Home / Cheap Beer: The Scourge of College Life?

Cheap Beer: The Scourge of College Life?

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

From USA Today:

Several universities regularly listed among the nation’s top “party schools” are joining city officials and bar owners to try to curb the supply of the biggest contributor to binge drinking on and off campus: abundant, cheap beer.

The University of Florida is working with Gainesville bar owners, beer distributors and City Hall to discourage drink-till-you-drop specials and to start police “party patrols” to clamp down on rowdy keggers and kids violating the national legal drinking age of 21.


Two factors drive drinking on campus, according to studies from 1993 to 2004 by Harvard’s School of Public Health:

•Price. The lower the cost of pitchers, kegs and cases of beer, the higher the rates of heavy drinking among students. Aggressive advertising in campus newspapers feeds the problem, data show.

•Prevalence. The higher the number of bars and liquor stores around campus, the higher the percentage of binge drinkers, who have four or five drinks at a sitting.

Ok…problem solved, right?

I don’t think so.

I really don’t believe price has anything to do with binge drinking on college campuses. When walking out the door on a Friday night in College Town USA, a 21-year-old is thinking about getting drunk, not price. If it costs only $3 a pitcher, or 15 cents a cup – that much more the better. But the guy (or gal) is getting drunk either way.

I’ll throw even more gas on the fire: many college kids could care less about price, because they’re on their parents’ dime. Either that, or they’re spending the overage between their Stafford Loan and the actual tuition cost that semester (a very common practice in my circle of friends at IU a few years back). I even had a friend or two who took out extra loans just so they could party and live it up.

One of the real reasons that kids drink heavily on college campuses is because class is just not that challenging. College for many is just a chance to waste four more years with friends. Throw in a dose of cultural acceptance of binge drinking that didn’t exist 30 years ago and you have a recipe for hard living. A few learn a great deal, but many are just passing the time without having to think too hard. Some even take that a step further by going to law school when they know damn well they don’t want to be a lawyer (ahem). Both undergraduate and graduate levels afford the young a chance to put off serious life decisions that are best tackled much earlier on.

Many would be a lot better off just jumping into the workforce at 18…

You can read more of Dave Johnston’s takes at newdave.com.


Powered by

About Joshua Johnston

  • STM

    “5-6 drinks in a sitting isn’t a binge.”

    That’s right … it’s just Friday afternoon happy hour.

  • Brown Paper Bag

    Freck the cheap beer. Direct me to cheap rum and free gallons of wine. Use to beeee the corp of a large CEO. now i rail the rides and sheep at underpas. Life is good. Merry CHristmas to all.
    Paper bag.

  • Bliffle

    I didn’t have a drink during my undergrad years, but that was the fifties when people checked your ID and the penalties were greater and there was little or no tolerance for underage drinking. Me and my cohorts were all children of immigrants who expected a lot from us and made that clear. We worked hard, didn’t drink, abstained from sex, and studied. Sounds pretty grim, now, I suppose, but it seemed OK at the time.

    I’m not sure what has been enhanced in anyones life with the addition of booze.

  • Tony

    5-6 drinks in a sitting isn’t a binge. In fact, it a lot of eurpean countries this is considered normal.

    A binge is when a person is drunk for several days.

  • Scott Watson

    Im 17 and cant wait to go off to college next year at University of Texas and Austin and get wasted every night. As for all the people who have been to wasted off certain drinks and cant drink them anymore try wine or beer. Wine for the classy drinker. Good day

  • Those are wussy words of equivocation and uncertainty.

    Say what you feel, no matter how offensive. It’ll be funnier and more direct that way.

    That is all.

  • Yes, Bill, I would have found my comments offensive too if I hadn’t incorporated words like “may,” “perhaps,” or “seem” in them.

    But, then again, I swing at everything. 🙂

  • Nancy

    Not exactly, but I can find my way around a cadaver. I’d have to check out my books to give you the exact biochem responses.

  • Those are some meaty stats Nancy about alcoholism but you don’t need numbers to see that alcohol ruins lives and causes personal destruction more than any other drug out there.

  • Nancy, how or why did that sugar conversion capacity lowering happen? How did I damage or compromise it exactly?

    Are you in medicine at all?


    That is all.

  • Nancy

    I fear I have a weak mind; I think they most of ’em got crippled if not slaughtered, sometimes 😉

  • Fear not, Nancy. Only the weak brain cells get slaughtered. 🙂

  • Nancy

    Ehhhhh…I sometimes question whether or not it didn’t get the better of me somehow, especially when I find myself subject to strange mental tics or wondering what was I thinking when I did such&such. Surely it blew a few billion brain cells that never regenerated.

  • It just might be, Mark…

    Actually, the real story is less interesting! I may incorporate that (real) one as a cover…

  • Nancy

    In my case, it means I can’t smell beer or sip wine, let alone anything stronger, w/out getting nauseous. If that be wisdom, then I guess yeah, I’m wise in that regard. It sure saves a lot of money, tho, from what I can tell from friends who DO drink.

  • EB: Was he the inspiration for Dumpster Bust?

  • I have a friend who did make it to 21 for his 21st. He wound jumping in a dumpster and then hitting on some high school ladies who were loitering about town for some unknown reason.

    He’s a cop now.

  • Nancy & Booey: Glad to hear your misadventures with the sauce did not get the better of you. Yet the wisdom contained within the experience is probably priceless in a twisted kind of way, right?

  • Nancy

    Actually, yes, you do reach a saturation point of sorts where the system simply declares it won’t tolerate more than ingestion of a certain amount any more. What happens is your sugar-conversion mechanism has been damaged/compromised & its capacity to cope lowered.

  • I did this shit too. It was stupid and so was I.

    I had the weirdest thing where I had the world’s best alcohol tolerance and I could drink as much as I wanted without ever getting sick or hung over. Sure, I’d feel trashed, but I never suffered for it.

    Until one day a couple years ago when I was 24 when I took a road trip to Detroit. I hit a club with my buddy, had about 20 vodkas and spent over $100 on drinks, and could barely see straight on the way back to the hotel with some new friends. In the middle of the night, I felt something weird in my stomach and felt all hot and couldn’t sleep. I threw up in the bathtub of my crappy hotel room and realized I wasn’t invincible anymore. Ever since then, I find myself puking or feeling sick if I have more than 5 drinks or so. I wake up in the middle of the night and I get sick. I still don’t have hangovers the next morning (never a headache), but I’m a little surprised that my alcohol tolerance left me so quickly.

    I used to be able to drink without consequence, but I guess I’m getting old.

    Anyone know what I mean?

    That is all.

  • Nancy

    The day before my 18th birthday the state I was going to college in legalized the drinking age at 18. So for my party, all I got as gifts were various kinds of liquor, everything from beer to creme de menthe & Capt. Morgan’s Spiced Rum. Did my damnedest to drink it all. Woke up almost a week later in hospital where I’d almost bought it from extreme alcohol poisoning…and for the next few days, I wished I HAD dies, from extreme alcohol hangover, which they wisely let me suffer thru. Man, it took me a couple of WEEKS to get my stomach back on an even keel. The smell of beer still makes it lurch … Ufgh!

  • Just checking. You only turn 21 once. I only made it to 19.5 anyway, before I got too full. Those were the days. A galaxy far far away.

  • Nancy

    If it wasn’t a regular practice on your part, yes. If you did it every weekend, however, I’d say you’d need to suspect at least a tendency to alcoholism, especially if any immediate family members had problems. 21 beers … ummm … I’d say you’d probably learn your lesson however while you were recovering in the hospital from alcohol poisoning. Hangovers can be ferocious deterrants.

  • So by that theory, would trying to drink 21 drinks on your 21st birthday be considered abuse, and not an alcoholic tendency?

  • Nancy

    There are gradations of a very minor kind, but where the ‘A’ class alcoholic is concerned, there is none. Now, this is not to be confused with people who just abuse alcohol, but are not alcoholics. It is absolutely possible to indulge in drunken behavior, yet the chemial compenent breakdown is normal. In that case, it’s just abuse, not alcoholism, and becomes a product of bad habit, a lot easier to break. Look up THIQ if you think I’m loony, but I got this from long & hard work with Al Anon (no relation to Al Barger) trying to understand my family’s various foibles.

  • Nancy, I can’t speak to the science of what you mention, but I do think there are gradations. It’s not black and white, just as is the case with most things in life.

  • The only methodology for coping is to avoid alcohol of any kind like the plague.

    This would probably be good advice for the entire world, not just alcoholics.

  • Nancy

    Alcoholism is no joke, and abusive use of alchohol is generally a danger signal, altho rarely recognized until too late. For those who never took the biochem: AA is correct, altho they never bother to explain why except w/religious gobbledygook: you will never have control of your ability to ‘handle’ alcohol, ever. Why? Because if you are an alcoholic, when you ingest alcohol, your brain, instead of breaking it down to its ‘normal’ components of water & acetic acid, ALSO triggers the manufacture in your system of a third chemical, called THIQ for short, or tetrahydraioquinidine to it’s close friends. THIQ has been found in the brain systems not only of alcoholics, but those addicted to drugs such as dope & cocaine. Males tend to have this genetic aberration to a greater degree than females, and in a more severe form – but not always. Men whose male parents were alcoholics have an almost 100% chance of having the THIQ mfg trait; men whose female parents were alcoholics, slightly less, only 85% or so. What a relief, huh? If you are an alcoholic, or had one or both parents or grandparents who were alcoholics, you will NEVER be able to “handle” alcohol, any more than you will be able to change the color of your eyes. Your system will ALWAYS break down ingested alcohol into water, acetic acid … and THIQ, thus both amplifying the effects of the alcohol itself, & strengthening the addiction each time you drink, thereby generating a craving for alcohol, which increases THIQ production, etc. etc. a very vicious cycle. There is no “cure”. If you quit cold turkey, never have another drop for 50 years, then suddenly have a drink, your capacity for alcoholic response will pick up EXACTLY where it left off 50 years before; it will not re-start from zero. It is a genetic condition, it will be part of you til you die, and you will pass it on to your kids, like it or not. The only methodology for coping is to avoid alcohol of any kind like the plague.

  • Listen, jerk. I’m not an alcoholic (I just have some background in academic psychology), but that little joke of yours is probably offending several people on this site whom you wouldn’t suspect would find that offensive.

    You feel like a big man making fun of recovering AA members?

    I drink regularly and I’m fine, but I don’t think it’s funny how many lives are destroyed by addiction.

    That is all.

  • “Heavy drinking doesn’t “innoculate” anyone against alcoholism, it triggers it if people are genetically predisposed toward it.”

    Yes, well, perhaps in you, Bill. 🙂

  • The last episode of the rather interesting 30 Days (Morgan Sporlock’s — the Supersize Me guy — documentary show on FX) looked at binge drinking by way of a really bizarre experiment that I won’t get into here.

    Anyway, they showed a lot of footage of partying down at Arizona State, a notorious Party School. There were about zero concerns about the price of alcohol, and I’m not sure attitudes would have changed much if prices were doubled.

  • Eric Olsen

    I wrote a lot about all this crap here, if you are interested.

  • Eric Olsen

    are there any schools that don’t have a “Rat”?

    RE binge drinking on campus: man, I would argue the opposite – schools have been cracking down on the availability of alcohol on campus, the autonomy of frats, etc., since the ’80s, and I think the general atmosphere of drinking with impunity has gone by the wayside. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still a ton of binge drinkers out there in collegeland USA, but I’m certain there is less of it than when it was tacitly accepted/normal behavior.

    Why the change? Why any changes like this – liability and insurance costs.

    And while I agree the cost/benefit ratio may not be an exact match, I think virtually everyone who goes to college benefits from it and makes society/culture/economy better over all.

    Thanks and welcome, Dave!

  • Heavy drinking doesn’t “innoculate” anyone against alcoholism, it triggers it if people are genetically predisposed toward it.

    That is all.

  • I did the whole greek deal at U.Va. in the late 80s and early 90s (saw DEA agents raid three fraternity houses; it was on CNN!).

    In the back of my mind, I always wondered why older generations would tolerate and even foster consistent, heavy alcohol consumption among future adults/leaders.

    My impression is that binge drinking is allowed because it, ironically, may serves to innoculate young-adults against alcoholism in later life. For example, my old college mates don’t seem to turn to a bottle if they experience professional problems, that’s for sure. But, then again, I may not see the whole picture.

  • If they’ll drink cheap, crappy beer, then they’ll drink anything.

  • It’s more of a vicious cycle.

    Bad week of class. Get drunk. Repercussions from the weekend result in a worse week. And so on. Next thing you know you’re eeking by with a 2.8 GPA with little effort.

    We can do better. Classes are challenging, extra cirriculars are out there. You can live a full life in college — a successful one — much easier without getting drunk every weekend. It’s a rarity for a student at the top of his class to practice this kind of lifestyle.

  • Rathskellar aka The Rat…

    Binghamton, New York

    Nestled downtown aka DT by the college folk.

    “World famous” Scorpion Bowls…

    Ah, college…

    Be safe, kids!

  • The Rathskeller – a great stop if you’re ever in downtown Indianapolis.

    Established in 1894, it’s the oldest watering hole in the city.


  • Shoot, we had nickel beers in the late 80’s…..but like like you said that made it cheaper but didn’t INCREASE the urge. The urge is/was always there. People either need to learn the will to stop or learn a hard lesson (for me, tequila sunrises at my first dorm party – I have never touched the nasty stuff since OR watch your grades slip and then mom and dad cut off the beer money)

  • Duane

    Ahahaha. …sppprrllllggghh … burp @!#@ … unhhh.
    why dont you gyusuiss ..splaggghhhh .. urrrpppp ! Hahaaaa .. oh, man.

  • Oh man, I love that they describe binge drinkers as having four or five drinks in a sitting. Many college kids have 4 or 5 in two hours, gents!

    Victor, my school had a Rathskeller too… funny how universities like to use that term for their basement. But that was a long long time ago.

  • This article reminds me of my college days. Ahh, those were the times of 25 cent beers in the Rathskeller and the game of quarters on weekends. Man, do I miss college.

    Oh, and I would have done it if the beers were even 50 cents. Or these days, is it 50 cent? Oh well, whatever.