Report: Getting Sloshed Very Expensive

TAMPA – Costs for students who regularly binge drink are on the rise, a new government study suggests.

The report, released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, points to the rising costs of alcohol products – as well as popular mixers such as cola – as a key culprit in the increasing costs of higher education.

“”Students are being forced to choose between eating lunch or getting hammered three nights a week,”” the study notes, going on to suggest that unless major policy adjustments are made, as many as 35 percent of U.S. undergraduate students might have to cut back to getting shit-faced on only one night a week.

“”The price of a bottle of mid-shelf vodka is skyrocketing,”” said Marty Berlstien, the vice provost for academic affairs at South Florida State College, where internal studies have shown that many students have already given up high-end beers in favor of lesser-known and more affordable domestics to avoid going broke after just one weekend of heavy drinking.

“”Something has to be done,”” Berlstien said. “”This is getting out of control.””

The non-partisan GAO study was requested by lawmakers from five Western states where the cost of getting belligerent is said to be increasing at the fastest pace in the nation.

The study found that the most expensive places to get sloshed are popular bars or clubs near campus centers. The cost for drinks at such locations has increased at three times the rate of inflation since 1970, the first year for which statistics are available, the study said.

A watered-down rum-and-coke from a bar in Corvallis, Ore., home to Oregon State University, costs binge drinkers $5, the report said. Specialty drinks can sport prices even closer to $10, enough for two meals at a campus dining center.

’We can’t force kids to give up $10 mixer drinks at the bar just so they can afford some crappy Chinese food and an egg roll for lunch,’ said U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., the leading voice among the nine lawmakers who requested the study.

The report noted that the same Corvallis bar was home to an issue indicative of another large factor that contributes to the high costs of getting wasted: the lack of drink specials. Many college bars are doing away with specials because their customer base is loyal and often has little choice in the market, the study said.

’I can’t pay $4 for an imported Belgian beer, then buy my friends a round of high-end vodka, then buy two pitchers of Coors for those girls on the smoking porch, then buy myself a rum-in-Coke right before closing time ? I just can’t’ said Mike Fitzmorris, a senior at Princeton.

Such an evening would cost Fitzmorris between $60 and $70, according to statistics in the GAO report. That’s enough for the chemistry major to buy three used textbooks for his English literature class.

But some students like Fitzmorris are being forced to make hard choices. The GAO study said that a growing number of students are choosing academics over binge drinking.

’I basically don’t go out and get lit anymore,’ said the 22-year-old Fitzmorris. ‘I actually bought my books this semester and I didn’t flunk out. It was pretty sweet.’

’That’s a sad state of affairs,’ said Ed Hammil, a policy expert at Washington D.C-based think tank dedicated to alcohol use in America. ‘When I hear stories about students giving up binge drinking for books, I start to cry. It’s just not right.’

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