Nobody is likely to confuse tiny Brevard College in North Carolina, student population about 700, with the University of California system, with 233,000 students on 10 sprawling campuses. But they have at least one thing in common: Students and faculty members think they can help “save the planet” if their schools stop investing in companies that recover and process fossil fuels.

Faculty, students, and alumni from 17 schools, including Dartmouth, Georgetown, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania, have even created a donor-advised divestment fund to pressure their universities “to do the right thing and divest from fossil fuels.” When a school complies, it will receive the donations and earnings given in its name.