It’s well-documented that students who binge drink tend to have lower grade point averages and focus less on academics than students who don’t.
“The authors of a new paper addressing this question did indeed find that many students who binge drank over their four years in college had “significantly lower” critical thinking skills upon graduating than did those who didn’t binge drink. But that was true only for students who enrolled with already comparatively low critical thinking ability.
“Those are the students that we really want to gain from college, and if binge drinking gets in the way of that, then I think that creates a real problem,” said Teniell L. Trolian, a paper co-author and doctoral student in higher education and student affairs at the University of Iowa. “That’s where the real effect is. So I think prevention educators and other administrators on campus who are trying to assist students to be academically successful and attain all of the cognitive outcomes that we expect of college — I think that would be a great place to focus their efforts.”
“Trolian and her co-authors, the Iowa education professors Ernest T. Pascarella and Brian P. An, are presenting their paper at this week’s annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, in St. Louis. They sought to examine the link between binge drinking and critical thinking because although the latter is now considered one of the most important outcomes of higher education, it hadn’t been the subject of such research.
“Their sample includes more than 4,100 students who attended college from 2006-10 at one of 17 institutions: 11 liberal arts colleges, three research universities and three regional universities. (The data are drawn from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education, whose participants also take the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency Critical Thinking Test, which measures skills in clarifying, analyzing, evaluating and extending arguments.) Binge drinking is defined as five drinks in a sitting for males and four for females. About 80 percent of college students drink and about half of those students binge drink, according to figures from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. But, the study says, “Students with relatively strong critical thinking skills at entrance to college appeared to be essentially immune to the negative influence of collegiate binge drinking.”