Project Name: STEP
Principal Investigator: Ty Lostutter, PhD
Grant Title: Alcohol’s Impact on Academic Success of OEF/OIF College Students
Sponsor: Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation
Project Period:1/1/12-12/31/13
Grant Number: n/a

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (the 9/11 GI Bill) provides over 2 million veterans who served in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom, OEF) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom, OIF) with the opportunity to attend college full time. While the 9/11 GI Bill gives OEF/OIF veterans access to educational benefits, many veterans will return from deployment with physical and psychological challenges that may impede their academic success. In particular, research suggests OEF/OIF veterans have high rates of alcohol use and psychiatric disorders that could potentially interfere with class attendance, decrease grades and tests scores, and/or lead to withdrawal/dropout from college. Further, the transition from the battlefield to the classroom can be filled with unique stressors that OEF/OIF veterans may not be prepared to handle. Despite the potentially negative effects of alcohol use and psychiatric symptoms on academic success among OEF/OIF veterans relatively little research has actually examined this relationship. Understanding this relationship is necessary in order to develop appropriate alcohol interventions for this population. Thus, the broad, long-term objective of this research is to assess the relationship of alcohol use, psychiatric symptom severity, coping, social support and TBI history to academic skills and academic performance among OEF/OIF veterans pursuing their postsecondary education. To accomplish this objective the research project has the following specific aims: 1) Conduct a longitudinal web-survey comparing OEF/OIF veteran college students to a random, stratified-matched sample (based on sex, age, ethnicity, year in school) of non-veteran college students on alcohol use (including quantity, frequency, and consequences), psychiatric symptom severity (depression, anxiety and PTSD), coping, social support, and objective measures of academic performance and 2) Evaluate theoretical (a) moderators (coping, social support, TBI status) and (b) mediators (alcohol use, psychiatric symptom severity, study skills) of the relationship between OEF/OIF status and academic performance.