Roles for Colleges in Voting

Colleges are a huge, underappreciated, and invaluable resource to inspire and equip individuals to vote in their upcoming elections.

Colleges and universities, no matter public or private, 2-year or 4-year, are not only influential to their students, but are typically huge employment agencies in the area as well as prominent and multi-faceted community establishments!


Faculty and Administrators

The college community is a place for students to seek information and become civically and democratically engaged, but they often face practical hurdles that keep them from voting. College administrators play an important role in making sure students are empowered with the information they need to register and vote. The Higher Education Act requires institutes of higher education to provide students with voter registration materials.


Much of campus election engagement happens outside the classroom—but because all students take courses, faculty members can play a key role. Here are some classroom approaches to help students participate as informed voters. Also, see our guide to Talking About Elections in Your Classroom. Provide essential information. You can download a pdf version of this resource here

  • Include key election dates and requirements on your course calendar to remind students. You’ll find state-specific information on voting rules and deadlines here.
  • Steer students to resources. One example is the League of Women Voters’ Students can use it to help register to vote, check their registrations, or learn how to obtain absentee ballots. As the election approaches, they can use it to find polling locations and identification requirements for voting.
  • Involve students in campus election engagement efforts. If your campus has a nonpartisan engagement coalition, sign up to hear about their initiatives. Ask the designated CEEP staffer in your state, or check with your campus student affairs department or civic engagement center. Encourage your students to get involved with campus voter registration campaigns or voter education and Get out the Vote
  • Distribute our nonpartisan candidate and issue guides to provide accurate information and get students past the obstacle of not knowing enough about the candidates.

Integrate election issues into your courses.

Vote by Design has a comprehensive field guide and lesson plan. Their goal is to help participants find clarity around what they value, and ignite personal agency and a sense of collective possibility separate from any one candidate. We want to restore reflection and reframe the decision-making process of voting around the qualities associated with effective leadership.


  • Discuss elections, candidates, or ballot issues. These can be quick, informal discussions or extended assignments in which students research and present pros and cons. You can use election-related topics to build research, analysis, writing, and presentation skills, or link specific election issues to course content. Assign these topics to individuals, small groups or all students in the course. (See our Living Room Conversations guide for specific conversation templates on Free Speech on Campus, Student Debt, Guns and Responsibility, Immigration, and various other topics. Or use our candidate and issue guides as catalysts for discussions.)
  • Discuss issues around voting vs. staying home. See our article on Combating Cynicism, or use the specific Living Room Conversations guide on To Vote or Not to Vote. (Our 90-second Close Elections video may also help.)
  • Assign related research and writing projects. Assign or promote topics on elections and voting, candidates, or ballot issues as part of more general research and writing projects. These could range from short essays on “How I feel about voting,” or students exploring their own political evolution, to rigorous research and analysis of political trends or issues related to your course.
  • Have students use respected fact-checking sites to explore current political discourse. Media literacy skills are critical for students, so incorporate an assignment in which they fact-check positions from candidates and advocacy groups. Use respected sites like org,, and

Involve students in community-based projects.

  • Have students work with nonpartisan community partners in off-campus election engagement activities. Students at North-Carolina A&T registered voters in nearby communities as part of six successive community service weekends. Students at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) work with residents of the nearby Mosby Court public housing project to help them register and vote. Other schools we work with have replicated the VCU model.
  • Give academic credit for individual election engagement service. You might require students to volunteer a certain number of hours in election engagement, or give extra credit to students who volunteer for election-related organizations or for campaigns. These activities can be nonpartisan, or students may work on a particular candidate or issue campaigns that draw their interest. Which campaigns of course have to be their choice, not yours.
  • Integrate into existing service-learning courses. Election engagement is particularly appropriate for semester-long service-learning projects. Students can work regularly with election-related nonprofits or government entities, including local election boards, and then reflect on their experience for course credit.

Possible classroom lessons: As much as possible, integrate examples with your specific field of study. But even if you can’t do that, try exploring ways that the subject of your particular discipline is affected by choices made by our elected officials—or offer useful perspective on these choices.
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