College Sustainability Report Card
examines policies and programs at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada with the 100 largest endowments. The schools were selected and their endowment profiles were researched in 2006 based on the latest figures available at that time from the
2005 National Association of College and University Officers (NACUBO) Endowment Study
. Since then, however, we were able to update the endowment figures. The dollar amounts listed on the 100 profile pages reflect the most recent figures from the 2006 NACUBO
released January 22, 2007—two days prior to the
release on January 24, 2007.
Data collection for the report took place between July 2006 and January 2007. For the four sections related to campus management (Administration, Climate Change & Energy, Green Building, and Food & Recycling), information was gathered from publicly available documentation. Sources included each school’s website, articles in the press, and information from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Data from both the public, and members-only, sections of the website of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) was also a useful resource in compiling the school profiles.
After the preliminary information was gathered for the campus management section, the presidents’ offices at all 100 schools were contacted via email with a survey that included our initial findings and a request to add to, update, or correct our data. While more than 40 schools responded to this initial inquiry, follow-up correspondence via email and phone was required with a majority of schools. In all, 90 of the 100 schools responded in whole (or in a few instances, only in part) to the survey. Many schools submitted extensive and detailed responses. We regret that, given limited space, their responses had to be edited to fit within the profile format. However, the points assigned for their grades were based on all information submitted.
For the three endowment-related sections (Endowment Transparency, Investment Priorities, and Shareholder Engagement), a multiple-choice survey was sent via email to an official whose job duties include matters pertaining to the endowment. Typically, this individual was a chief investment officer, chief financial officer, vice president for investments, vice president for finance, director of investments, or another position with similar job responsibilities. We received a response from 48 of the 100 schools after following up on multiple occasions by both phone and email. Additionally, data was collected from publicly available sources.
Most public universities pool endowment resources between campuses and have a single investment pool or foundation that manages the combined endowment. For public universities, the report profiles looked at the entire system rather than a single campus—unless otherwise noted.
To simplify grading, no plus or minus grades were given in the seven categories—only full letter grades: A, B, C, D, and F. Category grades were determined by a point system that assigned grades dependent upon the total number of points earned by a school in each category. The specific areas examined within each category are listed in the Overview of Categories section of the study.
The seven category grades were totaled to calculate a grade point average (GPA) on a 4.0 scale. The GPA was then translated into an overall Sustainability Grade, ranging from A+ to F, using a standard grading scale. No school received an F in the Investment Priorities category because all schools were awarded a minimum grade of C for prioritizing investing to maximize profit. When schools did not respond to our questionnaires or inquiries, or refused to answer, research was limited to publicly available resources.
While there is a high degree of diversity among the colleges in the
, many of the best practices can apply to all schools—large and small, public and private. In our research and grading, factors that were possibly due to size were taken into account and those areas were graded accordingly.
Although another construct for evaluating our research results could have been selected, the system of assigning grade point averages was thought to be appropriate for educational institutions. In the future, this tool will serve as a readily accessible way to track progress among schools.
In all, 90 of the 100 schools responded to the campus sustainability policy survey.