Students & High-Risk Drinking

Students & High-Risk Drinking

As you are aware, college is a time for career exploration, academic challenge, and personal growth. Like many incoming first-year students, this may be the first time a student has lived away from home, and the first time he or she will be expected to make independent choices on a daily basis. Unfortunately, recent headlines highlight the dangerous nature of some of these decisions, specifically regarding alcohol and substance abuse. Alcohol abuse can lead to academic, social, and health-related problems.

Parents & Families Can Make a Difference

Penn State invests considerable energy and resources in our efforts to better understand, treat, and diminish the negative impact that dangerous drinking can have on students and on their potential for success. As part of our ongoing efforts to address dangerous drinking, Penn State requires all incoming students to complete an alcohol education program prior to their arrival on campus. The program, Penn State SAFE, is an interactive, online program that provides information about alcohol, the alcohol laws in Pennsylvania, and Penn State’s alcohol and other drug policies.

While resources within Penn State are substantial, the impact a parent can have on their student is much more significant. Therefore, a parent’s role in helping a college student to make wise choices regarding drinking can have a remarkable impact on a student’s well-being and on the health and well-being of our entire campus community. Research has shown that first-year students whose parents talked with them frankly about the dangers of high-risk drinking* exhibit significantly more responsible drinking behaviors than other first-year students.

Before talking with your student, familiarize yourself with how alcohol affects the body and brain of young adults. Take some time to evaluate your own attitudes, values, and beliefs about alcohol and drinking. Establish open communication to make it easy for your student to talk honestly with you. Demonstrate to your student that you care about their success in college, both academically and socially. Be clear about your expectations for your students’ alcohol use during college and compliance with campus policies and state laws.

  • Talk with your student about:
    • Penn State’s alcohol policy
    • Pennsylvania’s alcohol laws
    • How violations of the Student Code of Conduct and the law can affect one’s future
  • Understand Penn State’s parental notification policy
  • Make sure your student completes Penn State SAFE, the on-line alcohol program.

Encourage conversations by asking nonjudgmental and open-ended questions. This allows your student the opportunity to express how they think and feel about college pressures, being away from home, and facing new situations. In the next column are some conversation starters for discussing issues your student may face when they arrive on campus.

*High-risk drinking is defined as having four or more drinks in a row for women and five or more in a row for men at least once over a two-week period.

Information in this section is adapted from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2010) "What Parents Need to Know about College Drinking." National Institutes of Health. Bethesda, Maryland.
www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov

Conversation Starters

  • How will you decide whether or not to drink while attending Penn State?
  • If a roommate drinks excessively and the partying affects your sleep and studying, what will you do?
  • What will you do if a friend you are with passes out because of excessive drinking?
  • How will you handle it if you are asked to "babysit" someone who is very drunk?

Stay Connected After Your Student Begins College

  • Stay involved with your student’s life at Penn State.
  • Call your student frequently during the first six weeks of college.
  • Learn about your student’s roommates and their new friends.
  • Encourage your student to get involved in activities and organizations on campus.

The Sobering Facts (national)

  • 31% of college students meet the criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse.
  • 6% meet the criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence.
  • 1,825 college students between the age of 18 and 24 die annually from alcohol-related injuries.
  • 599,000 experience a non-fatal, unintentional injury under the influence of alcohol.
  • 97,000 students annually are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

Alcohol Laws in Pennsylvania

This is a general summary of several alcohol laws in Pennsylvania. For more details about each law and for information about additional alcohol laws, visit legis.state.pa.us.

Underage Drinking

Underage drinking is illegal. It is illegal for anyone under 21 years of age to attempt to purchase, consume possess, or knowingly and intentionally transport any liquor, malt or brewed beverage. Penalties may include:

Underage Drinking Penalties
Penalty 1st Offense 2nd Offense Subsequent Offense
Fine $0-500 $0-1000 $0-1000
Jail 0-90 days 0-90 days 0-90 days
License Suspension 90 days 1 year 2 years

By law, Police are required to notify parents or guardians of all underage drinking violations.

Carrying False I.D.

It is illegal for anyone under 21 to possess an identification card falsely identifying that person by name, age, date of birth, or photograph as being 21 or older or obtain or attempt to obtain liquor, malt, or brewed beverage by using the identification card of another or by using an identification card that has not been lawfully issued to or in the name of the person who possesses the card.

Carrying False I.D. Penalties
Penalty 1st Offense 2nd Offense Subsequent Offense
Fine $0-300 $0-500 $0-500
Jail 0-90 days 0-1 year 0-1 year
License Suspension 90 days 1 year 2 years

Public Drunkenness

It is illegal to appear in any public place under the influence of alcohol to the degree that you may endanger yourself or other persons or property, or annoy others in your vicinity.

Public Drunkenness Penalties
Penalty 1st Offense 2nd Offense Subsequent Offense
Fine $0-500 $0-1000 $0-1000
Jail 0-90 days 0-90 days 0-90 days

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

It is illegal for anyone under 21 to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .02 or higher, and it is illegal for those 21 or older to drive with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. A first-time offense individual, under certain circumstances, may qualify for an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.

If a person is convicted of a DUI when under 21, with a blood alcohol content below .16%, possible penalties include:

Driving Under the Influence Penalties
Penalty* 1st Offense 2nd Offense Subsequent Offense
Fine $500-5000 $750-5000 $1500-10,000
Jail 48 hours–6 months 30 days–6 months 90 days–5 years
License Suspension 1 year 1 year 1.5 years
Other Alcohol Highway Safety School; Court Reporting Network File 1 year Ignition Interlock License; Alcohol Highway Safety School; Court Reporting Network File 1 year Ignition Interlock License; Court Reporting Network File

*Penalties differ based on age, blood alcohol content and other factors.

Note: If a student is from a state other than PA and the home state is part of the national compact on DUI enforcement (46 states are), the student must fulfill these penalties in PA and his/her license from the home state will be suspended, if applicable.

Furnishing Alcohol to Minors

It is illegal to knowingly sell, furnish, or purchase with the intent to sell or furnish, any liquor, malt or brewed beverage to a person who is less than 21 years of age. You can be convicted of furnishing alcohol even if you are under age 21. The fine for first offense is at least $1,000 and second or more is $2,500. Jail is up to one year for all.

Safety Awareness

Penn State SAFE and Penn State AWARE are interactive, online programs incoming students are required to complete. Penn State SAFE provides information about alcohol, the alcohol laws in Pennsylvania, and Penn State’s alcohol and other drug policy. Penn State AWARE provides information about sexual assault, the sexual violence laws in Pennsylvania, and Penn State’s resources for victims of sexual violence. (Parents, learn more about the Penn State SAFE and AWARE programs.)

Students should complete Part 1 of Penn State SAFE and all of Penn State AWARE by:

  • June 29, 2016 (summer students)
  • August 22, 2016 (fall students)
  • January 9, 2017 (spring students)