University officials want students to know they count, and when it comes to the census most should be counted in the Ann Arbor area.
The U.S. Census Bureau counts people where they live or stay most of the time as of April 1, which means most U-M students should fill out the census form they receive at their campus-based address. They should not be counted on their parents’ form unless they are a commuter student.
U-M is reinforcing that message with e-mails to students and parents, posters and a video contest all designed to ensure that the nation’s decennial count accurately captures the student population. Faculty and staff also are urged to remind students to return the forms, as well as complete their own.
Research shows that college towns historically are undercounted in the census, usually due to confusion over whether students should be recorded where they go to school or at some other permanent address.
“What most students don’t understand is that while this is not their permanent address here, where they are living on April 1 is where the census wants to count them,” says Peter Logan, representing the Division of Student Affairs. “It really comes down to helping them understand the process and the importance of being counted.”
Where students are counted can have a profound affect on communities such as Ann Arbor. The census is the basis for representation in Congress and state legislatures, as well as the method for allocating more than $400 billion to states and communities.
“There’s very much a dollar amount tied to each person counted in the community,” says Lisa Neidert, senior research associate with the Institute for Social Research’s Population Studies Center.
Neidert, who co-chairs a university committee promoting accurate student participation in the census, said it is estimated that each person improperly counted represents a potential loss of $10,000-$12,000 over the next decade.
Jim Kosteva, director of community relations, says helping to accurately count the population is a civic obligation akin to voting.
“We’re affecting decisions that will have an impact for the next decade. Being counted in the 2010 census will have an impact on representation, financial aid distribution, and federal and state funding,” he says.
Students will be asked to fill out one of two census forms, depending on whether they live on or off campus. Off-campus residents and those living at Northwood Community Apartments should have received forms at their houses or apartments. Students living in “group housing” situations, such as residence halls and fraternity or sorority houses, will receive their forms April 1, Logan says.
Each U-M student in group housing will receive a form in his or her mailbox to complete and return. Logan says University Housing hopes to provide a drop-off location at each residence hall to ease the process for students as well as for census workers collecting the completed forms.
Off-campus houses and apartments are considered a single household. One form will be mailed to each address and all residents there will be expected to enter their census information and return it.
Once the Census Bureau determines who has and has not returned their census data by mail, workers will begin personal follow-up visits to gather the information from those who have not returned their forms.
E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, has sent an e-mail message to students reminding them of their role in the population count. A similar e-mail from Harper and Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president for government relations, will go to parents informing them why they should not include students on their own census forms.
U-M’s official census site — www.vpcomm.umich.edu/issues/census.html
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