As you'll read in today's front-page story, Missouri Southern State University has joined a nationwide effort to study the voting rates of college students.
The initiative, called the National Study for Learning, Voting and Engagement, is from Massachusetts-based Tufts University. It provides member institutions with customized data about their students and voting rates, broken down by categories such as demographics and class level. Students and their votes won't be individually identified.
Missouri Southern officials have yet to decide precisely how they will use their data, but they said their overall goal is to produce well-rounded global citizens who graduate from college prepared to engage in their community and world.
In fact, that objective is woven into the university's mission statement: "Missouri Southern State University will educate and graduate knowledgeable, responsible, successful global citizens." One of several goals identified to achieve that elaborates on the point: "The successful graduate of MSSU will participate in the social and political life of the community."
What better way to participate in the political life of one's community than to vote? Voting is the ultimate civic responsibility, the way to ensure that your voice is heard in the political process.
And for university officials, understanding which types of students on the campus vote — and which don't — could help them identify strategies to improve the overall voting rate of their student population. Knowing that first-year students or STEM majors vote at a lower rate than their peers, to borrow from nationwide trends during the 2018 midterms, could provide a road map for improvement.
We applaud this effort by Missouri Southern. College students, like all voting-age members of society, absolutely should have a say in the candidates and issues presented to them at the ballot box, but some of them apparently need a little more education on the importance of voting.
Adding a focus of civic engagement to academics and campus life will ensure that the leaders of tomorrow are prepared for that role.