University Business - July 2008 - (Page 57)

SUST A B L E A D MIS A IN SI ONS How prospective students are tracking down institutions’ environmental records and using n-making them in the college decision-making process By Howard and Matthew Greene N THE LATE 1990s, WE WORKED WITH A YOUNG ly released survey report “Campus Greening Efforts,” conducted woman who had a very strong focus on environmental ac- by researchers at The College of William & Mary (Va.), assessed tion. At the time, it was the rare student who placed her own whether these efforts made a difference in the behavior of students environmentalism and that of prospective colleges so squarely on campuses that were more or less committed to sustainability. The study did find some significant impact on students’ activities, in the forefront of her admissions process. In this case, Sarah (as we’ll call her) not only took apart the en- such as turning off their computers, when a college put more of a vironmental policies and course programs (or lack thereof) of pro- focus on climate change. It seems this survey was able to identify a shift in student atspective colleges, but she also wrote passionately about her efforts to recycle just about everything her family and school produced titudes about choosing green colleges. Current freshmen are two as “waste.” She had attended a high school exchange program in times more likely to choose a school based on sustainability concerns Maine that helped her develop that environmental awareness. The compared to the entering freshman class just three years ago (13.5 basket of schools that would meet her needs and interests seemed percent today versus 6.5 percent then), the survey found. We may small, and that she eventually chose Bates College (Maine) was not be at the front of a new wave of students basing college decisions in part on how sustainable an institution is. a surprise to us. Nicole Scheer-Irvine, a study co-director A decade later, the context has dramatically We may be at the and third-year William & Mary student, says, changed. Al Gore, whose book Earth in the “It was unexpected to see that freshmen now Balance came out in 1992, now has a share of a front of a new wave of value a school’s ‘greenness’ so much more than Nobel Prize. His film An Inconvenient Truth has students basing their students even in my own junior class did. an Oscar. Global warming, greenhouse gases, college choice in part When I was applying to colleges it was simply and sustainability are on the minds, it seems, of on how sustainable an not a factor.” most colleges and students these days. institution is. While 13.5 percent is not a huge proporBut is this truly the case? Is an interest in a tion of applicants and this is a fairly small college’s sustainability practices, or lack thereof, survey, the results begin to capture the notion impacting students’ choice of colleges? Where in the hierarchy of admissions needs and preferences does sustain- that more students are currently taking environmental action into ability rank? Truth be told, we don’t have very much data to assess account when assessing their prospective colleges—and one could these questions. But we can take a deeper look at how sustainability probably surmise that this trend is likely to continue and accelerate for some time. may affect admissions. Consider the increase in students taking the Advanced Placement class and exam in Environmental Science. According to The ON THE GREEN DATA TRACK Mark Orlowski, founder and executive director of the Sustainable College Board, just 456 high schools offered this AP course in Endowments Institute, tells us that his organization has commis- 1998. By 2007, 2,501 high schools had it. This puts the class in sioned a survey to track high school students’ attitudes and priori- the same ballpark as such AP subjects as Economics, Computer ties regarding sustainability and environmentalism. And the recent- Science A, Studio Art, Music Theory, and World History. July 2008 | 57 I

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business - July 2008

University Business - July 2008
College Index
Company Index
Advisory Board
Editor's Note
Behind the News
Money Matters
Financial Aid
Human Resources
Students in Need, Schools at the Ready
Security Officers Speak Out
Advancement Goes Digital
A New Day for NASFAA
Sustainable Admissions
What's New
End Note

University Business - July 2008