June 7, 2023
Read time : 5 min

Founded by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in 2012, in partnership with Net Impact and the Clinton Global Initiative University, Up to Us is a nonpartisan initiative that provides young civic leaders with resources to learn about and advocate for a more sustainable fiscal future. In its inaugural year, this case competition challenged teams of students nationwide to consider prompts addressing the rising national debt in the context of climate change, higher education affordability, or health care costs. 

Up to Us is excited to announce that the University of Central Arkansas’ solution titled Aligning Fiscal and Climate Policy is the winner of the 2023 Up to Us Case Competition. Up to Us partnered with leading civic engagement and policy organizations on the inaugural case competition. Through a cohort of faculty managed by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ (AASCU’s) American Democracy Project, the Up to Us Case Competition asked teams of students nationwide to consider complex policy problems through a fiscal lens and develop innovative and equitable solutions. Students responded to policy questions posed by the Bipartisan Policy Center, which addressed the rising national debt in the context of growing climate concerns, the affordability of higher education, or rising health care costs.  

University of Central Arkansas 2023 Team

The winning University of Central Arkansas team chose to address the rising national debt in the context of climate change. Specifically, the team tackled methane emissions from overused landfills and low recycling rates by implementing a landfill tax on businesses to increase federal revenues and incentivize more sustainable practices. Revenue from the tax would be used to fund infrastructure that relates to climate initiatives, including incineration plants and recycling centers. The revenues would also establish a Climate Innovation Fund that would help transition our society to more sustainable practices. A percentage of revenues from the tax would also be used to decrease the nation’s federal debt, which is currently more than $31 trillion. In addressing the national debt, the team aims to put the country in a better position to handle future crises and fund essential federal programs well into the future. 

“I developed a larger passion for combining fiscal policy into other policy areas,” said Jayce Burney, a senior at the University of Central Arkansas and member of the winning team. “My favorite memory was making friends with my group partners and developing long-lasting relationships. Our team was extremely passionate about fiscal policy and climate policy and found this opportunity uniquely helpful.” 

Up to Us received more than 30 submissions from diverse student teams nationwide. Faculty integrated the competition into extracurricular activities as well as course material, and the fields of study varied greatly across the cohort. Areas of study included but were not limited to marketing, anthropology, political science, economics, social psychology, and pharmacy. Students were able to use their diverse perspectives to craft innovative, thoughtful, and bipartisan policy proposals.  

The other top five submissions for the 2023 Case Competition, in alphabetical order, were: 

  • Improving US Healthcare: Affordable & Effective Care, Slippery Rock University 
  • Innovative Clean Energy Standard Policy, William & Mary 
  • Promoting Effective & Fiscally Responsible Climate Policy, Slippery Rock University 
  • Rethinking Higher Education: A Path to Reform, Slippery Rock University 

 To learn more about Up to Us and about how to get involved in the movement, visit www.itsuptous.org.