New Report Explores Voter Engagement at Minority Serving Institutions

This press release was originally published by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for MSIs on September 19, 2017.

Philadelphia, Pa., September 19, 2017—The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) has partnered with ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, Democracy Works, Young Invincibles, Students Learn Students Vote, Campus Vote Project and the Andrew Goodman Foundation to release a new report that examines the role of Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) in engaging racial and ethnic minorities as well as young people in voting.

The report highlights national data on voter turnout and addresses some of the issues that deter young and minority voters from participating in elections across the nation. The report urges MSIs to continue to educate and politically engage their students.

Despite the exponential surge of minorities and Millennials, there has been a decrease in racial and ethnic minorities racing to the polls. Much of the low turnout can be attributed to voter restriction laws. The report reveals that some of the issues that deter students and minorities from voting include, but are not limited to, the poll location, policies that perpetuate voter suppression as well as general miscommunication, misinformation and racism at the polls.

“As the political landscape changes and the population of the nation rapidly shifts, there is a critical need to evaluate the challenges that have left so many students and minorities disengaged in the political process” said Andrew Martinez, one of the lead authors of the report and research associate at CMSI. “MSIs have historically assisted students in finding their voices and have acted as hubs for social change.”

MSIs make up 7% of the all colleges and universities and educate 40% of all students of color in America. These institutions have historically empowered students of color and have catered to the social and cultural experiences of their students. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), in particular, have woven civic engagement into their mission and the ethos of their institutions. As centers for culture and advocates for the uplift of their communities, the report explains, these MSIs have the ability and responsibility to empower their constituents to become active citizens and agents of social change and political action.

“Institutions such as Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) El Paso Community College and HBCU Paul Quinn have been prime examples of how MSIs can use their commitment to civic engagement to mobilize students to use their civil liberties”, says Tyler Hallmark, one of the lead authors of the report and a research associate at CMSI.

The report urges MSIs to address the issues that inhibit students and their surrounding communities from participating in voting. The authors suggest that these institutions provide on campus & early voting, provide accurate and appropriate voting information to students, and develop partnerships with election officials, voting rights organizations and student organizations to increase voter interest.

“MSIs are in a unique position to not only graudate civically informed and democratically active students but they can also play an important role in ensuring a more inclusive electorate that affirms every person’s place in the American story,” said Clarissa Unger, Director of Civic Engagement with Young Invincibles and the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition.

Full copies of the report are freely available here.

About the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions
The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions brings together researchers and practitioners from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions. CMSI’s goals include: elevating the educational contributions of MSIs; ensuring that they are a part of national conversations; bringing awareness to the vital role MSIs play in the nation’s economic development; increasing the rigorous scholarship of MSIs; connecting MSIs’ academic and administrative leadership to promote reform initiatives; and strengthening efforts to close educational achievement gaps among disadvantaged communities. The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions is part of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. For further information about CMSI, please visit

About the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge
The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge believes that more young people need to participate in the electoral process. Recognizing colleges and universities for their commitment to increasing student voting rates, this national awards program encourages institutions to help students form the habits of active and informed citizenship. Hundreds of colleges and universities have joined the Challenge and have committed to making democratic participation a core value on their campuses. Together, they are cultivating generations of engaged citizens, which is essential to a healthy democracy. To learn more, watch our video at  and visit our website at

About The Andrew Goodman Foundation
Established to continue the legacy of Andrew Goodman, a civil rights worker murdered during Freedom Summer 1964, The Andrew Goodman Foundation partners with America’s colleges and universities through its Vote Everywhere program which provides student leaders with a platform to register and mobilize voters, organize campuses, and collaborate with their peers. To learn more, visit

About Campus Vote Project 
In 2012, the Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) launched Campus Vote Project (CVP) to focus and expand its work around student voting issues. CVP works with universities, community colleges, faculty, students and election officials to reduce barriers to student voting. Our goal is to help campuses institutionalize reforms that empower students with the information they need to register and vote. For further information about CVP, please visit

About Democracy Works
Democracy Works is building the tools needed to upgrade the infrastructure of our democracy and improve the voting experience for voters and election officials alike. Our vision is straightforward: make voting a simple, seamless experience for all Americans so that no one misses an election. For further information about Democracy Works, please visit

About Students Learn Students Vote
The Students Learn Students Vote Coalition is a group of over 150 nonpartisan organizations dedicated to helping college faculty, staff, and students implement data-driven strategies for increasing student registration and voting rates. For further information about Students Learn Students Vote, please visit

About Young Invincibles
Young Invincibles (YI) was founded by a group of students in the summer of 2009, motivated by the recognition that young people’s voices were not being heard in the debate over health care reform. In the years since YI has expanded from a group run out of a school cafeteria to a national organization with offices across the country. YI takes on issues related to health care, higher education, economic security, and civic engagement, to expand economic opportunity for young adults ages 18 to 34 and make sure our generation’s perspective is heard wherever decisions about our collective future are being made. YI builds a national network of young leaders to take action for social change, shares the stories of young adults, produces cutting-edge policy research and analysis, and provides tools for our generation to make smart economic choices. To learn more, visit and follow @YoungInvincible on Twitter.