Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An Act of Congress

While we were away relaxing in the sun this summer Congress was busy debating campus sustainability. Congress was debating the Higher Education Sustainability Act as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HR 4137). Congressed passed all provisions of the Act and on August 13th, President Bush signed the provisions into law. In addition to the sustainability provisions, college students may be interested in reading about other provisions that address textbook costs, complicated FAFSA forms, and rising tuition.

How will this act of Congress affect sustainability and teaching on the campus of Lasell College? Let's look at the provisions addressing sustainability.

First, the Act creates a "University Sustainability Grants Program." The purpose of this competitive grant program is to help colleges offer more academic programs that address sustainability. It also may provide funds to help campuses increase energy-efficiency.

Second, the Act calls for the Department of Education to convene a national sustainability summit. The summit will bring together experts from higher education, federal agencies, non-profits, and business with a goal of identifying best practices in curriculum development and campus management.

It is really too early to tell how the Higher Education Sustainability Act will affect Lasell College students. We will certainly consider submitting applications to the grant program once that opens. We are launching our environmental studies major in the fall and we could use all the support we can get to make our students successful in the emerging green economy. We also have over 40 buildings on campus which could all use improvements in energy efficiency.

The national summit also has the potential to have an impact on Lasell. I would expect the summit to generate documents on best practices for campus operations. I would also expect there to be lengthy discussion of curriculum. What should we be teaching our students to prepare them to lead the new green economy? This would be helpful as we shape our new Environmental Studies Major.

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