown, Ashford, Heller, Whitney, and Kimball (2018) completed a literature review on CRPs spanning from 1998-2017 and noted that existing research on CRPs is "limited in scope" (p. 9), and of the 25 studies included in their review, none of them focused on the community college population. This gap in the literature leaves out the voices of community college students in recovery, and it can create difficulties when community colleges want to implement a CRP, as most of the guidance available is focused on residential, four-year institutions. The sample for this study was selected purposively, using gatekeepers at two selected community colleges who acted as referrals (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2012, p.48). This study included semi-structured interviews from participants focusing on their experiences and perspectives. Each participant was interviewed via Zoom with the opportunity for follow-up. All participants were from a community college with an active Collegiate Recovery Program.


Community College Education, Community Colleges, Higher Education, college students, community college, recovery, collegiate recovery, addiction

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