Monitoring problems and progress on your campus doesn’t have to be complicated, and at least some of the information you need may already be available. First, you’ll need to determine what types of information will be helpful in assessing the nature of alcohol problems at your school and the effects of your efforts. Then, you have several choices: collecting new data, using data already collected on your campus, viewing data from existing surveys or other sources, or combining these options.
Consider collecting three types of information: data on students’ drinking itself, plus its consequences at both the individual and campus levels. To follow are some options for measures and tools.
Possible measures of student drinking itself:
- Frequency of alcohol use (e.g., number of days per week)
- Quantity of alcohol consumed in a typical drinking day (e.g., number of standard drinks per day)
- Peak quantity of alcohol use (e.g., maximum number of drinks consumed in a single day)
- Frequency of binge drinking (e.g., number of binge drinking occasions in a 2-week period). NIAAA defines binge drinking as 5 or more standard drinks for men, or 4 or more standard drinks for women, in a 2-hour period.
Possible assessments for individual-level consequences of alcohol use that have been validated for use with college students follow:
- Consequences of alcohol use can be assessed using the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index (RAPI) or the Young Adult Alcohol Consequences Questionnaire (YAACQ).
- The severity of alcohol-related psychopathology can be assessed using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test‒Concise (AUDIT-C) or the Alcohol, Smoking, and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST).
Possible measures of campus-level consequences of alcohol use (many campuses may already be monitoring and tracking at least some of this information):
- Emergency room transports (if possible, record blood alcohol concentration)*
- Sexual assaults
- Alcohol-involved deaths (intentional and unintentional, by both injuries and poisoning)
- Costs for repairs of vandalized property
- Police services: calls, citations, or arrests for alcohol-related offenses
- Incident reports from judicial affairs, student life, or public safety
- Documented problems at sporting events
- Neighborhood complaints
- Mapped locations of problem areas using police/emergency call and response data (heavy drinking areas can also be identified in student surveys)
*Note: An increase in emergency room transports may be a positive consequence, depending on the focus of your intervention.
College alcohol intervention experts strongly advise conducting an annual survey of a random sample of students to assess self-reported alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. Several commercial surveys are available to monitor student alcohol use, including but not limited to the Core Institute’s Alcohol and Other Drug Use Survey and the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment. Using one of these surveys may increase your ability to compare your institution with other colleges. You also have the option of developing an instrument that you tailor to your own needs, which can incorporate validated measures of alcohol use and its consequences. Collecting survey data both before and after implementation of an intervention will help you to assess its impact.
A word about gathering broad vs. more specific data: Although gathering broad data on alcohol consumption and subsequent problems is important, by itself it may not help you select or evaluate your strategies. You’ll likely need to supplement broad, generic measures with more specific data on student subgroups or specific times and places where problems arise. If, for instance, you choose to focus on alcohol use related to sporting events such as football games, a global measure of ’binge drinking’ is unlikely to demonstrate success. Instead, be sure you either already measure alcohol consumption at those events or start to do so.
Likewise, if you want to see if an individual-level approach is working, it is important to track who has received the intervention and examine changes in their data before and after. A broad survey cannot capture individual-level changes if it mixes data for those who did and did not receive the intervention.