Social Norms National Research & Resources
  Press Kit
  Press Coverage
  Press Releases

April 9, 2002

Boos for Booze

Stop the presses: In a new study, the National Institutes of Health find that college students drink a lot. They needed a study to find that out? It gets even more blindingly obvious: "Though common on many campuses, alcohol abuse does not run rampant among all college and university students," declares an NIH press release, which goes on to explain (really) that heavy drinkers drink the most.

The study proposes such solutions as harsher enforcement of the drinking age, establishment of Friday night and Saturday morning classes, and an increase in the number of alcohol-free dorms. "I've lived in college dormitories for much of my adult life," says the Rev. Edward Malloy, Notre Dame's president and co-chairman of the NIH's college drinking task force, "so I know firsthand the impact irresponsible drinking has on the quality of residential life."

But the NIH does not suggest the most sensible approach: making collegiate imbibing safe and legal by lowering the drinking age to 19. Since 1986, when the federal government forced states to raise the age to 21, we've heard of study after study showing "binge drinking" in college is on the rise. With alcohol completely off limits to adults under 21, it's little wonder they have a hard time learning to drink responsibly.

As the NIH was releasing its study today, the Hartford Courant was reporting that Yale has become the fourth college to defy federal law by announcing it will reimburse students who lose their financial aid because of drug convictions. Western Washington University and Hampshire and Swarthmore colleges also scoff at this provision of the 1988 Higher Education Act. If colleges won't respect federal law when it comes to illegal drugs, does it really make sense to deputize them as Prohibition enforcers?