Originally published on The ECOreport.
Unlike many of their European counterparts, who do not have to pay for education, America’s average class of 2016 graduate owes about $37,172 in student loans. Almost half of the students interviewed by the Pew Research Center said this debt made it harder to pay other bills. A quarter said it influenced their career decisions. One of the nation’s smaller non-profits has decided to do something about it. In Arizona, the Ecosa institute offers a tuition-free ecological design certificate program.
Ecosa Institute Offers A Tuition-Free Ecological Design Certificate Program
The Ecosa Institute’s “four-month certificate program emphasizes the balance needed between humans and nature through urban design, architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, graphic design, and environmental responsibility.”
This course was first conducted in 2000 and is a $12,000 value.
“After much debate, Ecosa decided to take a leap of faith and offer the Institute’s semester program tuition-free for the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters,” said Tony Brown, Ecosa Institute founder and director. The only payment that the 28 accepted students will make to Ecosa is $50 for registration.
As the institution does not yet have dorms, students will have to find their own lodgings off campus.
Ecosa’s Office Manager, Laura Kasper, explained that they are hoping to find donors who will pay for the students’ education.
“We would like to encourage people to pay it forward. Whether you had a good education yourself and would like to help someone else have that experience, or you are a corporation that would like to instill the perspective and attitudes we teach in your employees. There are lots of different categories of donors,” she said
The Ecosa Institute’s Vision
In its press release, Ecosa explained that both Brown “and the institution have been heavily influenced by Paolo Soleri, the late founder of Arcosanti, an urban design concept of architecture coherent with ecology. An architect by trade, Brown apprenticed for several years with Soleri on the Arcosanti project, which proposed a radical new approach to structuring cities. That experience led Brown to establish Ecosa in 1996 and now, spearhead free tuition.
“Paolo was a real inspiration for me and taught me how to ‘think outside the box,’” Brown explained. “Free tuition started as a crazy idea. Expecting that a tiny organization such as ours could influence the national debate on education seems bold and daunting. But our board recognizes that we have to put our stake in the ground and move the concept forward.”
As part of its efforts, the board has written a “Manifesto,” which identifies the current state of higher education, soaring tuition debt, ignorance leading to a downward spiral in social engagement and civic involvement, income inequality, and the premise that students should not be forced into debt to be educated. You can read the Manifesto here.“
Ecosa’s New Campus
Ecosa purchased 65 acres in Prescott, Arizona. Three acres of this will house a living, totally self-contained, campus. It will have its own water source, sewage treatment, and (renewable) power. The new campus will also have habitats outside for bats, birds, and insects.
“We will use, for instance, bat guano to fertilize the plants on the outside of the building,” said Kasper.
“Our tagline is design with nature. We look to nature for ways to do things. We are very concerned about species extinction, climate change and the effects of those things on our world. We teach young people, and more than young, about ecological design and how to consider nature and all of its forces when designing a product or designing a home. Everything we do in this world has to be designed with our habitat in mind.”
Illustration Credits: The institute’s land in Prescott Arizona; Tony Brown, Ecosa Institute founder and director – courtesy Ecosa Institute; map courtesy the Ecosa Institute; Map courtesy Google maps & Roy L Hales; Artist’s depiction of the future Ecosa Institute in Prescott, Arizona