The Students Learn Students Vote (SLSV) Coalition praises the Biden-Harris Administration and the Department of Education for releasing a Dear Colleague letter, sent today to colleges and universities throughout the US, reminding postsecondary institutions of their civic engagement requirements in the Higher Education Act of 1965 and highlighting opportunities and resources to promote civic engagement among their students and campus communities.
Under the HEA, all eligible postsecondary institutions are required to “make a good faith effort to distribute a mail voter registration form, requested and received from the State, to each student enrolled in a degree or certificate program and physically in attendance at the institution, and to make such forms widely available to students at the institution.” In sending today’s letter, the Administration will help ensure postsecondary institutions recognize and act upon the critical role they can play in promoting and supporting participation in the electoral process.
Our Coalition was founded in 2016 in large part because colleges and universities were consistently noncompliant with HEA guidance on voter registration efforts on college campuses, and the belief that colleges and universities can have an outsized impact in creating lifelong voting habits among their students. With today’s letter, the Administration has begun to follow through on its promise to take action to ensure voting rights and voting access for all Americans, including student voters.
In addition to HEA guidance, the letter covers several critical areas of opportunity for democratic engagement on college campuses, including:
- An encouragement to make preparations for elections taking place in every state this fall, taking into consideration voter registration deadlines. (For campuses who haven’t already, joining the SLSV Coalition is a great way to gain access to the partners and resources needed to create an effective nonpartisan student voting coalition. Campuses should also consider joining the Ask Every Student initiative, which provides resources and facilitates collaboration to help campuses ask every student to participate in the democratic process and achieve full student voter registration.)
- A clarification that colleges and universities are allowed to use Federal Work Study funds to pay students to engage in voter registration activities both on or off-campus.
- A reminder that postsecondary institutions may be eligible to serve as Election Day or early voting sites, as well as drop box locations, depending on local election laws. (Voting Early is Easier offers resources and guidance for bringing early voting sites to college campuses).
- Guidance on how faculty, staff, and students can volunteer to become poll workers – a vital service that supports communities’ efforts to administer elections.
The SLSV Coalition looks forward to supporting the Department of Education as they take these actions and additional measures – such as preparing a toolkit to increase civic engagement for the more than 67 million students at the elementary, secondary and higher education levels nationwide – that make the democratic process more equitable and accessible for all Americans.
About the SLSV Coalition
The Students Learn Students Vote (SLSV) Coalition is the national hub and largest nonpartisan network in the United States dedicated to increasing college student voter participation. The Coalition convenes and connects partners, campuses, and students with each other and with resources and programming towards achieving a vision of ensuring that every student has easy and equal access to participate in every election. They use data, relationships, celebration, and easy-to-follow planning structures, to help campus and local leaders register and turnout more student voters every year. The SLSV Coalition is a project of NEO Philanthropy. NEO Philanthropy is strictly nonpartisan, and does not support or oppose any candidate or party.