Opinion: Clarion Call

Call. 58: Overall College Drinking on the Decline, According to Study

College Drinking on the Decline, According to Study

Moderate alcohol use among college students is on the decline while abstinence and “binge” drinking are gaining popularity, according to Harvard School of Public Health’s 1999 College Alcohol Study. The study surveyed 128 schools in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

The proportion of college students having three or more binges in two weeks (defined as frequent binge drinkers) rose from 19.3 percent in 1993 to 22.7 percent in 1999. On the other hand, the number of occasional binge drinkers – those binging on one or two occasions in the same period – fell from 24 percent in 1993 to 21.4 percent in 1999. The percentage of those who drink but do not go on binges also declined – from 40.1 percent to 36.6 percent. And the number of abstainers rose from 15.4 percent to 19.2 percent.

>From 1993 to 1999, an increase in binge-drinking rates was statistically significant at only 7 of the 128 schools surveyed. Meanwhile, an increase in abstentions was observed at 77 percent of colleges surveyed. Only 23 percent of the colleges experienced decreases in the number of abstainers. Also, more and more students are choosing to live in alcohol-free dormitories while the rate of binge drinking dropped by almost 6 percent for students living on campus.

Dr. Henry Wechsler, director of the College Alcohol Studies Program and the author of the study, examined efforts of college administrators to curb binge drinking. He found that 97 percent of the 734 institutions surveyed had alcohol education programs in place. Forty-four percent of the school were working with community groups to address the issue.

The 1999 Harvard Study is a continuation of similar studies performed by the Harvard Schools of Public Health in 1993 and 1997. For 1999, Harvard resurveyed 128 schools from the original list of 140 college that were surveyed in 1993 and the 130 colleges surveyed in 1997. Responses to mail questionaires from more than 1400 students at 119 nationally representative 4-year colleges in 39 states were compared with responses received in 1997 and 1993.

Subcommittee to Draft “Solicitation Legislation”

The joint education oversight subcommittee on education facilities and technology is considering adopting legislation that would limit credit card company’s activities on college campuses.

In February, Pamarah Gerace, Director of N.C. State University Legal Services, Julie Rice Mallette, Director of N.C. State’s Office of Financial Aid, and Paul Stock of the N.C. Bankers Association addressed the committee, expressing their concerns about campus solicitation. The subcommittee received background information regarding legislation other states have considered or adopted that limit these company’s activities.

At its next meeting, the subcommittee will consider legislation that would prohibit the sale of student lists by UNC Institutions, prohibit credit card companies from increasing the credit limit of customers under the age of 21 (unless the customer agrees to the increase in writing), direct UNC’s Board of Governors to adopt uniform policies regarding credit car solicitations, and Direct the State Board of Education to study and make recommendations regarding how consumer credit and personal finances can be incorporated into the public school curriculum.