Thanks to a $300,000 grant, UCSB’s College Alcohol and Substance Education program will be offering students a more intimate group experience to discuss their exploits.

The money, issued in October by the Dept. of Education, will be used to hire more counselors for the program in order to lower the student-teacher ratio in C.A.S.E. classrooms. C.A.S.E.’s staff said they also plan to set aside some of the funding to develop a Web site and manual to showcase the program as a national prototype for treating and preventing substance abuse on college campuses.

Director Ian Kaminsky said the long-awaited grant will provide attendees with the chance to work out their issues in a more private group setting.

“We wrote the grant in 2006, we got the grant in 2008, and we are able to implement it now in 2009,” Kaminsky said. “The grant will be used to increase staff. We’re hoping to have better outcomes in smaller groups. We believe students will feel more comfortable in a smaller setting.”

Kaminsky said C.A.S.E.’s staff is interested in exploring the potential effectiveness of having fewer students per counselor.

“I’m happy to report that rather than just do it, we’re going to compare how students do with seven people in a group, versus 12 or 13 people in a group,” Kaminsky said. “I think the most important reason for C.A.S.E. and for reducing class sizes is so we can actually have conversations with students if they need help… there are a lot of students with a lot of stress, and we just want to individually talk them through it.”

DC Smith, a third-year art major, was assigned to the C.A.S.E. program in March ’07 for drinking in the Manzanita dorms.

“I definitely walked out of [C.A.S.E.] with the potential to be safer,” Smith said. “I don’t think it was to make people stop drinking, because they know you’re going to do it. It was more to expand our knowledge.”

Regarding the upcoming change, Smith said he actually found the larger class size to be an effective way to spur conversation.

“I actually thought the class was a good size,” Smith said. “When there are like 10 to 15 people, there’s a chance for better discussion. I think having like only five people would be a little bit weird.”

According to Kaminsky, the grant will also make it possible for colleges across the nation to emulate the program. He noted that C.A.S.E. has already influenced other UC campuses.

“They’re going to implement something similar to this at UC Davis and there are some schools back east that approached us wanting more information,” Kaminsky said. “Let’s give them a program that has been proven to work, give them something that is currently effective.”

Joey Bromero, a second-year business economics major, said having 10 to 15 people in the classroom was a helpful resource, but said he would be interested to see how fewer students would affect the class’ dynamic.

“I think having less people would be a more one-on-one, hands-on experience. You might learn a little bit more,” Bromero, who attended C.A.S.E. in Winter 2008, said. “It was a very positive experience for me. I learned a lot of interesting facts and I got a cool t-shirt.”