As Colleges Add Green Majors and Minors, Classes Fill Up

by | Dec 30, 2009

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UnivofArizClasses are filling up as fast as colleges can add new major and minors in green programs, as students demand the courses and employers wanted trained students, reports USA Today.

More than 100 majors, minors or certificates were added this year in energy and sustainability-focused programs at colleges nationwide, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), reports USA Today. This is up from three programs added in 2005. Click here for AASHE’s list of academic programs in sustainability.

As an example, the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University started an undergraduate program in sustainability studies with a focus on solar about 18 months ago, which now has about 600 students who have declared sustainability a major, reports USA Today.

Rob Melnick, executive dean of the institute, told USA Today that the growth rate is unprecedented even though the program has the toughest admission standards of any school at the university.

Other schools including Illinois State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California-Berkeley are also seeing big demand for green-geared programs, reports USA Today.

The Illinois State University in Normal, Ill., offers 65 majors in renewable energy, a program started in 2008 with help from a $1 million Department of Energy grant. Richard Boser, chair of the Department of Technology, told USA Today that employers, including those in wind energy, hope to hire future graduates.

Other schools, including the Oregon Institute of Technology, Wisconsin’s Mid-State Technical College, John Brown University and University of Dayton, also offer renewable energy programs. The University of Toledo (UT) is another school that hopes to combine some of its faculty and researchers into a new school dedicated to alternative energies.

MIT launched a minor in energy studies in September, pressed by a student survey that revealed that 43 percent of freshmen and sophomores were very or extremely interested in it, while the University of California-Berkeley’s has seen its introductory energy class grow from about a class size of 40 students to 270 students, over the past ten years.

The same trend is occurring for MBA programs in response to growing interest from students.

The Obama administration estimates that energy and environmental-related jobs will grow 52 percent from 2000 to 2016 compared to 14 percent for other occupations, reports USA Today.

A recent report prepared by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst says the U.S. can create 2 million jobs over two years by investing in a rapid green economic recovery program.

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