STARS and Stripes: Political and Institutional Factors that Affect Higher Education Sustainability Ratings


Environmental issues have played a role in higher education since at least the 1970s, beginning with a focus on sustainability and most recently addressing the climate crisis. Concomitant with the rise in higher education sustainability initiatives have been the rise of higher education sustainability assessments (HESAs), serving as tools for benchmarking, self-assessment, and comparisons. The STARS assessment is the most ubiquitous HESA in North America. The present research employed stakeholder theory to investigate what factors are associated with institutional and political factors affect STARS ratings. Using a multilevel model of local- and state-level variables, the results indicated that measures of local partisanship have little to no influence while state sustainability targets have small effects on STARS ratings. Furthermore, the results reaffirmed past research that indicated institution-level stakeholders (e.g., faculty, students, staff) and institutional characteristics such as finances play a larger and more critical role in institutional sustainability.

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Anthony Schmidt
Data Scientist

My research interests include climate change, society, and education. I also have a focus on quantitative methods, including data science education and data visualization.