AUSTIN – The University of Texas System is continuing to set the national standard for student wellness and safety programs. On Thursday, the UT System Board of Regents authorized $2.4 million to continue funding and expanding alcohol prevention, education and recovery programs at all UT academic campuses.
The UT System is the only system of higher education in the nation to make this level of commitment to students by funding comprehensive programs at each academic campus, said Chris Brownson, associate vice president for student affairs at UT Austin. UT Austin, a national leader in the collegiate recovery movement, is leading the Systemwide implementation, which began in 2012 with an initial allocation of $1 million from the Board of Regents.
Alcohol is the drug of choice for college students, and abuse can lead to any number of negative repercussions ranging from bad grades to physical injury and even death, Brownson said. UT System collegiate recovery programs strengthen students’ sobriety through education, advocacy, academic support, recovery accountability, peer mentorship, 12-step meetings, sober social activities, relapse prevention and service/volunteer opportunities.
“Beyond improving the chances of academic success and retention, these programs have the potential to save lives, shift perceptions on campus and reduce stigma, which will in turn allow more students to seek help,” Brownson said.
The funding approved by the Board of Regents Thursday will provide three more years of funding for recovery centers on each academic campus. In addition, the funding also will pay for additional services, including web-based alcohol education programs for all incoming UT students as well as prevention and early intervention screening programs.
“This initiative is an investment in student success, student health and student safety,” Regents Vice Chairman Steve Hicks said. “We want to prevent students from getting into trouble in the first place, but if they do get into trouble, we want to make sure they have a place to go that will provide the resources to get them back on track.”
Though recovery centers are in various stages of development at UT academic institutions, nearly all of the campuses have a physical location, weekly recovery support group meetings, social media and/or internet presence and a dedicated staff member to oversee the center.
“The initial efforts to expand on-campus recovery support Systemwide have been a tremendous success,” said Wanda Mercer, UT System associate vice chancellor for student affairs. “Each campus has stories of students who have benefitted, lives that have been impacted and campus cultures that have begun to shift.”
Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and an enrollment of more than 214,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $15.6 billion (FY 2015) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 90,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.