In deciding what colleges to apply to and ultimately attend, applicants may consider academic offerings, location, size, reputation, financial aid offerings and extracurricular opportunities. Another factor may soon come into play in light of The Princeton Review’s recent announcement that it will publish a “Green Rating” alongside ratings of selectivity, quality of life and financial aid in the 2009 edition of its annual college guides, which will be available mid-summer.
The green rating was designed to measure how effective a college’s environmental polices are in providing a better campus experience to students. The rating will also consider how successful colleges are in promoting learning opportunities and sustainable lifestyle choices.
“Forward-looking colleges and universities know that policies that are good for the environment are also good for students. The Princeton Review’s Green Rating helps students and parents find these schools which offer a great quality of life and prepare students for successful and fulfilling careers in the 21st century green economy,” Lee Bodner, executive director of ecoAmerica, said in a press release from the Princeton Review.
According to Harriet Brand, director of public relations for The Princeton Review, the company developed the green rating after 63 percent of college applicants indicated that they would value having information about a college’s commitment to the environment and that such information could potentially impact their choices. The percentage comes from The Princeton Review’s annual College Hopes & Worries Survey, which questions 10,300 college applicants and their parents.
Brand said that although the green rating will “certainly” not be a deciding factor for applicants, it “will be a part of the many factors that are considered.”
The green rating that a college receives will be based on criteria that span three broad areas. These areas include how environmentally responsible a school’s polices are, how healthy and sustainable the campus quality of life is and how well a school prepares its students to make informed and environmentally responsible lifestyle decisions after college.
The survey that will be used to analyze schools examines many aspects of a school’s commitment to sustainability, the availability of environmental studies majors and courses and institutional practices concerning energy use, recycling, food sources and transportation alternatives.
After reviewing the categories used in evaluating the rankings, Katherine McEachern ’09, president of Kyoto Now!, said that she thinks the categories indicate what universities should be doing to maximize sustainability.
“As living and work spaces, the universities should also be providing healthy, safe and sustainable environments … as educational institutions, they should be providing a living classroom for students that models sustainability and provide further opportunities for students to show how sustainability will be connected to so many aspects of our lives after we graduate,” McEachern stated in e-mail.
The Princeton Review developed the rating in conjunction with ecoAmerica, a non-profit environmental research organization. EcoAmerica helped put together the rating criteria and survey.
Although The Princeton Review has not yet released the ratings, Brand provided a list of unique practices that specific colleges engage in.
Included in the list was Ripon College, which was chosen for its decision to give incoming freshman a free mountain bike, helmet and lock if they do not bring a car to campus. Southern Illinois University was mentioned for having a unique earthworm recycling method called “vermiposting” that feeds campus food and paper waste to 2 million worms that turn it into compost.
Cornell was not mentioned, but Brand emphasized that the list is not exhaustive and that the schools that were selected for the list released so far was based on the uniqueness of their practices.
Cornell received a grade of a B on the College Sustainability Report Card, a measure developed by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. The Institute ranks 200 public and private institutions with the largest endowments.
The green rating will be presented as a numerical score on a scale of 60 to 99. The data used to evaluate each school will be from data collected during the 2007-08 academic year.