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Study: Going to College Won't Make You Civically Minded

College students voted in record numbers in 2008, but getting a degree won't make you more likely to attend a protest or work on a political campaign.


Are college graduates more likely to work on a political campaign, contact a public official, or attend a political meeting or rally? Not according to a new report, "How Civic Knowledge Trumps a College Degree in Promoting Active Civic Engagement", from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. The report's findings suggest that beyond voting, college graduates don't become more civically or politically active than anybody else. In fact, the study says that when it comes to civic engagement, "a college degree appears to have the same negligible participatory impact as frequently listening to music, watching prime-time television, utilizing social networking sites, and emailing."

What's holding college students back from ongoing civic participation? Part of the problem is that efforts targeted at young people start and end around getting out the vote. College students voted in record numbers in the 2008 election. But, once the election was over, youth engagement through campaigns like Rock the Vote or Diddy's "Vote or Die" effort fizzled. There's no concrete expectation that youth should be involved civically over the long term.


So what does foster a lifetime of informed and engaged citizenry? It's actually not all that complicated. People—whether they have a college degree or not—who read up on current events and are knowledgeable about history are more likely to be involved. But, what really makes the difference is when youth have the space to talk about the issues they care about with their friends, family and neighbors. Personal connections foster greater civic engagement over the long haul.

Photo via Intercollegiate Studies Institute

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