Financing sustainability: student green fees

Published on: 
13 Aug 2013
Elizabeth Rowe

Tuition increases are usually met with contention as the cost of higher education continues to rise. Nevertheless, many students across the country are lobbying for their school to institute a student green fee. Student green fees allow college campuses to finance sustainability initiatives and projects that may not have been possible otherwise. During my spring semester at Agnes Scott College, I was able to play an integral part in passing and implementing a student green fee on my campus. Our student senate approved the increase of the student activity fee by $10 to go toward green efforts. 

One of the benefits of a student green fee is that it allows schools to target specific areas of sustainability.During the preliminary stages of researching green fees for Agnes Scott, it became clear that many schools utilized these funds for purchasing renewable energy or to go toward building retrofits. This type of fee would not have worked for Agnes Scott given our campus culture. Instead, Agnes began by creating a fund that would serve the direct benefit of students. Under this model, the money is used to finance student projects or conferences that are centered on sustainability.

Agnes Scott’s current sustainability mission is integrating sustainability into all aspects of the campus culture and engages all members of the Agnes Scott community in the process. A major component of this is engaging with the student body in order to educate students to become environmental stewards during their time in college and inspire them to continue to champion these causes after graduation. Our student green fee aims to engage students with sustainability on campus by allowing students to design and execute their own sustainability initiatives. The green fee is designed to finance projects of student interest such as improving our campus garden, incorporating more local and organic food into the dining hall or expanding our recycling and composting program in the resident halls. Students can also apply for funds to attend a sustainability related conference. 

It is critical when proposing a student green fee that it fits with your college’s sustainability initiatives and campus culture. For Agnes Scott this meant creating a fee that would directly benefit students and allow them to engage with sustainability hands on. There is no set model for these green fees - the most important aspect is that it work’s for your school’s sustainability needs.

Visit AASHE for more information on student green fees.