Campus Alcohol Policies and Their Impact on Student Drinking

Most campus administrators have come to recognize that alcohol policies play a role in changing students’ behaviors towards alcohol. As students arrive on campus there is typically an increase in students’ alcohol use, what we call the “college effect” (see Figure 1). Students who have not been heavy drinkers may begin to consume greater amounts of alcohol. Those who have only occasionally had a drink may begin to drink more frequently, and those who have abstained may begin to experiment with alcohol for the first time. Policy enforcement during this time period is critical to set the tone on campus; however, students should be held accountable with consistent enforcement throughout the remainder of the year as well.

Figure 1. The College Effect – Student Arrival on Campus Corresponds with an Increase in Alcohol Use

the college effect everfi

There is a body of research with supporting evidence that policies can make a difference when designed and delivered appropriately. This policy research is presented succinctly within the newly released NIAAA CollegeAIM matrix, which also includes a top efficacy rating for AlcoholEdu, EverFi’s online alcohol education program for incoming first-year students. Environmental strategies are a broad set of policies and programs to reduce alcohol problems among college students. There are three broad levels of policy implementation: state, community, and institutional.

Examples of state level laws include minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) law, high volume sales and consumption, such as happy-hour sales, keg registration, or pitcher sales. Examples of community-level policies include increased surveillance and enforcement by city police, server guidelines, and noise ordinances. Institutional policies include restricting alcohol to specific locations, registration of social events with alcohol, banning kegs, alcohol education programs, sanctions for student violators, and parental notification for underage students.

An education and publicity component must be considered part of the policy effort. Even if policies are in place, those who are targeted must be aware of the policies in order to comply. When new policies are created, it is important to involve students early in the decision making process. Once policies are created, they must be enforced consistently to be meaningful deterrents.

Research shows that student support for stronger policies and enforcement is greater than most students perceive it to be (see Figure 2). In a study published in the Journal of American College Health, including 32 four-year institutions, ninety percent of students supported stricter disciplinary sanctions for students who engage in alcohol-related violence. The students’ perception was that only 65 percent of their peers would support stricter disciplinary sanctions. Seventy-three percent of students supported stricter disciplinary sanctions for students who repeatedly violate campus alcohol policy, but students thought only 41 percent of their peers were supportive. This information is important to share with student to correct misperceived norms and also with stakeholders on campus. Staff, faculty, and senior leaders may be surprised by such strong student support for stronger alcohol policies and enforcement.

Figure 2. Student Support for Alcohol Policies

student support for alcohol policies everfiSource: DeJong, W., Towvim, G., & Schneider, S. (2007). Support for alcohol-control policies and enforcement strategies among US college students at 4-year institutions. Journal of American College Health, 56(3). 231-236.

Next month we will be conducting a webinar on how alcohol policies and programming relate to the practice of pre-gaming. You can register for our upcoming webinar here: Strategic Drinking: Exploring the Culture of Pre-gaming and Implications for Practice. We will be providing examples of how campuses and national fraternities and sororities have begun to address this ongoing challenge.

Engaging Youth in the Political Process: John Hancock’s Summer Program Changes the Conversation

“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” – Thomas Jefferson

We’ve all seen the alarming statistics about youth disengagement in the political process that are often cited by the national media. For example, in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, youth voter turnout was among the lowest in the world, when 50% of eligible young people chose not to cast a vote. John Hancock Financial is working to change that narrative by providing critical civic education tools to young people.

CH5U9905 (1)This summer, as part of John Hancock’s MLK Summer Scholars program 650 Boston-area teens were given access to EverFi’s online course, Commons: Digital Town Square, in addition to meaningful work experience opportunities at almost 80 non-profit organizations throughout the city. The web-based curriculum provided scholars with the opportunity to develop and utilize critical civic skills. Scholars finished their Commons experience by writing an op-ed about a political topic of their choice.

According to a survey taken after completing the course, scholars were 40% more likely to write letters to a newspaper about social or community concerns than they were before taking the course and 31% more scholars agreed with the statement that “I feel confident in my ability to explain to another person how the United States Government functions”.

With the rise of the digital age, civic participation increasingly happens online. Critical functions such as voter registration, tax returns, political campaigns, advocacy and peer-to-peer communication have moved into the digital space. In today’s networked society, digital literacy has become an indispensable part of civic empowerment. The MLK Summer Scholars program addresses this reality by marrying civic engagement education with an engaging digital learning experience.

On September 20th, John Hancock celebrated youth civic engagement by publishing an ‘advertorial’ spread in the Boston Globe with an op-ed authored by MLK Summer Scholar, Chris Cadogan, winner of the op-ed competition for MLK Summer Scholars to enter after completing the Commons course. The impressive final entries for the competition included op-ed’s about Gun Violence, Environmental Philanthropy, Gentrification, Religious Freedom, and more. Read Chris’s op-ed about LGBTQ+ youth here.

Partnership in Prevention – New Online Programs from EverFi and the University of Michigan

EverFi & Arizona State Treasurer Host Financial Literacy Roundtable for Advocates in the State

An urgency to address a critical skills gap in K-12 financial education was the theme for a spirited discussion led by Arizona State Treasurer Jeff DeWitt and EverFi. On August 12th, EverFi and Treasurer DeWit hosted a roundtable discussion with community leaders on the importance of financial education in the state of Arizona.

It is my goal to improve the financial knowledge of all Arizona students,” said Treasurer DeWit.  “It is critical that education leaders, business leaders, and technology innovators, like EverFi, continue to collaborate to reach more students with critical skills education.

During the 2014-15 school year, EverFi reached 113 Arizona schools through its financial literacy programs and served over 8,000 students.  Students increased their knowledge in financial literacy topics by 85% after completing the course and felt more prepared to make financial decisions on their own.

Many Arizona community leaders joined Treasurer DeWit for the event including Phoenix Union High School District, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale Unified, Dysart Unified, Arizona Department of Education, and Arizona Charter School Association.

Tony Camp, Director of Career and Technical Education (CTE) for the Phoenix Union High School District, talked about the district’s integration of EverFi’s courses and the benefits they have seen.  He also invited several CTE students from Trevor Browne High School to share their experience with the program.

Rudy Lima, a 12th-grade student at Trevor Browne High School, shared that I am grateful to have been exposed to EverFi’s financial education course in high school.  Before, I wasn’t confident I knew enough about my own finances, but now I feel more prepared to make important financial decisions as I enter my adult life.  I would encourage other students and teachers across the state to get involved with EverFi’s programs.

A Phoenix Union High School District 11th grade student explained how the program helped her to learn about the FAFSA so she could apply for financial aid when she was ready to go to college.  All of the students in attendance have plans to go to college and stated that the program helped them to understand their financial options.

EverFi and Treasurer DeWit plan to work on a continuation plan to keep the group engaged and actively involved in the advancement of financial education in the state.  For more information about the roundtable or EverFi’s programs in Arizona, please contact Jessica Golden, Arizona Schools Manager, at


5 Evidence-Based Tips for Maximizing Prevention Efforts with Incoming Students

As the 2015-16 school year gets underway, we, as campus prevention professionals, are all a year further from our own college experience. Do you remember what coming to campus was like⎯the emotions (excitement, anxiety, uncertainty), the events (moving in, saying goodbye, orientation), the information we got about health, wellness, and safety?

The messages we provide new students in their first few days about alcohol, dating, intimate relationships, and looking out for others are critically important. Here are some suggestions and recommendations as you look ahead at this new year of opportunity.

Tip #1. Actively question assumptions. The “ideal college experience” is as diverse as our student body. Having prevention programs that appeal to students’ interests is important, but try to avoid “we know you’re going to do this so just be safe” messages. These expressions reinforce problematic and inaccurate stereotypes that partying hard and hooking up are quintessential student experiences. At best, this runs the risk of missing the mark for many students. At worst, this can disenfranchise our most healthy, respectful, and responsible students. Find ways to truly understand students’ values and what they want to get out of their college experience, and use this as a springboard for highlighting synergies with our prevention messages.

Tip #2. Focus on the positive. Our AlcoholEdu data gathered from over 600,000 incoming students suggest that most new students fall into the categories of non-drinker or abstainer (i.e., they have not consumed any alcohol in the past 2 weeks or the past year, respectively), even when we survey them half way through the fall semester.  Similarly, we know from Haven survey data from more than 600,000 students that the vast majority have overwhelmingly healthy attitudes and behaviors when it comes to relationships and topics related to sexual assault. This raises an important question: is our goal to prevent unhealthy behaviors or promote positive behaviors? By focusing on the latter—albeit not exclusively—we deliver messages that align and resonate with many more students than focusing on how to avoid negative experiences. In turn, the healthy student majority can be engaged as agents of change by modeling healthy behaviors and creating a sense of responsibility and accountability among their peers.

Tip #3. Promote a culture of caring. The first person a sexual assault survivor tells about their experience has a profound impact on their healing process and future disclosures. Our research from Campus Climate surveys administered on 65 campuses to over 14,000 students shows that when survivors disclose their experience, they most often turn to close friends. This underscores the importance of fostering a peer culture that is supportive, non-judgmental, and well equipped to offer resources to survivors. That said, over 25% of survivors tell no one about their experience (see Figure 1.) and cite a variety of reasons: they felt it was a private matter, they were ashamed/embarrassed, or they didn’t think what happened was serious. As administrators and prevention professionals, our job is to help create an institutional culture where students recognize their right to be treated with respect and feel that they have the resources, tools, and support to come forward and seek assistance if needed.

Figure 1. Student Reporting of Sexual Assault Incidences

for blog dataTip #4. Treat them like adults. EverFi’s survey research has shown that incoming first-year college students who considered themselves to be more adult-like before starting college drank more responsibly once they were on campus. By making it clear that students arriving on your campus are seen as mature, responsible adults, you may be more likely to inspire this behavior. This message cannot stand alone, but instead should be delivered in the context of messaging that underscores the college’s standards and expectations, rein¬forces students’ commitment to their educational goals, introduces them to the rich opportunities available to them, both academically and socially, and corrects their often exaggerated misperceptions of campus drinking norms. Importantly, these messages should also be complemented with systems, policies, and processes that consistently hold students accountable if they do not live up to this new set of expectations of young adulthood.

Tip #5. Make prevention messages ever-present and ongoing. Two hallmarks of strong prevention approaches are salience and repetition. We should ensure that prevention and promotion messages are ubiquitous in the new college environment – in the classroom, in residence halls, on school websites, in prevention programs, and across campus. And, like any good college curriculum, these messages should build on each other over time to deepen students’ understanding and sharpen their skills. One particular point to be aware of is the importance of including messages about the availability of resources for sexual assault survivors, particularly during the heightened risk period in the initial weeks of first-year students’ time on campus. EverFi research has shown that survivors who receive training on how to report a complaint, the availability of confidential resources, and on the campus investigation process were significantly more likely to report their assault.

As you embark on a new year with new and returning students, certainly embrace the notion that prevention should happen early and often but also keep yourself and your institution committed to a long-term vision for evidence-based prevention.

We wish you all the best on your efforts to promote lasting health, wellness, and safety for your students this year.