Green Colleges Becoming More Attractive to Prospective Students

Posted by Marcell Haywood on Dec 31, 2015 9:00:00 AM
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While traditional factors like location, academic standing and financial aid still dominate the decision-making process when it comes to choosing a university, sustainability is becoming an increasingly important factor for prospective students.

According to the Princeton Review’s fifth annual “Guide to 353 Green Colleges,” 54 percent of the 10,000 applicants surveyed said that having “a way to compare colleges based on their commitment to environmental issues” would “very much” or “somewhat” influence their decision to apply or attend. According to The Guardian, an additional seven percent said “a school’s environmental standing would be one of the most important factors in their decision to enroll.”

Going Green

So how can colleges become more green? Here are some of the ways 332 institutions were granted Princeton Review’s “green star.”

Recycling and Composting Programs

Universities with comprehensive recycling and composting programs are regularly found on the list, as these are benchmarks of sustainability best practices.

Sustainable Energy

Solar-powered dorms and other sustainable energy initiatives are popular, with 98% of campuses having a sustainability officer and committee. 

LEED-Certified Buildings

81% of new construction on campuses is USGBC LEED-certified. 

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Plans

Many universities have lowered their greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 30% in less than ten years.

Locally Sourced Food 

33% of total food expenditures go to purchasing local and/or organic food. Additionally, some universities have organic campus farms.

Sustainability-Focused Study Programs 

96% of the colleges offer an undergraduate major or degree program that is sustainability focused, including clean energy career prep and renewable energy and ecological design degree programs. 

The Top 50 Green Colleges 

The Princeton Review also ranked the top 50 green universities in the country. According to the Review, “The schools that made our Top 50 Green Colleges list share superb sustainability practices, a strong foundation in sustainability education, and a healthy quality of life for students on campus.”

Here are the top three and how they captured those coveted spots.

1. Lewis & Clark College

This university in Portland, Oregon was ranked number one because “100% of the college's electricity is generated by ‘green power’ sources; the college has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30% since 2006, and the Lewis & Clark Green Energy Institute develops projects that advance and support renewable energy policies.” 

2. Green Mountain College

Located in Poultney, Vermont, Green Mountain College was the second climate neutral campus in the nation and “the first to achieve it through a combination of efficiency, large-scale adoption of clean energy, and purchase of local carbon offsets.” GMC also offers “a renewable energy and ecological design degree program, a new sustainable agriculture and food production degree, adventure education, natural resources management, and a sustainable MBA program.”

3. University of California, Santa Barbara

UCSB “established one of the nation’s first environmental studies programs in 1970, opened the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management in 1994, established the Institute for Energy Efficiency in 2008, and is an early signatory to the ACUPCC, committing the campus to carbon neutrality by 2050.” Additionally, UCSB boasts 55 LEED-certified buildings as well as the nation’s first double platinum LEED building. 


These days, universities know how important it is to go green and adopt sustainability practices at their campuses. What they might not know, however, is just how much adopting some of the aforementioned practices can help with attracting prospective students. 

In order to gain the interest of today’s incoming, eco-conscious college freshmen, colleges need to step up their green game!

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Topics: Sustainability

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