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Institute for Democracy & Higher Education

NSLVE Frequently Asked Questions


How does NSLVE work?
We formed a partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse), a nonprofit organization established by the higher education community to provide educational reporting, verification, and research. Over 95% of U.S. colleges and universities send enrollment records to the Clearinghouse. Your institution probably does, too.

The Clearinghouse matches student enrollment records with publicly available voter registration and turnout records compiled by a data services company called Catalist. These publicly available records only indicate whether a person registered to vote and voted (not how they voted). The Clearinghouse removes all student personally identifiable information, and sends NSLVE de-identified data. NSLVE never learns the names of your students, or who they voted for.

What elections are covered by NSLVE?
We provide data for 2012, 2014, 2016, and future elections. At this time, we are not covering “off-year” or special elections.

How much does NSLVE cost?
Nothing. We are grant-funded and can offer you this service for free.

Is this a survey?
No. You do not complete a survey, nor do your students.

Do we need to compile enrollment lists?
No. You already do that when you submit data to the National Student Clearinghouse.

How many colleges and universities currently participate in NSLVE?
More than 1,000 campuses have signed up for NSLVE. See the full list of participating campuses.

Do you use NSLVE data to rank or compare colleges?
We do not organize or support any competition or rating—we do not even publish campuses’ data. We do seek to provide guidance and technical assistance to campuses that participate. If others want to run competitions, they may use NSLVE data; however, they must clearly state that we do not participate in any way.

Signing Up 

What do we need to do to participate?
There is a quick and easy process to opt in to the study. Find full instructions here.

Is there a deadline for signing up?
Although we accept applications on a rolling basis, we match enrollment and voting records only twice a year. Your authorization form has to be submitted at least a month in advance of the new data match. Please check the NSLVE page for the most current sign-up deadline.

Who should sign the authorization form?
Forms must be signed by someone with signing authority: typically, the signatory for a campus is a President, Vice President, Dean of the College, Dean of Students, Provost, Registrar or Institutional Research Director, but this is always unique at each campus.

May we designate multiple report recipients?
We can only send one report to each campus. The designated report recipient may then share it with peer institutions or colleagues.

Do we need IRB approval to participate?
At Tufts, we have exempt status because we work with de-identified enrollment records. It is unlikely that you need IRB approval because campus reports contain no individual-level information, only aggregate data.

What to Expect after Signing Up 

When can we expect a report?
After a federal election, compiling a complete set of voting records takes several months. The Clearinghouse then matches enrollment and voting records. We analyze the data and send a customized report to participating campuses.  In a non-election year, we usually send NSLVE reports within two months after the sign-up deadline. Once a campus signs up, we send a confirmation email with an approximate date of the first report. If there are delays, we’ll let you know.

How can we use the data?
The NSLVE data in your Campus report provides one measure of political engagement on your campus and can support your campus’s civic engagement efforts. You can also use NSLVE data to identify gaps in student engagement, and begin working to address them. As a place of study of millions of Americans, higher education institutions have an important role to play in helping forge an active, engaged electorate – one that will shape the next generation of public policy. This report, NSLVE comparison data and practical resources we produce will make it easier for campuses to increase the amount of political learning that happens at their school.

Requesting a Report

I am a faculty or staff member on a participating campus. Will you share my campus’ report with me?
One person on a campus is designated as the recipient of the report containing voter data. NSLVE is not releasing information on report recipients at this time, but we can refer your inquiries to that individual. To make such an inquiry, fill out the form available here.

I am a student at a participating campus. Will you share my campus’ report with me?
Students who are interested in gaining access to their institution’s NSLVE report must work with a faculty or staff member on their campus to submit the report inquiry form as explained above.

What will happen once I submit this request?
NSLVE will contact the report recipient to inform them of your inquiry, providing them with your role on campus and contact information. The report recipient will decide, at his or her discretion, whether to share your campus report, and may reach out to you directly if they have additional questions.

I am not affiliated with a campus. Can my organization obtain and/or use NSLVE data?
NSLVE provides aggregate data but will not provide organizations with data on individual campuses. Campuses may choose to share the data at their discretion.

About Campus Reports

Our campus reports contain a lot of data for you to sift through. We’ve created a special FAQ about the reports.

Student Privacy and FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows colleges and universities to share student lists and certain identifying information, which is often used for research purposes. We worked with several university attorneys to develop a special FAQ on student privacy laws that covers the most frequently asked questions and answers. You can learn more about how NSLVE protects privacy in the video below: