2020 Census: Officials making push to count college students

The Dayton Area Census Office is located at 6 N. Main St., Suite 360. STAFF/BONNIE MEIBERS
The Dayton Area Census Office is located at 6 N. Main St., Suite 360. STAFF/BONNIE MEIBERS

As the 2020 Census approaches, the Census Bureau is making a special effort to count college students.

Nikol Miller, the chair of the Dayton-Montgomery County Complete Count Committee, said Census workers will go to college campuses and count students living in dorms or university-recognized sorority and fraternity houses.

Students who live in off-campus houses should get a census form for their household and fill it out, saying that they live there. They should not expect that their landlord will fill out the census form for them.

Parents who have children living at the college they attend should count only the people living in the house on April 1, Miller said. For instance, if a mother lives alone when her two children are away at college, she should only count herself in the 2020 Census, even if her students are home visiting on April 1.

“Sometimes parents want to count their kids who are away at college because they claim them on their taxes,” said Carol Hector-Harris, media specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau - Philadelphia region. “But that is not the case.”

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Foreign students living and attending college in the U.S. should be counted at the on- or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time, according to Census Bureau officials.

How students living in “group quarters” are counted will vary by school. A representative of each dorm or housing unit will have the option to have a census taker drop off paper questionnaires to a representative of the building. That person will give each student a questionnaire and collect them after they are completed. Then, the census taker will return to pick them up from the representative.

Another option would be for one representative of the dorm to complete a single form counting all students living there compiled using data from university records. That person has the option to complete a version of this form online using a secure portal, or to have a census taker pick up a paper version from them, according to Hector-Harris.

A university could also give a census taker permission to knock on doors and conduct one-on-one interviews with students, but this is a much less common method, Hector-Harris said.

The Census Bureau will make these efforts between Feburary and March.

Locally, a student-run group at the University of Dayton, UDayton Vote, is developing plans around the Census, said university spokeswoman Meagan Pant. Wright State officials have been regularly attending Greene County census-organizing meetings to make sure the university is prepared for the 2020 Census, said spokesman Jim Hannah.

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Public colleges and universities depend on funding from the state, so getting an accurate count is important to them.

According to a George Washington University study, each person not counted in Ohio is a loss of $1,800 per year for the state. An accurate count is a way of getting back tax dollars that workers pay to the federal government, Hector-Harris said.

Students in college towns use local resources like roads, public transportation and hospitals. Getting a complete count is important for those towns to get federal and state funding to keep up those resources. Population numbers also have an impact on the Pell Grant, Hector-Harris said, because it is funded through federal dollars.

“This is about counting everyone in the right place,” Hector-Harris said.

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