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What We Do

Our signature initiative is the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE, pronounced “n-solve”), a robust study of college and university student voting and service to more 1,100 U.S. colleges and universities nationally. By supplying tailored NSLVE reports to each participating campus, IDHE is catalyzing change at the institutional level. Educators and students use their NSLVE data to teach about democracy in the classroom and beyond, to increase political learning across disciplines, to benchmark student voter participation, to inform accreditation reports, and to challenge unfair state or local voting laws, among many other examples. The reports can also be used to identify gaps in student participation based on age, class level, field of study, race/ethnicity, and gender. Addressing equity gaps is an important step in higher education’s obligation to advance a more just and representational democracy. Through NSLVE, IDHE is addressing the civic measurement gap and catalyzing change at the campus level and in U.S. higher education more broadly.

With a database of around 10 million student records (more than half of the degree-seeking students in the U.S.) for each of the past four federal elections, NSLVE is also a significant database for research. We publish national student voting reports containing aggregate data that have attracted the attention of higher education leaders, policy makers, and the media.

We also conduct qualitative case studies to better understand campus political climates. To date, IDHE has conducted 13 of these studies and has coached 8 other institutions through a process of self-study. The findings have been widely reported under the rubric of Politics 365, to emphasize that learning for democracy should not be episodic or relegated to an election season but is year-round and embedded into the campus culture. Based on the findings of our qualitative case studies, we wrote and published the 2018 report (reissued in 2019), Election Imperatives: Ten Recommendations to Increase College Student Voting and Improve Political Learning and Engagement in Democracy. Election Imperatives challenged institutional leaders, faculty and staff to use elections to promote learning for democracy and to change campus climates for learning for democracy year-round.

Throughout this website, you will find resources on NSLVE, national reports and publications about voting, data portals and visualizations, Politics 365, Election Imperatives, discourse on campus, particularly around matters of speech and inclusion and academic freedom, and more.