National Study of Learning, Voting, & Engagement

The National Study of Learning, Voting, & Engagement (NSLVE) is a new, national research initiative that gives colleges and universities an opportunity to learn the aggregate registration and voting rates of their students. By participating, institutions will help build a national database for future research on learning experiences that cultivate deep civic learning and a commitment to public engagement. Participation is free, confidential, easy, and protective of student privacy.

WHY participate? NSLVE’s goals are to:

  • study patterns in college student voting,
  • provide campuses with new, good data,
  • build a national database for future research, and
  • correlate certain learning experiences with political engagement.

Each participating college or university will receive a tailored, confidential report reflecting the number of students eligible to register to vote, the percentage that registered to vote, the percentage that voted, and their voting method (traditional or absentee ballot). See a sample report hereIf enough colleges and universities participate, institutions can also learn valuable comparisons with (anonymized) peer institutions or established groups of institutions. To increase the value of your report, NSLVE will work with you to identify and help recruit members of comparison groups most relevant to your institution.

HOW does it work? NSLVE researchers have designed a process for matching enrollment records with voting records that is secure and fully protects student privacy. The NSLVE database will consist of only de-identified student lists.

So what are campuses doing with this data?

  • Adding it to their Carnegie Community Engagement Classification application
  • Using this information as a baseline assessment for community, service-learning and civic programming
  • Bringing this information to their student government and using it as a conversation starter for talking about civic engagement on campus
  • Comparing their voting rates with their peers by Institutional Carnegie Classification
  • One campus administrator shared “We signed up for the NSLVE this past year, and are using the results as an assessment of our institutional learning outcome focused on civic engagement.”
  • Another campus administrator shared “This is good data, and we would never have had any other way to get it.”

What’s the process?

  1. Your Institution sends student enrollment data to the Clearinghouse regularly (without participating in this study)
  2. Your institution signs up for NSLVE by signing an authorization form (click here to access)
  3. Signing this authorization form allows the clearinghouse to match your institution’s student enrollment data (already in their possession) with publicly available voting records
  4. Once this match is made, de-identified student voting data is sent to us at CIRCLE, the matched information is destroyed and never analyzed by any individual
  5. CIRCLE cleans the data and generates a tailored report for your institution
  6. Your institution is then enrolled in the study until 2018 and will receive reports regularly for every upcoming general election and presidential election

What about Student Privacy?

  • The study is in compliance with FERPA (click here to learn more)
  • CIRCLE only receives de-identified student data.  This means that if you have one student from Alaska attending your institution, the clearinghouse will not send us this student’s information to ensure students are not identified
  • 260 campuses participated in the first round, 90 of these campuses are extremely resourced, some of which have entire law firms in house.  In every situation that NSLVE was brought to one of these attorneys, the campus signed the next day

How to sign up:

  1. Download the authorization form here.
  2. Sign the form (Form must be signed by a President, Vice-President, Provost, Chief Enrollment Officer or Director of Institutional Researcher)
  3. Send a scanned copy to  by APRIL 28th, 2014

Seth Avakian, Ph.D.

Researcher, National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement

Tufts University


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