High tuition is a problem for students at community colleges. This is true not just for the expected reason (high tuition is bad because people just have less money) but also because it turns out that higher tuition makes students more likely to consume drugs and alcohol.


According to an article by Tom Jacobs in Miller-McCune:

The more it costs to attend community college, the more likely it is that teens will act in self-destructive ways.

“I find that lower college costs in teenagers’ states of residence raise their subjective expectations regarding college attendance and deter teenage substance use and sexual partnership,” Cowan writes in the Economics of Education Review.

“Specifically, a $1,000 reduction in tuition and fees at two-year colleges in a youth’s state of residence is associated with a decline in the number of sexual partners the youth had in the past year, the number of days in the past month the youth smoked and the number of days in the past month the youth smoked marijuana.”

This is counterintuitive; you’d think cheaper tuition would leave more money available for drugs and alcohol. But nope, it works the other way. Higher tuition means more risky behavior. Lower tuition means less of it.

According to the study, this probably has more to do with expectations. If community college is expensive, high school students see it as a less compelling option and are, perhaps therefore, more likely to engage in the sort of behaviors associated with, well, not planning for the future. Why bother being responsible if college isn’t going to happen anyway?

Read an abstract of the study here. [Image via]

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer