StateUniversity.com – U.S. University Directory » State University List » College and University Blog

U.S. Census: Confusing for College Students?

College and University Blog - Resources, help, and insight for your college experience

April 1, 2010 was Census Day, or the date by which the United States Census Bureau had requested for all completed Census forms to be sent back. If you’re not quite sure what it is, a census is simply the process of collecting and recording information about the members of a certain group of people, which means that the U.S. Census is done to collect information about people living in the U.S. at that time. The U.S. Census is performed every 10 years, and college students have historically been a difficult group to count due to their mobile lifestyles: many live in dorms during the school year yet return home during school breaks.

What’s the Census for, anyway?

The 2010 U.S. Census consists of a short form which calls for 10 questions to be answered about the people living in each household. The Census asks for the number of residents in the household, and information on topics such as ethnicity. The information gained from the Census will be used to provide the proper number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives for different states. Census info is also used to apply proper federal funding to various social and economic programs.

Critics of the U.S. Census argue that the information requested is an invasion of their personal privacy, but the U.S. Congress gives approval to each and every question that is asked on the Census and information collected is used to enforce federal laws or administer funding for federal programs.

Despite their efforts, the U.S. Census Bureau has never been able to account for every single individual in the country.

Forms are mailed out to every known address in the United States, and as I mentioned earlier, these forms were supposed to be mailed back by April 1st. However some of those Census forms were sent to abandoned houses, homes of people that had passed away recently, or even people who simply refuse to fill out and return the form.

I just read that as of today, May 1st, only 72% of Census forms which were sent out have been returned. Census employees will begin going door to door in order to get answers from those homes which did not mail back their forms.

Why are College Students Difficult to Count in the Census?

College students who live separately from their parents – either on campus in student housing or in an off-campus apartment – receive their own Census form or are required to fill one out about their household (which may include roommates) but Eun Kim, a public information officer with the U.S. Census Bureau, has admitted that college students are among the hardest people to account for during the Census period.

Why’s that?

A lot of college students are so young that they’ve never had to deal with Census forms before, and many others aren’t really sure what it is. Some assume that their parents will fill it out for them, and others choose to ignore it.

It’s important for students and their parents to realize that if a student is not living with their parents at the time the Census was received, then their parents shouldn’t count them as living in that household. Some students risk being counted twice, if they do fill out their own forms and their parents also count them.

Also, don’t forget, the information gathered by Census forms is used to mandate federal funding for various programs, many of which affect college students. As Eun Kim explains, ““For a college student, it’s hard to see that immediate impact … so we’re trying to explain it in ways for them to understand.”

Census on Campus

This year, the Census Bureau started the “Census on Campus” initiative to help raise awareness on college campuses. It has reached out to colleges and universities across the country in order to spread the news about the 2010 Census. Rallies and events have been held in order to educate college students about the importance of filling out the Census if they do not live at home, and how to avoid being counted twice by explaining things to their parents.

As the 2010 Census on Campus website explains that their partners are “colleges, universities, and collegiate organizations that have formally pledged their commitment to share the 2010 Census message and mobilize their constituents in support of the Census Bureau’s goal of achieving a complete and accurate count.”

Various colleges and universities held their own events to help educate the student population about the importance of the 2010 Census. Newsleader.com, which reports the news of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, says that colleges and universities in that area didn’t have any problems with the Census and students: the offices of student life at James Madison University, Eastern Mennonite University and Mary Baldwin College all filled out the forms for the on-campus housing students, school officials said.

Hopefully, things go as smoothly with the 2010 U.S. Census in all other colleges across the country!


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

Comments on this Article

Make a Comment …

Have something to say? Feel free to add comments or additional information.