Thank you for visiting the Campus Boundaries Project tool, a service of the Institute for Democracy and
Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life.
The Campus Boundaries Project allows users to see on a map where U.S. Congressional and state districts
exist relative to college student communities of interest, where significant numbers of college and
university students reside. This information is important because political districts define which elected
officials a community can vote for. Therefore, how district lines are drawn determines each official’s
electorate – the people to whom they are responsible. For more background on these topics and the purpose
of the tool, see the “About this Project” tab.
IDHE is a research center dedicated to providing information resources to higher education stakeholders.
In that spirit, this tool allows users to look at specific areas of interest (e.g., their own student
communities) to learn where the student population is concentrated and how that area has been divided to
create districts. Users can also use this tool to identify campuses within or near district boundaries.
Because of the nation’s history of purposeful disenfranchisement of voters of color, we also enable users
to examine the demographic composition of communities of student interest. Please see the “How to Use” tab
for guidance on how to use the tool for both purposes.
For information on the data sources that we used and notes on the limitations of the methodology, please
see the “Data Sources & Limitations” tab.
About this Project
Redistricting & Gerrymandering
Political districts are geographic areas that are drawn to delineate groups of residents into
constituencies to whom elected officials are responsible. Ideally, districts fairly divide populations so
that elected officials promote the interests of a relatively specific group of people. District lines are
redrawn every ten years to account for changes in where people live, according to Census data. The process
for redistricting varies from state to state. The release of the Decennial Census data has kickstarted the
process of the 2020 redistricting cycle. This process is taking place now – in the fall of 2021. The
coming year will be a pivotal moment for shaping the nation’s state electorates.
Sometimes, district lines are intentionally redrawn to favor one political party or group of people over
another, a process known as gerrymandering. When political power is secured by one group, it is often
reduced for another. Historically, gerrymandering has been used intentionally to reduce or dilute power
and representation of historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups. Gerrymandering is not an
inherent result of partisan redistricting, but it is crucial to make redistricting information publicly
available and accessible so that citizens can hold their political leaders accountable for fair and
College Students and Student Communities
As the creators and managers of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (pronounced
“n-solve”), we at the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) have a unique view of how college
students could be affected by gerrymandering. Through our own research and work with campus professionals
across the United States, it became clear that college students' communities are at risk of being
gerrymandered as partisan redistricting processes unfold this year.
College students constitute a diverse and formidable voting bloc with the power to shape election
outcomes, policy choices, and the future of our democracy. In addition, students create socially cohesive
and identifiable communities. Like other communities of interest (COIs), student communities are at risk
being targeted for gerrymandering.
We started this project to examine the physical boundaries of campuses and how voting districts are
drawn around the campus. Internally the strategic initiative was referred to as “The Campus Boundaries
Project.” As our research and analysis progressed, the project expanded to include college student
communities that extended beyond campus boundaries.
As a community vulnerable to gerrymandering, college student’ voting rights require vigilant defense.
Our hope is that this tool helps educators, students, civic organizations protecting voting rights,
policymakers, and journalists to identify, understand, and support student communities that are at risk of
We identified college student communities based on the concentration of college students living within
blocks defined by the Census Bureau. Thus, this tool depicts college student populations across the
irrespective of institutional affiliation.
We have identified 1,800+ undergraduate student communities across the country. To find these
we searched the U.S. for block groups where undergraduate students represent a 20% or greater share of the
population. These Census block units of measure generally contain 600-8,000 people. We combined adjacent
nearby block groups into contiguous student communities. In addition, we also aggregate all Hispanic or
non-white students to include minority population proportion in these student communities. Please see the
“Data Sources & Limitations” tab for more details.
Nancy L. Thomas directs the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education
(IDHE) at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. Her work
and scholarship interests include college student civic learning and
participation in democracy, campus climates for political engagement,
deliberative democracy, political equity and inclusion, campus free
speech and academic freedom. She holds a doctorate from the Harvard
Graduate School of Education and a law degree from Case Western Research
University’s School of Law. She is also an associate editor at the Journal of
Public Deliberation, a senior associate with Everyday Democracy, and a
member of the Scholars Strategy Network.
Prabhat is the Data Manager at IDHE and works to maintain the NSLVE
database. Prabhat is the Data Manager at IDHE and works to maintain the
NSLVE database. Prabhat supports and manages the systematic processes of
data analysis, as well as generation and dissemination of data in the form of
NSLVE report as a service to colleges and universities interested in learning
about their students’ voting habits. He is perennially interested in data,
visualizations, and maps. He has an M.P.A from Cornell University and a B.A.
from Kenyon College.
Ryan Gomez was introduced to IDHE on given his interests in
politics, gerrymandering and redistricting. This web app
was developed using his skills in data analysis and visualization.
He lives in New Orleans where he concentrates on
public and narrative mapping with interactive
capabilities. Ryan is particularly focused on applying
spatial analysis to politics, democracy and governance.
Ryan has an B.S. in Operations Research and Information
Engineering from Cornell University. He asks you to please
reach out if you have ideas on cartography and invites you
to inspect his portfolio
This tool is possible due to the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Alan D.
Solomont, Dean Emeritus of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.
Special thanks to our partners at: Students Learn Students Vote (SLSV) Coalition, Mike Burns at
Vote Project (CVP), National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) and State Voices (SV), team members at
IDHE and researchers at our sister research center Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group (MGGG).