Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Study Time-Booze Consumption Ratio

By Richard Vedder

I would hypothesize that the study time/booze consumption ratio amongst college students has fallen sharply over time. If a student spends 20 hours out of class per week on average studying, preparing papers, etc., and drinks on average the equivalent of 15 cans of beer per week, the ratio would be 1.33 (20 divided by 15). My guess is over the years study time has fallen fairly sharply, while booze consumption has increased. If the average ratio nationally in 1970 was 1.33, I would not be surprised that today it is closer to being less than one-half of that, say .50 (10 hours of studying, 20 cans of beer). There are some data from NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) and individual research studies that might give us insight into what the ratio actually is (God forbid the Department of Education or some government agency that collects data on everything else under the sun actually estimate it).

Three professors at the University of Missouri have confirmed what I long was convinced to be true based on limited evidence -- when universities eliminate Friday classes, booze consumption rises. And there is no question there is a sharp decline in Friday classes over time. Hence universities are promoting the decline in the study-booze ratio. To be sure, not all studying is for the good, nor is all drinking for the bad, but colleges are subsidized by third parties who believe studying is good and should be encouraged more than drinking and partying. It is no accident that we subsidize studying (via university subsidies, guaranteed student loans, etc.) while we tax booze.

The decline in Friday and Saturday classes means, of course, that the traditional underutilization of classroom facilities has accelerated over time, and the productivity of capital resources like classrooms is probably lower today than decades ago. Why? Neither students nor faculty want classes on Friday; both want long weekends. With no one overseeing the universities very much, university presidents (mostly former faculty who do not want to annoy the faculty too much given their entrenched status) go along with this. The "hedonistic" college culture spoken about in the great first draft of the Spellings Commission report was partly brought about by actions of college administrators who have gone along with promoting a declining study-booze ratio.

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