College Connect: The High Cost of Turning 21

By Alex Schiffer

It’s a situation probably every college student remembers to some degree; the first time they got offered to drink alcohol in college. Sometimes that offer comes at a house party, other times in the dorms and heck, maybe if you have a good fake ID or know the right bouncer, maybe at a bar. Of all the things associated with college, whether it be football, frats, frisbee or free stuff, is more associated with college more than the party scene.

But how much is it really worth it?

While I’m not opposed to a drink or two every now and then, the price to have a good time in college keeps going up. According to an AOL story from 2010, the average college student spends around $500 a year on alcohol, which at some schools is more than the price of textbooks or more than they spend on food during some semesters. In fact, college students are the holy grail of alcohol sellers, who spend a healthy amount of their $4 billion in annual marketing budges promoting their products.

And that number is on the low end. Other estimates can go as high as $5,000 and a more recent release has the average number at $900 a year. Which makes me wonder how much it’s worth going out in college. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun in school, but when that much money is going toward cover charges and overpriced drinks you have to wonder if you’re better off buying booze from the store instead of going to a bar or nightclub.

Add that to the fact that many students get credit cards shortly before they turn 21, and you have a problem – that $900 a year gets charged on cards, and it all adds up.

While those studies don’t specify where the alcohol that students came from, $900 is a large cut out of tuition at a lot of schools. While college is a time for students to enjoy themselves, by going out all the time and paying outrageous prices for a night out is doing a number on their bank accounts for when they get into the real world and have to pay their bills.

It also makes you wonder what the student loan situation would look like if students spent less money on alcohol. I’m fine with some of that money going towards a good time but as the number rises you have to wonder if it’s really worth it, and what the long term financial outlook is if it does.

 Alex Schiffer is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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