Cool schools

‘U’ should don sweater to cut costs and save energy

As we move into the colder months of another Michigan winter, some students will be experiencing a temperature-drop inside as well as outside their classrooms. In an effort to offset the possible $420,000 cut in state funding, schools in the city of Birmingham are turning down their thermostats by two degrees and telling students to bundle up for class. Administrators expect this measure to save energy and at least $25,000 in the coming year. In the face of the expected $1.8 billion state budget shortfall and the resulting $134 million shortfall in the state K-12 education budget, Birmingham’s decision to turn down the heat is not such a bad idea. Though Birmingham students may have to give up some of their favorite frosty fashions for the next few months, turning down the thermostat in the name of thrift is a creative cost-saving idea that the University ought to consider as well.

If the Birmingham school district can trim $25,000 from the current school year budget just by wearing a sweater, imagine what the University could save employing a similar measure – especially as state funding for higher education is not immune to cutbacks similar to those K-12 public schools are facing. State legislators already reduced funding for Michigan’s public universities. Last month, they approved a 2 percent mid-year cut in higher education spending and further cuts may be on the way.

Unfortunately, these decreases in state funding often mean crippling tuition hikes for students. The Associated Press reports that tuition increases of 10 percent or more are expected this fall at Michigan’s public universities. For students here at the University, that possible double-digit increase will be on top of the 7.9 percent increase students faced this past fall. Due to the University’s differentiated tuition schedule, some students actually experienced a 22 percent rate hike in September.

Slightly lowering temperatures in campus buildings is a clever way to reign in this trend of rapidly increasing costs and, eventually, the runaway tuition increases of the last few years. A few degrees in exchange for reduced or steady tuition rates is a fair swap -especially as a new regulated temperature might actually resolve the irritating present situation on campus, wherein there is no temperature uniformity between different classrooms and buildings.

Beyond the initial decrease in energy use from turning down the thermostat, a lower uniform temperature level would also be more energy efficient; it would equalize the current over- and under-heating of random classrooms and buildings as is common across campus. A stable temperature across campus would make attending classes a bit nicer as one would know how to dress to be warm enough outside and have the proper layers for comfort indoors. More importantly, a standardized and lower building temperatures would save money because it would save energy. This is another way the University works toward sustainability and a more environmentally-friendly campus.

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