Just How Buzzed Are Pa. College Students?

Report says state among leaders in campus drug, alcohol arrests.
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Pennsylvania ranks among the nation’s Top 10 states in the rate of both drug and alcohol arrests of college students.

The numbers, from a new report by Project Know, were first reported by U.S. News & World Report. But the report’s authors said didn’t know if the numbers reflected the relative level of enforcement in each state, or the relative level of drug and alcohol use.

“The answer is that it could be either,” they wrote, and later added: “Whether high rates of arrests and referrals actually indicate high levels of crime, or just high rates of catching offenders, is a much harder problem.”

According to the report, Pennsylvania college students were arrested for drugs at a rate of 1.81 per 1,000 students — an increase of 6.6 percent over a year previous, in 2013, and good for 10th in the country. They faced 6.06 alcohol arrests per 1,000 students, good for sixth in the country.

Pennsylvania also saw one of the biggest jumps in on-campus discipline rates for drug use: The 42.5 percent increase, to 1,988 disciplinary actions, was the third-highest increase in the country.

A good chunk of that increase came from Penn, where drug disciplinary actions skyrocketed from a reported 21 in 2013 to 337 in 2014 — a 1,493 percent increase that led the nation. But that may have been a paperwork issue, the report’s authors said.

“At first glance, the University of Pennsylvania appears to have experienced a torrential wave of drug crime in 2014,” they wrote. “However, the college’s campus crime report from 2015 reveals the changes were due to new reporting procedures, not a sudden influx of drug offenders. Drug arrests are reported as being nearly the same in both years.”

Five Keystone State colleges were in the report’s top 50 for drug arrest rate: Penn State, Penn Tech, Shippensburg University, East Stroudsburg University and IUP. Six were in the top 50 for alcohol arrest rate: Shippensburg University, East Stroudsburg, Lehigh University, Penn Tech, Penn State, and Kutztown.