Research Paper: The Use and Acknowledgement of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement

Ellie Hegwood

English 1102 Weaver

Research Paper

30 April 2021

The Use and Acknowledgement of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement

            The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement or NSLVE for short is a database that allows for Universities to have access to their data on their campuses voting tendencies and provided information to participating schools on political climate and student voting habits. As well, the service provides information on the engagement of college students in voting and their participation in democracy. The NSLVE is mentioned in the article, “Student Parent Voices Are Critical to Colleges Civic Engagement Plans” by Nicole Lynn Lewis in which she describes the benefits this data collection can have for keeping track and providing demographic data on student’s race, age, sex and area of study collected from free reports of voter turnout and voter registration data provided by the NSLVE to participating universities. The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement is a valuable resource used by colleges across the country to raise awareness for voter turnout and democratic involvement as well as provide free statistical reports to campuses to allow for appropriate engagement of their student body in this attempt to answer the call for an increase in civic learning.

            The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement was launched in 2013 by Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. For this reason, Tufts University is regarded as the place to gather the most information on the process of NSLVE  and what it stands for. Being that the service is still under ten years old and highly centered around elections and voting data there is still a growing amount of information to be spread and gained through the NSLVE as well as there still being a significant lack of knowledge that this program even exists. To date there are one thousand two hundred participating campuses in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement program, with this including colleges from all fifty states. The involvement in this program is something colleges may be all too familiar with, even when the general public is still in the dark about it. The largest part of where the NSLVE comes from is the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, or IDHE, at Tisch College who is responsible for the awareness, information, and coordination of the NLVE. Providing guides to universities on how to be involved and even assisting in guiding colleges in their own self studies, IDHE has become the foundational place for all things political statistics when it comes to college students.

Apart from the statistical data on campus voting rates and registrations that NSLVE brings provides to universities such as Cornell University and Baylor University, IDHE at Tisch College also founded a program known as Politics 365 in which they study “qualitative research to examine the campus climates and institutional characteristics that lead some colleges and universities to have higher than expected political participation,” (Tisch College Website, Politics 365). A study done in 2017 by Nancy Thomas and Margaret Brower is one of the most informative pieces on what the qualitative study of a campuses political climate can look like and be attributed to as they narrowed it down to five characteristics from this study as being social cohesion, compositional diversity, social mobility and equal opportunity, pervasive habits of political discussion, and student political actions. The impacts of this study, the use of Politics 365, and the benefit of NSLVE all center back around on that of a campus’s interest in their student population regarding civic engagement. The focus of NSLVE is to provide information on voting rates including registration and voter turnout on college campuses as a way to evaluate the engagement in democracy, public policy, civic involvement, and social action in a targeted demographic of the population. The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement accomplishes all of this while also maintaining a free and easy to use system and emphasizing the protection of student privacy.

The history and eventual founding of the NSLVE can be dated back to 2012 when the government, or more specifically the United States Department of Education issued a call to action as the call it for the advancement of education on civic involvement and the incorporation of experiences to spread a greater knowledge of ways to be involved in democracy and social action or change. An ironic twist to this road map laid out in 2012 can be seen in November of this past year where the statistics of the 2020 election show a surge in youth voter turnout, higher than it had ever been in previous years. Increasing from between 42% to 44% turnout for eighteen to twenty-nine year old Americans in 2016 to between 52% to 55% turnout for eighteen to twenty-nine years old’s in 2020 according to data from CIRCLE at Tufts College.

Whether this increase in youth voter turnout is linked to a call to action for civic learning or the effects of a global pandemic and a need for social action, there is one certified system that can be counted on to collect the data. The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement works to provide what has become vital information in a time that is so desperate for social change. Working to record data and represent student political climates is a tool that can go unrecognized despite its usefulness. Focusing on change and education while protecting student privacy makes the NSLVE stand out, and are reasons why it is worth learning about and why it will continue to grow beyond the one thousand and two hundred schools and ten million students that it already supports.

Comments are closed.