Using Green Buses Could Up School Attendance

Switching to greener, cleaner, and more reliable buses may cut down on student absences, according to researchers in epidemiology at the University of Michigan using data from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) School Bus Rebate Program.

What to Know

  • Older school buses emit higher levels of diesel exhaust, which affects not just the environment but also the bus interior and has been linked to asthma attacks, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, and other types of respiratory illnesses in students.

  • It has been estimated that there were more than 350,000 additional student days of attendance each year from 2012 to 2017 in school districts where the EPA replaced or retrofitted old, polluting buses for greener options.

  • While new buses can cost $100,000 to $300,000, adding a diesel particulate matter filter to a bus exhaust costs about $10,000 per bus and can lower emissions by 60% to 90%, reducing particle pollution inside buses by 50% to 60%.

  • About 25 million children ride the bus to school every day. Newer school buses, particularly electric models, save on fuel and maintenance costs, and students’ missed school days matter in terms of the funding that a district receives.

  • Replacing all school buses built prior to 2000 could add more than 1.3 million additional student days of attendance each year in the United States.

This is a summary of the article, “Randomized Design Evidence of the Attendance Benefits of the EPA School Bus Rebate Program,” published in the journal Nature Sustainability on April 11, 2023. The full article can be found on

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