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How Universities Can Prepare for and Promote the 2020 Census

With the 2020 Census set to take place in the coming months, the Census Bureau is sharing information and resources to help your campus ensure it is accurately reflected in the Census count. The Census plays a foundational role in our democracy and impacts congressional representation as well as federal funding for programs addressing student financial need, school safety, and mental health services. In all, more than $675 billion in federal funds annually are distributed in part based on Census data. College communities can ensure that they receive their share of these funds by making sure their students are counted.

As a major source of information for many students, the Census Bureau believes universities are critical to ensuring members of campus are educated about the Census. They have asked APLU and its sister organizations to share important information and resources to help you do so.

Students Living on Campus
The Census Bureau has a specific process for counting individuals living in group quarters such as dorms. Census officials should be in contact with so-called Group Quarters Administrators on campus to help ensure students living in university housing are properly counted in the Census through the Group Quarters Process. More information on this can be found in the 2020 Census Detailed Operation Plan for Group Quarters.

Students Living Off Campus
Every household is mailed an invitation to respond to the Census. Students living in off-campus housing should be counted at the residence where they spend the majority of their time during the year.

How International and Undocumented Students Should be Counted
All residents – including international students and other non-citizens – should be counted at their on- or off-campuses residences as well. Understandably, students (and others) who are undocumented may be reluctant to answer the Census. Responses to the Census are protected by federal law. They can only be used to produce statistics and cannot be used against respondents in any way.

Universities might want to consider how they can help ensure that these students are counted. Complete Count Committees in most communities can assist in providing information that can help.

Census Resources
To help institutions educate students on the importance of the Census and how to respond, the bureau has developed resources on how individuals can respond, important dates for the Census, as well as a handout aimed at college students. The bureau also has more information on how institutions can be a partner here.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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