As the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Farah Stockman reported in The New York Times this weekend, the Washington Monthly will be including data on colleges’ efforts to encourage student voting in our 2018 college rankings, to be published in late August. We’re excited about this change. It’s a natural extension of our rankings’ mission: to let readers know which colleges are doing right by America—by providing upward mobility, conducting research, and encouraging students to serve their country through participation in ROTC, the Peace Corps, and community service.
One aspect of colleges’ commitment to the country we’ve long sought to capture is the degree to which they are preparing students to become active democratic citizens, a mission often written into the founding documents of these institutions. An obvious metric would be voting rates for students at individual colleges. Unfortunately, those numbers aren’t yet publicly available, though if and when they become so we aim to publish them (taking demographic and other differences between and among schools into account in order to make the comparisons fair).
As a first step, our 2018 rankings will include several metrics that are publicly available. Colleges will get points in our rankings if, by May 31, they sign up for or continue to participate in Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), which helps colleges calculate their precise student voting and registration rates by combining national voting records with enrollment data. Schools that go the next step and release their NSLVE data publicly will get extra credit on our rankings. (For questions about how to participate, please contact NSLVE.)
Colleges will also receive credit on our rankings if, by May 31, they sign up for or continue to participate in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, an effort to increase college voting rates and civic participation. It requires measuring voting rates via NSLVE and creating a campus plan to improve voting rates, civic learning, and political engagement. Colleges that make their plans public will receive extra credit in our rankings. (For questions about how to participate and make plans public, please contact the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.)
There’s still plenty of time for colleges and universities to sign up for these programs between now and the end of May, when we finalize our rankings data. Those that do will help their rankings—and the country.