The US Congress has passed the Higher Education Sustainability Act (HESA), the first new federal funding for environmental education in 18 years. As part of HR 4137, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, the act, which is expected to be signed by President George W Bush, creates a 'University Sustainability Grants Program' at the Department of Education.
This programme is designed to present competitive grants to colleges, universities, and other institutions in order for them to develop academic programs and practices on sustainability.
HESA has been widely supported by a variety of organisations – over 220 groups including institutions of higher education, NGOs and corporations. The act also instructs the Department of Education to gather leaders in the field (higher education sustainability experts, federal staff, and business leaders) to collaborate on the practices and principles of sustainability.
'This is an ambitious and crucial step for higher education and it is important that Congress continues its support for comprehensive education that incorporates the principles of sustainability,' says Sean Miller, Earth Day Network Education Director. 'This bill will promote sustainable principles in future generations as we will certainly continue to deal with the challenges of global warming, energy, sustainable development, and environmental protection.'
Co-sponsors of the bill have stated that these grant programmes will contribute both to the environmental health and global economic competitiveness of the United States. By allowing institutions of higher education to develop, teach and implement sustainability practices society will benefit from the knowledge and capability in sustainable development gained by students.
The grant programme will 'allow for institutions of higher learning, the mainstay for innovative thought, to develop new programs and ideas regarding sustainability,' says Miller. 'College students understand the importance of sustainability