In an article published in the April 16th Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled "Frustration with Green Rankings Pushes Colleges to Develop Their Own", Scott Carlson reports that independent rating systems may be displaced with the introduction of AASHE's STARS program. AASHE, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has been developing the STARS (Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System) system through a series of pilot programs over the past three years. STARS 1.0 launched in January 2010, and currently has over 130 signatories.
In a marketplace where interest in sustainability is at an all-time high, institutions are increasingly competing for students who are looking closely at the sustainability track record of potential schools. Where do these students turn for a comparative analysis? Carlson outlines a number of organizations, such as the Sustainable Endowments Institute, Sierra magazine, and the Princeton Review, each of which have their "own twist on questions about energy use, mass transit, water conservation, and so on," and provide a scorecard on sustainability. Carlson doesn't mention the Presidents' Climate Commitment which currently has 684 signatories, and offers insight into what aspects of sustainability different institutions are focused on.
Currently, there is a flood of information available to students as they make their decisions, from a vast array of organizations, each of whom have different means of compiling research and rating the performance of institutions. It remains to be seen whether the STARS program will become the benchmark in higher education the way that the USGBC's LEED system has in the design and construction marketplace, but it is certainly gaining traction.