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Robert “Bo” Newsome, the Director of Outreach and State Relations at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), talks to AASHE about sustainability initiatives at NAICU and its members (nonprofit, private universities and colleges in the US), and how NAICU is working to advance public knowledge of affordability at higher education institutions. Bo completed a B.A. in Political Science at Columbia University, and an M.A. in Higher Education Administration at George Washington University. For more information on NAICU, visit www.naicu.edu.

Bo Newsome

What are the goals of NAICU’s “Going Green in the Ivy Halls” special initiative? What were the primary reasons for starting the initiative?

We wanted to highlight examples of how our member colleges and universities are working to improve the quality of life of their students and community through their support of sustainability efforts on and around campus. An added benefit is the resulting cut back on sky-rocketing utility costs.

As part of the Going Green in the Ivy Halls initiative, NAICU has created a categorized table of sustainable campus initiatives. How is this data being used by NAICU and/or partner organizations to advance campus sustainability?

NAICU first and foremost is an advocacy organization. However, we firmly believe in the principle of encouraging a thousand flowers to bloom. We have asked our members to share specific campus sustainability initiatives in the hope of creating an opportunity for dialogue with other NAICU members who may be interested in launching their own initiatives.

How does NAICU’s Campus Affordability special initiative help individuals stay informed and up-to-date about affordability, transparency, and cost-cutting initiatives at their and other institutions?

The examples of new affordability initiatives we provide via this special web portal demonstrate the creative ways in which private, nonprofit colleges are working to keep students’ and families’ out-of-pocket costs as low as possible. They are part of a growing campus affordability trend that has accelerated since the economic downturn.

Measures such as these are making a difference. Average inflation-adjusted net tuition and fees at private, nonprofit colleges has actually dropped by 4.1 percent from 2006-07 to 2011-12. Despite the predictions of many experts at the onset of the economic downturn, most private, nonprofit colleges continue to meet, if not exceed, their enrollment targets, largely because of their efforts to enhance affordability and value. Nevertheless, more must – and will – continue to be done by colleges to stay affordable and within reach of families from all backgrounds.

We will update the list regularly as we learn of new campus initiatives. In addition, in June 2012, NAICU will report the results of our 2012-13 survey of private college tuition and student aid increases.

What are some ways that campus sustainability initiatives have helped private colleges be more affordable?

By implementing or expanding environmentally-friendly systems such as geothermal heating, recycling, burying cool water lines, and using biodiesel fuel, our members have reduced energy consumption resulting in significant cost savings. Some of our members have even gone trayless in their dining halls!

What are some ways that NAICU promotes sustainability within the organization (e.g. energy reduction initiatives, carpool incentives) among its employees?

NAICU offices are housed in a LEED certified building in Washington D.C. We participate fully in the building’s recycling program. Staff who choose to commute by Metro receive a farecard subsidy. In addition, some staff take advantage of the city’s Bike Share program.

NAICU is a member of the Higher Education Association Sustainability Consortium (HEASC). What are some HEASC projects that NAICU is or plans to become engaged in, and how is HEASC influencing NAICU’s work?

HEASC has committed to hosting a series of webinars that will be beneficial. NAICU is engaging in sustainability initiatives, inspired by HEASC membership, such as scaling back on providing print copies of publications and instead now providing web-only versions. For example, our U-CAN Toolkit and our National Campus Voter Registration Organizing Handbook are now totally web based.

Is there a particular insight (learning experience or “ah-ha” moment) you have had working on higher education and sustainability?

Through working with my HEASC colleagues, and through the lessons learned from our “Going Green in the Ivy Halls,” initiative, my experience has been less of an “ah-ha” moment and more of a deepening appreciation of the heartfelt dedication and commitment of the higher education community to sustainability.

How do you spend your free time?

Playing Old Boys rugby and going to the beach as often as possible.