University of Georgia students voted to increase the green fee from $3 to $4 in a special election paired with the homecoming ballot, announced Monday.
About 1,800 students voted, with 75 percent voting in favor, according to Tyler Faby, Chair of the Go Green Alliance and a Student Government Association press release.
“The homecoming vote underscores the significant student support for sustainability initiatives,” said Kevin Kirsche, director of the Office of Sustainability. “It’s an honor to partner with passionate and engaged students toward an increasingly sustainable UGA.”
The moderate expansion of the sustainability budget will go a long way towards increasing green projects, like the tricolor recycling bins in the Zell B. Miller Learning Center, said students with the Go Green Alliance.
“A very modest increase from $3 to $4 would increase the allocation to sustainability projects by 77.8 percent,” according to the formal proposal.
UGA pays staff salaries through the student-funded green fee, an “unorthodox” practice, said Faby, who asked the SGA to include the vote on the green fee on the homecoming ballot. The effective green fee is $1.29 after discounting what students pay for administrative costs, he said.
The fee still requires a formal stamp of approval from SGA Senate on Nov. 19 and a mandatory fee advisory committee on Nov. 22. At least 50 percent of the seats on the mandatory fee advisory committee would belong to students, per the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia policy manual. SGA would appoint the student delegates. Should the mandatory fee advisory committee approve, the Board of Regents will give the final go-ahead before students see the increase reflected in their semesterly bills.
At the University of Georgia, the $3 per student fee that funds the Office of Sustainability is a bargain. Meager compared to other mandatory student fees, the green fee finances some of the sustainability initiatives that earned UGA an “A minus” grade from the College Sustainability Report Card.
That puts UGA on par with Georgia Institute of Technology and a couple of notches above Emory University, which recieved a B grade.
The report card scored universities on over fifty criteria, including the availability of local produce and renewable energy generation, from 2007 to 2012. The project was a collaboration between Sustainable Endowments Institute, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Sierra Magazine and The Princeton Review.
Even with the $1 supplement, UGA’s green fee falls below the average of its aspirational institutions, a group of comparison schools assigned by the Department of Education that UGA seeks to emulate on key metrics like selectivity.
The average is a little under $6 at UGA’s aspirational universities with a mandatory student green fee, according to the College Sustainability Report Card.
Five of UGA’s 12 aspirational schools do not have a green fee. Among these, the University of Minnesota received an A grade. The University of Minnesota pools its funding for green projects from a variety of other sources, including the capital budget, operating budget and a special endowment.
Some students in support of the increase say SGA’s efforts to put this vote on the homecoming ballot reflects well on the organization.
“I think it reflects the new nature of SGA really well,” said Greyson Clark, director of the policy board, and a senior international affairs, French and history major from Douglasville. “Last year a couple of students tried to engage with the green fee issue, but SGA didn’t get involved. I think that was the change this year. They had sound supporters in SGA who listened. And that was the main that Austin, Uzma and Mary Grace ran on - empowering the student voice.”