Levi Strauss & Co., Lyft, and SHOWTIME/MTV Entertainment Studios have unveiled a pioneering nonpartisan initiative aimed specifically at amplifying voter turnout among community college students. Labelled the Community College Commitment, the initiative seeks to bridge the stark voting gap observed between students at two-year colleges and their counterparts at four-year universities. In recent elections, the voting rate of community college students lagged nearly 10 percentage points behind that of students from four-year universities, despite community colleges harboring a diverse and substantial segment of the nation’s student body.

Community colleges play a crucial educational role in the United States, with over 10 million students enrolled across numerous campuses. These institutions not merely provide academic education but are crucial in fostering skilled professionals who enter various sectors of the workforce. Moreover, community colleges are a reflection of the American socio-economic and cultural tapestry, enrolling 39% of all Black undergraduates, 48% of all Hispanic students, 34% of all Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students, and 52% of all Native American undergraduates.

The Community College Commitment includes an array of strategies designed to increase voting and civic engagement among community college students. Initial activations include on-campus events linked with significant civic dates such as National Voter Registration Day and Vote Early Day. These events will feature grantmaking opportunities, promotional giveaways, and various voter engagement activities.

An especially engaging aspect of the initiative is the Community College Concert Competition. This competition encourages community colleges to host voter registration drives and educational events, with the incentive of winning an on-campus concert by a prominent music artist. This creative fusion of music and civic engagement aims to draw greater participation and awareness around the importance of voting.

The coalition supporting this effort is robust. Alongside the founding companies, partners such as the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition, American Association of Community Colleges, ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, and Good Trouble Collaborative are contributing resources and expertise toward this cause. Their involvement underscores a collective drive to ensure that community colleges are not just gateways to economic opportunity but also to full participation in the democratic process.

Executives from the participating organizations expressed a strong commitment to reducing barriers to voting. Michelle Gass of Levi Strauss & Co. highlighted their aim to promote a culture of civic involvement across all quarters of society. Similarly, Chris McCarthy of SHOWTIME/MTV Entertainment Studios emphasized the initiative’s goal of ensuring education level does not preclude civic participation. From a logistical perspective, Lyft’s involvement, as outlined by Kristin Sverchek, underscores an effort to ensure that transportation hurdles do not obstruct community college students from reaching the polls.

The initiative launched is a beacon of how corporate and educational sectors can collaborate to strengthen democracy. As we approach future elections, the participation of these typically underrepresented student bodies could have significant implications, potentially altering the landscape of voter demographics. This multifaceted approach to galvanize a pivotal yet often overlooked segment of the electorate might not only balance the electoral scales but also invigorate the democratic spirit across diverse American communities.