U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

College Academic Performance and Alcohol and Other Drug Use

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2003
3 pages
This document discusses the effects of alcohol and drug use on academic performance in college.
Difficulty meeting academic responsibilities is one of the most common consequences of alcohol use on college campuses. About 25 percent of college students report academic problems caused by alcohol use, such as earning lower grades, doing poorly on exams or papers, missing class, and falling behind. According to a national study of over 14,000 students, 21.6 percent of students that drank during the year prior to the study had fallen behind in their schoolwork, and 29.5 percent had missed class because of their alcohol use. In a national survey of 55,026 college students, 23.5 percent reported performing poorly on a test or assignment, and 33.1 percent said they had missed a class due to alcohol use in the previous 12 months. A national survey of 94,000 students conducted over 3 years found in the third year that students with an A average consumed a little more than four drinks per week, B students had 6 drinks per week, C students averaged almost 8 drinks per week, and students with D's or F's consumed almost 10 drinks per week. In addition to well-documented consequences such as poor performance on assignments and missed classes, studies suggest that college drinking is a major factor in student dropout rates. Heavy drinking also has a negative effect on the image of an institution. This image may encourage more alcohol-related problems, as it attracts students that choose to be in high-risk environments. Research suggest that the most effective way to change the “culture of drinking” is through environmental management - changing the physical, social, legal, and economic environment on and around campus that fosters alcohol use. Future research should examine what proportion of academic warnings and probation can be attributed to alcohol and drug abuse; what proportion of entering students each year end up dropping out due to alcohol and drug abuse; and what burden these dropouts place on society. 1 figure, 7 references