Boozy campuses are drunk on other people's money

By Krista Kafer Well, well. So the national Phi Kappa Tau fraternity is suspending its University of Colorado chapter at least until August. Its 35 members will have to find a new place to live. Apparently the house was “not representative of the values and principles of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity nor those of the Greek community in Boulder” according to the national office. That’s a delicate way of saying they partied too much.

What is too much? Last month nine women went the hospital after partying with Phi Kappa Taus. At least two of them had been dosed with the date rape drug. Other incidents go back over year. They’re not the only ones. Over the past year, Greek chapters at CU and CSU have been the site of drunkenness, mayhem and the death.

How can this be? Working swing shifts through college kept me sober. I was in class or at work. I enjoyed a good Tom Collins or two on a night off but didn’t have the time or the money to binge. But not every student is so constrained. Some students can afford not to work -- supported by parents or taxpayer subsidies.

Over half of full-time undergraduates attending four-year colleges and universities received subsidizies through the federal government via loans or other programs. (This percentage is higher for those attending private schools.) While participation in federal higher education programs was greater among low-income students, one quarter of undergraduates from families with incomes over $100,000 also received financial aid.

That’s interesting, considering that taxpayers – three out of four of whom do not have a bachelor’s degree – are footing the bill. B.A. holders on average make $21,800 more per year than those without a degree, which translates into almost $1 million of additional lifetime income that accrues to the college graduate. It’s a case of the have-nots funding the haves and will haves.

Equally troubling is the impact of federal aid on college prices. There is evidence that federal loans have contributed to the rise of tuition. Tuition and fees at public and private four-year institutions have risen 38 percent in the past 10 years. In the past 22 years the cost of a four-year public college education has increased by 202 percent.

It is reasonable to ask if ever generous government subsidies have encouraged irresponsible behavior. Could it be that a free ride is an incentive to coast? Flush with cash (from someone else’s pocket), cost considerations are less of an issue when choosing a college. Once there, students are less encumbered by cost considerations in daily decision making. To be sure some students work, save, and scrimp. Others, however, have plenty of time and money to drink and what the heck, drink some more.

When proponents of Referendum C &D lament that students may have to pay more to attend a Colorado university if the amendments don’t pass, consider this – for some students that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Financial responsibility is not always a burden, sometimes it’s a saving grace.