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Alcohol Policies and Practices Among Four-Year Colleges in the United States: Prevalence and Patterns

Kathleen M. Lenk, Darin J. Erickson, Toben F. Nelson, Ken C. Winters, Traci L. Toomey

Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the prevalence of college alcohol policies and practices and to identify patterns of policies/practices across colleges. Method: An online survey of administrators at a random sample of 351 4-year U.S. colleges was conducted in 2008. The prevalence of 31 alcohol policies and practices was assessed as well as differences across size and type of colleges. Latent class analyses identified classes of colleges based on their alcohol policies/practices. Results: The majority of colleges prohibit alcohol use at sporting events, whereas less than half prohibit alcohol use at fraternity and sorority events. Less than half of the colleges also prohibit alcohol advertising in/on campus newspapers and radio stations. Small colleges are more likely than large colleges to prohibit alcohol use at tailgating events and to prohibit newspaper alcohol advertising. Public colleges are more likely than private colleges to prohibit alcohol use in dorms but less likely to prohibit alcohol advertising. We identified four classes of colleges—the largest class (38%) was characterized by having many alcohol policies/practices, the smallest class (13%) had none or few alcohol policies/practices, and the remainder fit into two middle classes that had certain policies/practices in place but lacked others. Conclusions: Most colleges report implementing some alcohol policies/ practices but are lacking others. Only two of every five colleges fit into a class that has many alcohol policies. More studies are needed to validate our findings and assess whether certain policies/practices and patterns of policies are associated with reducing student alcohol consumption and related problems. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 73, 361–367, 2012)