Student Voice Index: The new standard for empowering student voice

September 20, 2018
Story by Andy MacCracken

Today, NCLC released our inaugural Student Voice Index (SVI) report, capturing the state of student voice on America’s college campuses. While crises and flashpoints grip national headlines, SVI takes a look deeper into how institutions make decisions and the formal and informal ways students shape that process.

To do that, we conducted a survey of SGA presidents and document analysis for more than 200 colleges and universities, including a broad mix of private, public, 2-year, 4-year, and minority-serving institutions. We identified 5 key indicators of healthy student voice, which we used to measure the effectiveness of various policies and practices established at institutions to solicit student input in decision-making.

What we learned:

Overall, SGA presidents show some optimism with their role in decision-making but are less convinced about their influence. About 2 in 3 SGA presidents agree that they have a voice in decision-making and 3 in 4 say they have the opportunity to “raise issues before they get out of hand.” However, barely more than half (55%) felt they were very or extremely influential in campus policy.

Based on our analysis, we also found 4 key items that strongly impact students’ sense of voice.

  1. Regular engagement with the governing board, whether formal or informal. SGA presidents who have a position, role, or regular engagement with the institutional governing board experience a stronger perception of student voice than those who do not.
  2. Speaking rights at meetings of the governing board. Having speaking rights corresponded to a higher perception of voice. However, only 27.4 percent of student governing board members have speaking and voting rights for student members of the governing board.
  3. Effective, frequent meetings with key institutional leaders, especially the head of student life. SGA presidents who meet regularly with the VP of student affairs (VPSA) feel they have a stronger voice than those who meet less frequently. Of the 88 percent, SGA presidents who meet with the VPSA, 70.1 percent of them report effectiveness and satisfaction with the frequency of the meetings, and 57.2 percent report satisfaction with the outcomes of these meetings.
  4. Fostering a sense of influence among student leaders. As mentioned above, just 55 percent of SGA presidents feel very influential in institutional decision-making, and that sense of influence is highly correlated with a strong voice. So what influences influence?
    • Access to meetings of the governing board — 35.2% of institutions report open access to governing board meetings for all students.
    • Respect from governing board — 38.6% of SGA presidents feel respected by the governing board

What’s next?

See how your institution stacks up – We developed a Student Voice Index calculator, comprised of 10 questions that will automatically assess how your institution performs with student voice. It’s intended to be a benchmarking tool to help institutions consider their policies and implement promising practices. You can check it out at

Bring NCLC in to partner with your college – We are developing institutional partnerships that will allow us to conduct a full study on your institution, provide a report with recommendations, customize an SVI workshop for your institution’s administrative and student leadership, and facilitating information sharing among all the partner institutions. Learn more here.

Join us at CampusCon 2018 – Between October 5-7, 2018, we’ll bring student government teams together from around the country to undergo team-based training, informed by what our research suggests leads to highly effective institutional advocacy. It’s a great opportunity to deepen your organization’s skill set and strengthen your advocacy while meeting other teams from colleges nationwide. Learn more and register at


© 2019 National Campus Leadership Council

© 2019 National Campus Leadership Council

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