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It has long been conventional wisdom that young people don't vote. Compared to older groups of voters, that is true. But it is far less true than it used to be. More than half of 18- to 24-year-olds cast ballots in 2020, a threshold that had not been reached since 18-year-olds were first allowed to vote in 1971. It was a 12 percent increase over that age bracket's turnout in 2016--one of the largest of any age group.

Of course, 2020 was a presidential year, when turnout generally rises across the board. Is there any reason to think young people will show up for this November's midterms? Actually, there is. In 2018, turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds jumped to 36 percent from 20 percent four years earlier. That, too, was the largest increase in any age cohort.

With Donald Trump now out of office and Joe Biden's poll numbers in the toilet, you would expect that young people, who overwhelmingly lean left, might lack motivation. And that might turn out to be the case this fall. But a Harvard Kennedy School poll in late April found that "18-to-29-year-olds are on track to match 2018's record-breaking youth turnout in a midterm election this November." And that was before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Although the recent burst of youth voting stems from larger forces--the mobilizing power of social media, progressive backlash to white nationalism--part of the credit goes to the work of student voting organizers, who mobilized young Americans to register and cast ballots despite the pandemic and restrictive voting laws. This includes small, student-led groups that work to get their peers to the polls, as well as national organizations like the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, which helps colleges develop registration and turnout plans.

One of the difficulties these groups traditionally face, however, is getting cooperation from college administrators, who typically don't consider improving voting turnout systems on their campuses to be part of their jobs (even though the founding mission statements of many of these universities include educating students to be active members of a democracy). All university presidents, though, are concerned about how their schools fare on college rankings. So, to give them an incentive to care about student voting, the Washington Monthly in 2018 began adding measures of student voting to our annual college rankings.

One such measure is a survey by Tufts University researchers that tracks college student voter data: turnout, registration rates. Another way to judge colleges' civic commitment is through reports that administrators submit about their efforts to promote voter participation. Then, beginning in 2019, we used that data to create an honor roll of colleges that submitted those reports every year and made them available for the public to read.

This year's honor roll includes some conventionally prestigious schools--Harvard, Princeton--but other U.S. News & World Report heavyweights, such as Columbia University in New York, are missing. Meanwhile, the list is replete with colleges unheralded outside their states and regions, like Weber State University in Utah and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This kind of diversity is evident throughout the honor roll, with 144 public institutions, 36 community colleges (up from 18 last year), and five historically Black colleges and universities (up from three). If schools like Northern Illinois University (west of Chicago) and Pellissippi State Community College (in Knoxville, Tennessee) can expend the time and energy necessary to make the list, you have to wonder why Stanford, Dartmouth, and Cornell haven't bothered.

To make the student voting honor roll, universities had to submit 2020 and 2022 action plans to the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. Schools also needed to have signed up to receive data from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), which calculates college-specific registration and voting rates. And they must have made their 2018 and 2020 NSLVE data available to the public. In short, schools need to have shown a repeated commitment to increasing student voting--and have been transparent about the results. We then ordered the list by student voter registration rate.

Appalachian State University, near the top of the list, illustrates the kind of tactics campuses can deploy to help students cast ballots. As part of its campus voting action plan for 2020 to 2023, the Boone, North Carolina, school delivered a full-court press of voting events: film screenings, debates, a lecture series, in-class presentations, virtual events, and registration booths at college activities fairs. Appalachian State also hired two fellows for its Campus Election Engagement Project and secured grant funding for another election fellow and other get-out-the-vote efforts. As a result, this public school of 18,000 students, with an 80 percent acceptance rate, outperforms all the highly selective Ivies on the list on voter registration, with a rate of 93.7 percent.

The honor roll saw new heights of student voter registration in 2020, according to data that became available this year. On the list of 230 schools, 127 had a registration rate of 85 percent or more--compared to only 16 such schools on 2021's honor roll--and 39 were over 90 percent. Participation by universities is higher, too: 25 schools joined the list this year, up from 205 on last year's honor roll.

Despite these promising results, there's more progress to be made. This year's honor roll recognized 230 schools out of a total 850 that received consideration, which means that three-quarters of institutions need to do more to promote civic leadership on campus. Early indicators like that Kennedy School survey from April suggest that youth turnout may remain strong in 2022, but they also warn that young people can't be taken for granted. In that poll, likely young voters expressed increased agreement with the statements "Political involvement rarely has tangible results" (36 percent), "[Their vote] doesn't make a difference" (42 percent), and "Politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing" (56 percent). When it comes time to push through those attitudes and get those voters to the polls, colleges are on the front line.

Rob Wolfe is an editor at the Washington Monthly.


* Public institution

Bold indicates that the school has a registration rate above 95 percent.

Italics indicate that the school has a registration rate above 85 percent.



* Bowdoin College (ME)

* St. Olaf College (MN)

* Dickinson College (PA)

* University of North Carolina-Asheville (NC) *

* Appalachian State University (NC) *

* Bates College (ME)

* Trinity University (TX)

* University of West Georgia (GA) *

* New College of Florida (FL) *

* Simpson College (IA)

* Gustavus Adolphus College (MN)

* Bryn Mawr College (PA)

* College of Saint Benedict (MN)

* William & Mary (VA) *

* North Carolina A&T State University (NC) *

* Spelman College (GA)

* Saint John's University (MN)

* Drake University (IA)

* University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (NC) *

* Haverford College (PA)

* University of Nebraska-Lincoln (NE) *

* Muhlenberg College (PA)

- Wake Forest University (NC)

* Agnes Scott College (GA)

* Michigan State University (MI) *

* Western Carolina University (NC) *

* Grand Valley State University (MI) *

* East Carolina University (NC) *

* Mercer University (GA)

* University of North Carolina-Greensboro (NC) *

* University of Pittsburgh (PA) *

* Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA) *

* Southwestern University (TX)

* Connecticut College (CT)

* Florida State University (FL) *

* Saginaw Valley State University (MI) *

* Wayne State University (MI) *

* Bard College (NY)

* College of New Jersey (NJ) *

* Elon University (NC)

* Rice University (TX)

* University of Texas-Austin (TX) *

* University of Northern Colorado (CO) *

* Oakland University (MI) *

* Winthrop University (SC) *

* University of Mary Washington (VA) *

* Elizabeth City State University (NC) *

* Iowa State University (IA) *

* Belmont University (TN)

* Hamline University (MN)

* University of North Carolina-Pembroke (NC) *

* University of St. Thomas (TX)

* University of Northern Iowa (IA) *

* Virginia Commonwealth University (VA) *

* Pitzer College (CA)

* Hobart and William Smith Colleges (NY)

* Cleveland State University (OH) *

* Ohio State University (OH) *

* Saint Mary's College of California (CA)

* Swarthmore College (PA)

* Columbus State University (GA) *

* University of Central Florida (FL) *

* Clark Atlanta University (GA)

* University of South Florida (FL) *

* Clemson University (SC) *

* John Carroll University (OH)

* Widener University (PA)

* University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (MI) *

* Capital University (OH)

* Chatham University (PA)

* Stetson University (FL)

* Alabama A&M University (AL) *

* Chapman University (CA)

* California Institute of the Arts (CA)

* University of Minnesota (MN) *

* Queens University of Charlotte (NC)

* Cedar Crest College (PA)

* Hamilton College (NY)

* Columbia College Chicago (IL)

* Texas Lutheran University (TX)

* University of Missouri-Saint Louis (MO) *

* University of Michigan-Dearborn (MI) *

* University of Florida (FL) *

* Princeton University (NJ)

* Emporia State University (KS) *

* Rollins College (FL)

* Nazareth College (NY)

* California State University-Chico (CA) *

* University of San Diego (CA)

* University of Central Arkansas (AR) *

* University of Denver (CO)

* University of South Carolina (SC) *

* Ramapo College of New Jersey (NJ) *

* Delta College (MI) *

* University of Baltimore (MD) *

* Virginia Wesleyan University (VA)

* Marywood University (PA)

* University of Colorado-Denver (CO) *

* Shenandoah University (VA)

* Arapahoe Community College (CO) *

* University of Kansas (KS) *

* University of California-Davis (CA) *

* Binghamton University (NY) *

* University of Pennsylvania (PA)

* Towson University (MD) *

* Rowan University (NJ) *

* Frostburg State University (MD) *

* Baldwin Wallace University (OH)

* University of Nevada-Reno (NV) *

* Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis (IN) *

* Indiana University-Bloomington (IN) *

* University of Miami (FL)

* University of Southern California (CA)

* Mid Michigan College (MI) *

* Trinity College (CT) *

* Lasell University (MA)

* Washington State University (WA) *

* Bowling Green State University (OH) *

* Washtenaw Community College (MI) *

* University of Nebraska-Omaha (NE) *

* Florida Atlantic University (FL) *

* Siena College (NY)

* University of San Francisco (CA)

* University of Maine (ME) *

* Metropolitan State University of Denver (CO) *

* California State University-San Bernardino (CA) *

* Rider University (NJ)

* Albion College (MI)

* Eastern Washington University (WA) *

* East Tennessee State University (TN) *

* University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth (MA) *

* Texas Woman's University (TX) *

* Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania (PA) *

* Indiana University-South Bend (IN) *

* Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (IL) *

* Lewis University (IL)

* Boston University (MA)

* Temple University (PA) *

* Webster University (MO)

* Rutgers University-New Brunswick (NJ) *

* Harvard University (MA)

* Sam Houston State University (TX) *

* Drexel University (PA)

* Marietta College (OH)

* Washington University in St. Louis (MO)

* Montclair State University (NJ) *

* Inver Hills Community College (MN) *

* Colorado Mountain College (CO) *

* George Washington University (DC)

* University of Maryland-Baltimore County (MD) *

* Chicago School of Professional Psychology (IL) *

* University of Massachusetts-Lowell (MA) *

* Lake Michigan College (MI) *

* Eastern Illinois University (IL) *

* University of Mount Union (OH)

* SUNY Brockport (NY) *

* Illinois State University (IL) *

* Saint Francis University (PA)

* Ringling College of Art and Design (FL)

* University of Tampa (FL)

* Western Illinois University (IL) *

* Brandeis University (MA)

* University of Oklahoma (OK) *

* Illinois College (IL)

* Texas A&M University-Central Texas (TX) *

* College of the Canyons (CA) *

* University at Albany (NY) *

* Northeastern University (MA)

* Northeastern Junior College (CO) *

* SUNY Stony Brook (NY) *

* Northern Illinois University (IL) *

* Texas A&M International University (TX) *

* Pennsylvania Western University-California (PA) *

* University of Illinois--Chicago (IL) *

* City Colleges of Chicago-Kennedy-King College (IL) *

* Pacific University (OR)

* University of Iowa (IA) *

* Southwestern Michigan College (MI) *

* Barry University (FL)

* Arizona State University (AZ) *

* Allegany College of Maryland (MD) *

* Community College of Denver (CO) *

* Maryland Institute College of Art (MD)

* Pennsylvania Western University-Clarion (PA) *

* Duke University (NC)

* Chandler-Gilbert Community College (AZ) *

* South Central College (MN) *

* McKendree University (IL)

* Oklahoma State University (OK) *

* Michigan Technological University (MI) *

* Henry Ford College (MI) *

* Pellissippi State Community College (TN) *

* Mesa Community College (AZ) *

* University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (WI) *

* Montgomery County Community College (PA) *

* Columbus State Community College (OH) *

* Community College of Allegheny County (PA) *

* University of Mississippi (MS) *

* University of Utah (UT) *

* Waubonsee Community College (IL) *

* California College of the Arts (CA)

* SUNY Buffalo State (NY) *

* Sauk Valley Community College (IL) *

* Middlesex Community College (MA) *

* Cardinal Stritch University (WI)

* Northampton Community College (PA) *

* SUNY Delhi (NY) *

* Southern Utah University (UT) *

* Miami Dade College (FL) *

* City Colleges of Chicago-Harold Washington College (IL) *

* Alverno College (WI)

* Rochester Institute of Technology (NY)

* City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright College (IL) *

* University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (WI) *

* Community College of Philadelphia (PA) *

* Northeast Mississippi Community College (MS) *

* Weber State University (UT) *

* Prince George's Community College (MD) *

* University of Oregon (OR) *

* Mississippi State University (MS) *

* Cochise College (AZ) *

* Middlesex College (NJ) *

* Madison Area Technical College (WI) *

* City Colleges of Chicago-Harry S. Truman College (IL) *

* Westchester Community College (NY) *

* Independence Community College (KS) *

* Furman University (SC)

* City Colleges of Chicago-Olive-Harvey College (IL) *

NOTE: We used a measure of voting engagement using data from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) at Tufts University and the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. Colleges could earn up to five points for fulfilling each of five criteria.

They could receive one point for being currently enrolled in NSLVE and up to two points for making their NSLVE survey data publicly available through ALL IN in 2018 or 2020 (one point for each year).

They could receive up to two points for creating an action plan through the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge in 2020 or 2022 (one point for each year).

Schools on this list were ordered by highest to lowest rates of student voter registration.
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Author:Wolfe, Rob
Publication:Washington Monthly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2022

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