Problem College Drinking: 2 Reasons for Hope

Last Updated Mar 18, 2010 1:47 PM EDT

Excessive college drinking isn't going away, but there are reasons for parents to be more optimistic about this age-old problem.

While the national rates for high-risk college drinking have barely budged in 30 years, the signs of progress against campus alcohol abuse are growing.

The good news comes through college drinking statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and AlcoholEdu, an online course that more than a third of college freshmen took last year.

Here are two reasons to be hopeful about problem college drinking:

No. 1: More incoming college freshmen are not drinking any alcohol, according to a CDC survey. In fact, the number of freshmen who abstained from alcohol has jumped 22% in the past decade.

No 2: A growing number of universities are making progress again problem college drinking. For male students, drinking five or more alcoholic beverages within two hours is considered "problem drinking." For coeds, the drink total is four.

Among schools experiencing success with problem drinking are two of Playboy's top party schools for 2009: Arizona State University (No. 15) and Indiana University (No. 25). At these schools and dozens of others, problem drinking is happening less frequently and they are less severe in nature. High-risk drinking at the University of Tampa, for instance, dropped 23% in 2009 and 12% at the University of Pittsburgh during the past two years.

Reasons for Drop in Problem College Drinking

Why the success? More universities are making progress against binge drinking and other alcohol abuse a priority, suggests Brandon Busteed, who is chief executive of Outside the Classroom, which offers the popular AlcoholEdu course.

College presidents and boards, Busteed says in an article in The Chronicle of High Education, "have begun to understand the powerful relationship between reducing students' drinking and improving academic performance, student engagement and retention rates...The more students drink, the lower their GPA's, the less likely they are to interact with their professors and the more likely they are to drop out."

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and you can also find her writing about college at TheCollegeSolutionBlog. Follow her on Twitter.

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College drinking image by Bike. CC 2.0.