Minimum Legal Drinking Age of 21 Increases Binge Drinking

Kenyon College President S. Georgia Nugent observes that virtually all college presidents believe that raising the drinking age has actually increased drinking problems on college campuses.

Dr. Nugent says that after states were forced to raise the drinking age to 21, heavy episodic drinking began to increase on college campuses. The college leader believes, along with many researchers and other experts, that raising the drinking age has caused the increase in so-called binge drinking. She also believes that because students “cannot go out and have a beer every hour or two while dancing, they hide in their rooms, drink way too much and are at much greater risk.”

Some faculty members have expressed concern that they and other responsible adults over the age of 21 can no longer serve as positive role models for the moderate consumption of alcohol.

“I think many faculty believe that the fact that this can no longer occur, that adults cannot be in situations with students where they can model normal behavior, is actually negative,” explains Dr. Nugent. As a result, she explains, “you get this extreme of either the unrealistic expectation of total abstinence or binge drinking, rather than what most of American calls ‘social drinking.’”

The college president says that the law is hard to enforce because so many people, including faculty and students, believe it has negative consequences. That makes it very hard to talk realistically about alcoholic beverages and their responsible consumption.


  • Worner, Nick. Colleges have different ideas on dealing with drinking. Mount Vernon News, April 20, 2005.