WHAT IS CEEP?
Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) is a national non-partisan project that helps America's colleges and universities get as many of their 20 million students as possible to register, volunteer in campaigns, educate themselves, and turn out at the polls. Focusing on ways administrators, faculty, staff, and student leaders can help engage their students, we worked directly with 200 schools in 2008 (and reached 300 more through partner organizations, and 250 in 2012 and 500 through partner organizations. In 2014, our first year working in a midterm election, our outreach spanned the nation and engaged 280 schools directly and another 680 through partner organizations, for a total combined enrollment of nearly 8 million students.
How do we get America’s 20 million college students involved in America's elections?
Founded by Soul of a Citizen author Paul Rogat Loeb, The Campus Election Engagement Project is a non-partisan effort that worked in 14 states in 2008, working directly with 200 campuses. We expanded our reach in 2012, working in 26 states with 250 schools and reaching 500 more through partners. In 2014, our first year working in a midterm election, our outreach spanned the nation and engaged 280 schools directly and another 680 through partner organizations, for a total combined enrollment of nearly 8 million students. When we measured our institutional impact by sending out detailed post-election surveys, 97% of the schools said they’d work with us again, with the remaining 3% saying they might. And 90% said our collaboration had helped them do more to engage their students than in previous electoral cycles, and to engage them in more ways. We believe we've played a significant role in increasing student turnout despite greater political cynicism and new legal obstacles to voting.
We work primarily through the state offices of the major higher education service learning organization Campus Compact, and with other allied higher education organizations and networks, like National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, American Association of Colleges and Universities, Youth Service America, and the National Communications Association. We're now working to engage students in off-year elections as well.
Our goals are to help schools use their extensive resources to assist their students in registering to vote, getting educated on the issues, volunteering in the campaigns, and showing up at the polls. Through our first two rounds, we've pulled together and distributed a wealth of useful practical suggestions, drawn from campuses throughout the country, that significantly increased student electoral participation.
The key to our approach is working with existing networks of college administrators, faculty, and staff, as well as student leaders, giving them the resources they need to engage their students in the election despite all the barriers. Working closely with groups like the League of Women Voters (who vets the checklist that's our core engagement resource), the student PIRGS, Rock the Vote and election-rights networks like the Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights and the Fair Elections Legal Network, we respond to challenging new voter laws by giving schools the resources to help their students navigate impediments to student registration and voting. We combat political demoralization by distributing non-partisan ballot guides that contrast the stands of different candidates, and by giving students a context on how electoral and non-electoral forms of social involvement can complement each other, from the Tea Party to the Occupy movement.
Our staffers coached people at the schools through the best ways to engage their campuses, while providing engagement templates such as the Seven Key Ways to Engage Your Campus in the Election. We provided other resources as well, like summaries of state election laws, the nonpartisan candidate guides, mini-grants to spur creative local initiatives, and funding for stipended interns on key campuses to spearhead student-administrator partnerships. Over 30 national higher education groups circulated our resources to their networks, and we in turn passed on the best tools and resources of others.
We tailored our approaches to each state and school. We arranged webinars on new voting law requirements, connecting lawyers from the Fair Elections Legal Network with our partner schools in Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Colorado.
We relayed stories of powerful new initiatives as individual schools or states came up with them:
Shifting the campus cultures wasn't always easy. But when we got through to key administrators, they responded. As our lead Ohio staffer said, "The schools really appreciate our resources. We haven't gotten a single negative reaction, just gratitude for the resources we're providing." As a staffer at a North Carolina community college told Paul Loeb when he spoke, “Your resources all came at exactly the right time, and were exactly what we needed.”
Between 2008 and 2016 we've made great strides helping America’s colleges and Universities get their students involved in the election and find their diverse individual voices as part of American democracy. With your participation, we hope to do even more going forward.