The Colleges Doing the Most to Get Their Students to Vote

More schools are working to cultivate good citizens. There’s still a ways to go.

Several months ago, CNN asked different age groups to rate how enthusiastic they were to vote in the 2020 election. The good news? A majority of young Americans—those aged 18 to 34—said that they were either extremely or very enthusiastic about going to the polls. The bad news? They were, by more than ten percentage points, the age bracket least excited about casting a ballot.

At the Washington Monthly, we believe that colleges have an obligation to close that enthusiasm gap. For starters, the outcome of 2020 may hinge on students. The 77,744 votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that made Donald Trump president could fit in 21 individual university football stadiums. A few schools could make a huge difference.

Then, there are the ethical implications. Today’s students are, quite literally, the future of the United States, but they continue to vote in lower numbers than the population as a whole. It is distressing when any demographic is underrepresented in the electorate, but it is especially so when that demographic will have to deal with the consequences of the government’s actions for longer than others. Colleges are tasked with turning kids into citizens, and it is essential that colleges do everything they can to get their students to register and cast ballots.

To that end, each year, the Washington Monthly gathers data about the efforts schools are making to encourage their students to vote. We use that data in our annual college rankings, and we publish an honor roll featuring schools with perfect voting scores. Now, six months after releasing our 2019 list, we are publishing an update, highlighting institutions well prepared for the presidential contest. A walloping 139 schools made the list, up from 80 last September.

As usual, the honor roll is a motley crew. Famous private and public institutions, like Tufts University and the University of Michigan, are featured. But so are a number of less-known schools, including many community colleges. Indeed, most honorees are public institutions. Plenty of America’s most prominent private colleges, such as Yale and Williams, are absent.

That means U.S. colleges still have plenty of work to do to boost civic participation. This work is critical, but it shouldn’t be too hard. Students will do most of the work themselves if empowered by their schools, even as states try to suppress their votes. And since voting is habitual—if you vote in 2020, you’re likely to vote in 2022, and then 2024—universities have an opportunity to build lifelong citizens. We hope our honor roll encourages them to seize it.

The Top 139 Schools for Student Voting

Alfred University (NY)
Alvernia University (PA)
Alverno College (WI)
Amherst College (MA)
Arapahoe Community College* (CO)
Arizona State University* (AZ)
Bard College (NY)
Bates College (ME)
Bowling Green State University* (OH)
Brown University (RI)
Bryn Mawr College (PA)
California State University San Bernardino* (CA)
California University of Pennsylvania* (PA)
Cedar Crest College (PA)
Chatham University (PA)
Cleveland State University* (OH)
College of the Canyons* (CA)
Colorado State University* (CO)
Dalton State College* (GA)
Denison University (OH)
Drake University (IA)
Duke University (NC)
East Carolina University* (NC)
East Tennessee State University* (TN)
Emporia State University* (KS)
Feather River College* (CA)
Ferris State University* (MI)
Florida State University* (FL)
Fort Hays State University* (KS)
Frostburg State University* (MD)
George Mason University* (VA)
Georgia College* (GA)
Goucher College (MD)
Governors State University* (IL)
Grand Valley State University* (MI)
Harvard University (MA)
Heartland Community College* (IL)
Hobart and William Smith Colleges (NY)
Illinois State University* (IL)
Indiana University Bloomington* (IN)
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis* (IN)
Inver Hills Community College* (MN)
Iowa State University* (IA)
James Madison University* (VA)
Johns Hopkins University (MD)
Kennesaw State University* (GA)
Knox College (IL)
Kutztown University* (PA)
Lewis University (IL)
Loyola University Maryland (MD)
Manhattan College (NY)
Manor College (PA)
Maryland Institute College of Art (MD)
Mercer University (GA)
Mesa Community College* (AZ)
Metropolitan State University of Denver* (CO)
Miami University* (OH)
Michigan State University* (MI)
Michigan Technological University* (MI)
Middle Georgia State University* (GA)
Middle Tennessee State University* (TN)
Middlebury College (VT)
Missouri State University* (MO)
Montclair State University* (NJ)
Mount Saint Mary’s University (CA)
Mount St. Joseph University (OH)
Muhlenberg College (PA)
New College of Florida* (FL)
Northampton Community College* (PA)
Northeastern State University* (OK)
Northeastern University (MA)
Oakland University* (MI)
Otterbein University (OH)
Pacific University (OR)
Piedmont Virginia Community College* (VA)
Raritan Valley Community College* (NJ)
Rider University (NJ)
Rollins College (FL)
Rutgers University New Brunswick* (NJ)
Saginaw Valley State University* (MI)
Saint Louis University (MO)
Saint Mary’s College of California (CA)
Salem State University* (MA)
Samford University (AL)
Santa Clara University (CA)
Sauk Valley Community College* (IL)
Scottsdale Community College* (AZ)
Sewanee, The University of the South (TN)
Simpson College (IA)
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville* (IL)
Southwestern Michigan College* (MI)
St. Norbert College (WI)
SUNY: Albany* (NY)
SUNY: Brockport* (NY)
SUNY: Geneseo* (NY)
SUNY: Stony Brook* (NY)
Texas A&M University Central Texas* (TX)
The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina* (SC)
The College of New Jersey* (NJ)
The George Washington University (DC)
The Ohio State University* (OH)
The University of Illinois at Chicago* (IL)
The University of Maine* (ME)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro* (NC)
The University of Oklahoma* (OK)
The University of South Carolina Upstate* (SC)
The University of South Carolina* (SC)
The University of Texas at Austin* (TX)
Towson University* (MD)
Transylvania University (KY)
Tufts University (MA)
University of Baltimore* (MD)
University of California San Diego* (CA)
University of California Santa Barbara* (CA)
University of Central Florida* (FL)
University of Delaware* (DE)
University of Denver (CO)
University of Florida* (FL)
University of Iowa* (IA)
University of Louisville* (KY)
University of Maryland College Park* (MD)
University of Michigan Ann Arbor* (MI)
University of Michigan Dearborn* (MI)
University of Minnesota Duluth* (MN)
University of Minnesota Morris* (MN)
University of Missouri Saint Louis* (MO)
University of Nebraska at Omaha* (NE)
University of Nebraska Lincoln* (NE)
University of Northern Iowa* (IA)
University of Puget Sound (WA)
University of San Diego (CA)
University of Washington* (WA)
University of Wisconsin Madison* (WI)
Virginia Military Institute* (VA)
Washington State University* (WA)
Weber State University* (UT)
Western Carolina University* (NC)
Winthrop University* (SC)
Worcester State University* (MA)

*Asterisks indicate public institutions.

To make this honor roll, schools had to fulfill each of the following six criteria by January 15, 2020:

  • Submitted an ALL IN action plan in 2016 OR in 2020. ALL IN is still accepting 2020 action plans.
  • Submitted an ALL IN action plan in 2018.
  • Signed up to receive 2016 NSLVE data.
  • Made their 2016 NSLVE data, including voter turnout rates, publicly available through ALL IN’s online database. (ALL IN is experiencing some difficulty loading 2016 NSLVE reports to its database. We have included schools that sent their reports to ALL IN and granted permission to publish it, but where ALL IN was not yet able to upload it.)
  • Signed up to receive 2018 NSLVE data.
  • Made their 2018 NSLVE data, including voter turnout rates, publically available through ALL IN’s online database.

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