Percentage of college students voting doubled nationwide, according to national study

  Wednesday, October 2, 2019

By Letty Fernandez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY – The percentage of students voting in last year’s elections at locations on UTRGV’s campuses across the Rio Grande Valley has gone up to 43.2 percent, from 39.1 percent in 2018.

The report is part of the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), conducted by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University.

Veronica Gonzales, UTRGV vice president for Governmental and Community Relations, said the numbers are good news.

“UTRGV was up in all categories, including our voter registration numbers and actual voting numbers,” the former state legislator said. “At UTRGV, we are committed to increasing civic engagement, including voter participation. I give much credit to our Vaqueros Vote Initiative team, who work collaboratively to register, educate and get out the vote.”

The Vaqueros Vote Initiative is a nonpartisan coalition of UTRGV faculty, staff, students and nonpartisan community organizations committed to increasing political and civic participation among the UTRGV community. It also works to increase public awareness about the value of participation in democracy through the electoral process. It is led by the Office of Student Activities and the Office of Governmental Relations, who have been hosting on-campus voter registration events.

The deadline to register to vote in the next election is Oct. 7. The Student Activities offices on the Edinburg (EUCTR 215) and Brownsville (BSTUN 1.28) campuses are open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to provide information and assist voters on what they need to do to be able to vote in the next election on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

“We are hopeful that, with next year being a presidential election year, the numbers will be even higher,” Gonzales said.

The NSLVE report shows that, nationwide, voting rates at participating college campuses doubled, on average, compared to the previous 2014 midterm.

In 2018, the Average Institutional Voting Rate (AIVR) among campuses in the study was 39.1 percent – nearly 20 percentage points higher than 2014’s average turnout rate of 19.7 percent. Turnout increases were widespread, with virtually all campuses nationally seeing an increase over 2014.


  • The NSLVE report is based on the voting records of more than 10 million students at more than 1,000 colleges and universities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • IDHE does not receive any information that could individually identify students or how they voted.
  • The study provides reports to participating colleges and universities, like UTRGV, which use them to support political learning and civic engagement, as well as to identify and address gaps in political and civic participation.


Part of Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, IDHE is an applied research center focused on college and university students’ political learning and students’ voting rates. Launched in 2013 with 250 campuses, the study now serves more than 1,000 institutions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.