UMSL earns recognition again on Washington Monthly’s list of ‘Best Colleges for Student Voting’

National Voter Registration Day

Public policy administration major Ryan Moser (center) and volunteers from the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis helped register students last fall on National Voter Registration Day. The COVID-19 pandemic will prevent in-person registration efforts this semester, but UMSL’s Civic Engagement Coalition is making other plans to promote voter participation. (Photo courtesy of Patricia Zahn)

The faculty and staff of the University of Missouri–St. Louis aspire to not only prepare students to be successful in their chosen careers but also to help them develop engaged citizens.

To do so requires encouraging and fostering their participation in our democracy through voting.

Washington Monthly once again identified UMSL as on its list of “Best Colleges for Student Voting,” which was included in the magazine’s 2020 College Guide and Rankings in the September/October issue. UMSL, part of the inaugural list in 2018 and again in 2019, was among a record 157 colleges and universities to qualify in 2020.

The efforts of those institutions might be more important than ever this fall as college students facing challenges to voting as never before amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“At the Monthly, we believe that colleges have a special obligation to help young Americans become active political citizens,” Daniel Block wrote in the story that accompanied the rankings. “It will help if they make sure students can be confident about where they will be on Election Day. But to ensure that young people capitalize on their growing enthusiasm, schools will need to do much more. They’ll need to explain how to register and what’s needed to actually cast a ballot.”

The colleges and universities that make up the list have already demonstrated their commitment to student voting by participation in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, which works with all schools to develop school-specific student voting action plans. They had to submit their ALL IN action plans for 2018 and 2020 to be considered.

Institutions were also required to sign up to receive data from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement at Tufts University about their own campus registration and turnout rates and make their data from the 2016 and 2018 studies available to the public.

“We are again thrilled to be included in this list and are proud of the work that we are doing at UMSL to support voting and voter education,” said Patricia Zahn, UMSL’s director of community outreach and engagement. “Our students care about their community and are civically engaged, having some of the highest voting rates in the country.”

UMSL posted the highest voter turnout rate (67.4 percent) among nearly 300 participating universities in the 2016 ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge and received one of the organization’s Champions Awards.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced UMSL to come up with different ways to promote engagement this fall with in-person voter registration and other related activities curtailed.

UMSL’s Civic Engagement Coalition will still hold debate watch parties, but the events will happen virtually. It is also partnering with UMSL alumni to host host notary events on campus and in the surrounding community for those who are mailing in absentee ballots which require notarization in Missouri.

Support from the Campus Election Engagement Project has also allowed UMSL to select two students, who will serve as fellows this fall while focusing on voter registration and engagement. They will help spread the word out about election-related deadlines and activities through social media platforms.

“All of these efforts support our designation as a Voter Friendly Campus,” Zahn said.

Washington Monthly also unveiled its 2020 College Rankings. UMSL placed No. 191 among national universities. The rankings are determined after assessing social mobility, research and services.

UMSL was ranked fourth among universities in Missouri, trailing only Washington University in St. Louis (64), Missouri University of Science & Technology (72) and the University of Missouri–Columbia (113).

Other Missouri schools ranked on the list of national universities were Missouri State University (206), Saint Louis University (219), Lindenwood University (262), Maryville University (307), the University of Missouri–Kansas City (343) and William Woods University (352).


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