Student Drinking Worries Most College Officials

But they're divided on best way to tackle problem

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SATURDAY, March 20, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- While the majority of American college administrators are concerned about heavy student drinking, they're divided on how to tackle the issue, says a study in the March issue of the Journal of American College Health.

The survey, completed in 2002, found that 81 percent of 747 college administrators of four-year colleges said student alcohol use was a problem or major problem on campus. That's much higher than the 68 percent of college administrators who expressed the same concerns in a 1999 survey.

Administrators of large schools (more than 10,000 full-time undergraduates) and highly competitive schools were most likely to consider student alcohol use to be a major problem, this new survey revealed.

"It is clear that the nation's colleges are collectively concerned about student drinking on their campuses, but are quite divided about what programs to put in place to alleviate the problem of heavy and destructive drinking," study author Henry Wechsler, director of the College Alcohol Studies program at Harvard School of Public Health, says in a prepared statement.

The various prevention measures include:

  • Thirty-four percent of colleges have banned alcohol on campus for any student, regardless of age. Those most likely to have alcohol-free campuses include small schools, schools in Southern states, less competitive schools and historically black colleges.
  • Forty-three percent of all schools prohibit alcohol in all campus residence halls. This includes schools that are alcohol-free. Also, 81 percent of colleges offered some alcohol-free dorms or floors in residences.
  • Alcohol use is restricted by 44 percent of colleges in at least four of the following events: home athletic contests, home tailgate events, home pre- or post-game parties, homecoming celebrations, on-campus dances or concerts, on-campus banquets or receptions, and alumni events. Nearly half of small schools had these restrictions, compared with about a fifth of the large schools.
  • The survey found that 84 percent of schools provide alcohol education for freshmen, 72 percent provide it for sorority members, and 69 percent provided it for athletes.
  • Half the colleges conduct social norms marketing campaigns, which use education and motivation to correct student misconceptions about the drinking behavior of their peers.
  • Counseling and treatment for alcohol abuse is offered by 90 percent of colleges.
  • An assigned substance abuse official is employed by 81 percent of colleges, and 61 percent of colleges have a task force to deal with substance abuse issues.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about college drinking.

SOURCE: Harvard School of Public Health, news release, March 2004

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