About NSLVESigning Up | What to Expect After Signing UpStudent Privacy Rights and FERPA

Download a PDF version of the FAQ here.

If you have a media request, please email our staff here.
If you have a question about your NSLVE Campus Report or would like to learn more about your institution’s political campus climate, please email our staff here.
If you’d like to inquire about obtaining a copy of your institution’s NSLVE report, go here.

You can also see our FAQ about NSLVE Campus Reports and our FAQ regarding student privacy and FERPA.


What is NSLVE?
Launched in 2013, the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, or [en-selve], is a service to colleges and universities interested in learning their students’ voter registration and turnout rates in national elections since 2012, as well as a national database for research on college student voting, political learning and engagement in democracy.

NSLVE is a non-partisan initiative of the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE), housed at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University.

Why should my institution participate?
By joining the study, you will receive a tailored, confidential report indicating the registration and voting rates of your students. We can break that information down by age, class level, field of study, and voting method. Participation is free, easy, and protective of student privacy. Your data remains confidential to your campus. You will also be helping us build a national database for research.

How does it 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. NOTE: the 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 will provide data for 2012, 2014, 2016 and future elections.  At this time, we are not covering elections 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?
NSLVE is growing rapidly. Please check the list of participating campuses for the most recent information.

I am a faculty or staff member on a campus. Will you share my campus’ report with me?
One person on a campus is designated as the recipient of the report containing the voter data. If you are a staff or faculty member at a participating institution interested in receiving a copy of your campus report, please review our Report Inquiry FAQ and visit our Campus Report Inquiry Form.

I am not affiliated with a campus. May my organization obtain and/or use NSLVE data?
NSLVE provides national and regional aggregate data that is available on our website. NSLVE will not provide organizations with individual campus level data. Campuses may share the data at their discretion.

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 but MUST clearly state that we do not participate in any way. And ideally, they will not make their competition hinge on NSLVE but will rather ask campuses to measure engagement using appropriate methods, which may include surveys as well as or instead of NSLVE.

Signing Up 

What do we need to do to participate?
You must opt in. Participation is not automatic, but it is easy. Simply download this authorization form (or access its electronic version), along with instructions, sign the form, and send a scanned copy to NSLVE@tufts.edu (skip this step if you submit the electronic form).

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.

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 our website for the most current sign-up deadline.

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.

What is in a report?
You can see a sample report here.  We provide two rates— registration and voting— as well as the percentage of your students who registered that actually voted. We break those numbers down by age, field of study, class level, and, if your institution provides it to the Clearinghouse, race/ethnicity and gender. We also provide some specific voting information, such as whether your students voted locally or out of state.

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.

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.

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.

Download a PDF version of the FAQ here.