How Sustainability Tackles New Challenges in Higher Education

In today’s higher education landscape, many institutions face a host of new challenges: Rising costs. Shrinking financial resources. Increased reliance on tuition dollars, even as enrollment levels stagnate.

Amid these pressing financial limitations, environmental sustainability goals may seem secondary. However, being a steward of your institution and a steward of the environment are not mutually exclusive. In fact, environmental sustainability programs can be instrumental in finding solutions to financial and enrollment challenges.

Two main mechanisms by which sustainability can address campus challenges are:

  1. Reducing the ultimate cost of running campus
  2. Improving institutional reputation in the race to attract prospective students

A sustainable facilities management strategy can help reduce your institution’s demand for expensive resources like energy, labor, and supplies by making the most of your existing space. Currently,

  • Higher education achieves only 50-60% average classroom space utilization
  • Both public and private institutions invest less than 40% of the recommended level into building envelope and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems crucial for proper building function
  • Institutions pursuing only traditional endowment investments miss out on returns from revolving green funds and clean energy projects, which can be three to six times higher

By getting ahead of the curve, your campus can take full advantage of underutilized space, reduce the risk of costly system failures, and find efficiencies to fight growing utilities costs.

In the context of mounting competition for prospective students, a focus on sustainability can also give institutions an extra edge.

According to research by the Princeton Review, 21% of prospective students consider campus commitment to environmental issues “Strongly” or “Very Much” when deciding where to apply or attend school. With a visible reputation for being “green,” institutions can signal to these prospective students a sense of shared concerns and aligned values.

Furthermore, according to Gordian for Higher Education, 63% of first-year students identified campus impression as a factor in their decision of where to enroll. Keeping campus buildings stewarded and well-functioning with a sustainable facilities management strategy conveys a good impression during campus visits, and creates an institutional reputation for a comfortable living and learning environment.

Join us on Wednesday, August 16 at 1:00 pm ET for a complimentary webinar on Making the Business Case for Campus Sustainability to learn more about how sustainability helps to address some of higher education’s most pressing issues.

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