Stanford University will no longer use any of its $18.7 billion endowment to invest in coal mining companies, a move aimed at combating climate change that could influence college administrations elsewhere.
The university's board of trustees agreed with recommendations from a panel of students, faculty, staff and alumni that found investments in alternatives to coal would be less harmful to the environment.
The burning of coal for electricity is a major contributor to the output of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions globally.
The Stanford announcement Tuesday is the most significant to date from a major, well-endowed college or university in the United States amid a growing movement by students around the country to pressure their institutions to divest from fossil fuels.
"The university's review has concluded that coal is one of the most carbon-intensive methods of energy generation and that other sources can be readily substituted for it," said Stanford President John Hennessy.
It was announced on the same day the White House released a report warning that climate change was already affecting the United States in the form of more severe droughts in some areas and more intense storms in others.
The resolution means that Stanford will not directly invest in approximately 100 publicly traded companies for which coal extraction is the primary business, and will divest of any current direct holdings in such companies, the university said.
Amid growing pressure from students and environmentalists, a number of smaller institutions such as San Francisco State University and Hampshire College in Massachusetts have agreed recently to shed their coal holdings. Students at other colleges including Brown University and Middlebury College have also led divestment campaigns, with Steyer's support, although both rejected the bids.