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Greening Community Colleges: An Environmental Path to Improving Educational Outcomes

Kimberly R. Rogers and Rachel Pleasants

The emerging and expanding green economy has the potential to create not just jobs, but career opportunities across the United States as green manufacturing, green products, and green services fuel demand for workers at all skill levels. Community colleges are leading the way in defining and addressing these opportunities. They are: developing education and training programs in expanding fields from solar energy to green construction; enhancing existing green-connected programs and creating new training programs for green jobs; and developing educational pathways that lead to the Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees that are essential for continued advancement in these emerging careers.

In addition, many community colleges are taking steps to raise environmental awareness within the communities they serve. They are greening their own campuses and working on local environmental remediation. Some colleges are integrating their on-campus sustainability efforts into academic programs so that installing solar cells or creating a composting system for campus waste becomes an instructional tool. Often, they undertake this work through innovative partnerships that bring together environmental groups, local employers, and community-based organizations.

This brief highlights the approaches of three community colleges to “greening” their operations, curricula, and communities, while simultaneously addressing local and regional employment and environmental needs.

Content for this brief was informed by research from the MetLife Foundation Community College Excellence Award program and other JFF initiatives.