Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia continues to provide sustainability leadership through reinvestment in student engagement and resource conservation initiatives. UGA President Jere W. Morehead has approved a proposal to redirect $80,000 in annual savings garnered through efforts by the Office of Sustainability to further engage students and conserve resources—without increasing the student green fee.
The proposal first was presented to and endorsed by UGA’s Mandatory Student Fee Advisory Committee comprised of UGA students, faculty and staff on Nov.18.
In 2009, UGA students voted to establish the student green fee of $3 per semester in the fall and spring and $2 in the summer as a funding source for the Office of Sustainability as well as associated programs and initiatives to reduce the university’s impact on the environment.
Based on the success of this program, a $1 per semester increase to the green fee was included on the Student Government Association’s 2013 homecoming ballot. While 75 percent of participating students voted in favor of the increase, the university did not submit this request to the board of regents for consideration during the fiscal year 2015 budget process.
Instead, the university administration opted first to conduct the five-year review of the Office of Sustainability, as defined in the original green fee referendum. This study, conducted over the summer, assessed the performance of the fee and the office.
Following the 12-week review, the review team stated that it “strongly believes UGA should be placing more resources into this initiative to supplement the student green fee to sustain the office and to advance UGA sustainability in general.”
As a result, Morehead approved the proposal to redirect $80,000 of cost savings—roughly equivalent to a $1 fee increase—to support the office’s annual operating budget. This action will provide students with more opportunities for grants and internships.
“This plan unites two strategic priorities for the University of Georgia—advancing campus sustainability and investing in programs that provide experiential learning opportunities for students,” Morehead said. “I am grateful to the Office of Sustainability for coordinating the conservation efforts on campus that have improved our efficiency and generated these cost savings.”
The university plans to implement this change immediately by redirecting $40,000 of cost savings during spring 2015 to support these initiatives. The full $80,000 would be redirected in the 2015-16 academic year.
“We are pleased that UGA’s commitment to sustainability and resource conservation has resulted in tangible cost savings that we can redirect for the benefit of our students,” said Ryan Nesbit, vice president for finance and administration. “Our hope and desire would be for this strategy to eliminate the need for an increase to the student green fee at least through the next three fiscal years.”
The four-member review team included two students—Tyler Faby, a finance major in the Terry College of Business and sustainability director for the Student Government Association, and Brian Holcombe, an anthropology major, Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar and Office of Sustainability intern—as well as Lara Mathes, assistant director of campus planning in the Office of University Architects, and Ron Balthazor, senior academic professional in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
“In the five years since the inception of the office, sustainability on UGA’s campus has markedly improved,” the review team’s report concluded. “Beyond the quality of the staff, key to the office’s success is its engagement with students, especially in regards to the internship program, sustainability grant program and its willingness to interact and counsel student organizations.”
To learn more about the green fee and UGA sustainability initiatives, see http://sustainability.uga.edu/.