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09-30-2009

Alcohol Holds Less Appeal for Incoming Clarkson University Students

National data shows increase in the percentage of non-drinkers entering college.

As Clarkson University students arrived on campus for the first time this fall, they faced a number of pressing transitional issues, including the decision of whether or not to drink. However, emerging data indicates that an increasing number of students are choosing to refrain from alcohol use and are seeking activities where alcohol is not the central focus.

The Monitoring the Future survey, a long-term study on drug and alcohol use in the U.S., funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), found drinking among 12th graders has decreased steadily every year from 1998 to 2008 - dropping by 13.2 percent.

And in the last decade, the abstention rate among high school students has continually increased. Similar trends can be seen among incoming college freshman, as evidenced by national aggregate data from AlcoholEdu for College, the online prevention program used by 36 percent of first-year students at America's four-year higher education institutions, including Clarkson University.

"More and more students are coming to campus as non-drinkers," said Brandon Busteed, founder and CEO of Outside The Classroom, the creator of AlcoholEdu. "This is an incredibly positive trend and a real opportunity for us to engage these students and harness the power of the responsible majority. The colleges and universities that actively embrace this trend will have a distinct competitive advantage in getting the best, most engaged students."

Data gathered from AlcoholEdu in 2009 showed that 13 percent of first-year students at Clarkson are interested in planning events that do not focus alcohol, and another 55 percent are interested in attending such events. The top-ranked events and activities included bowling, pool tournaments, fitness classes, movie nights, live music, student talent shows, Wii tournaments and karaoke nights. These findings have already begun to inform programming decisions for the upcoming academic year.

While these trends are promising, the fact remains that alcohol abuse is still a significant problem among college students. Clarkson is taking proactive steps to address this issue by once again requiring all first-year students to complete AlcoholEdu prior to their arrival on campus this fall. The program's personalized approach meets students where they are based on their personal drinking choices.

"Drinking in moderation or abstaining should both be equally acceptable options for adults, and we have a responsibility to prepare students for either choice," said Kurt Stimeling, dean of students. "The stakes are too high to do otherwise."

With several published studies and randomized control trials documenting its efficacy, AlcoholEdu has been a critical building block for addressing the epidemic of high-risk drinking on America's college campuses. In an upcoming issue of the Journal of Health Communication, independent researchers present findings in which Villanova University students who completed AlcoholEdu reported a greater reduction in alcohol use in one sitting, were less likely to expect positive outcomes from drinking, were less likely to make poor decisions as a result of alcohol use, and were less accepting of others alcohol use behaviors compared to students in a control group.

In additional to AlcoholEdu, Clarkson University has implemented several theme housing communities this fall to engage the incoming class with other students who share common interests including outdoor activities, environmental consciousness, FIRST Robotics, and Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE).

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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