U.S. Census 2020: When and where college students should be counted

Unsure of where to be counted in the 2020 census as a college student? Here is a guide. (Community Impact Staff)
Unsure of where to be counted in the 2020 census as a college student? Here is a guide. (Community Impact Staff)

Unsure of where to be counted in the 2020 census as a college student? Here is a guide. (Community Impact Staff)

April 1 marks Census Day, the snapshot date individuals should use when reporting where they live on the U.S. Census. But as college students move to distance learning and schools across the country, including The University of Texas at Austin and Southwestern University, are closing dorms sending kids home as a precaution to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the question has been raised as to where students ought to be counted.

Virginia Hyer, public information officer at the U.S. Census Bureau, said students should be counted where they would have been living as of April 1, in a bureau informational video.

The bureau has previously stated that students living away from home should be counted in their college towns, as they live there most of the year and are likely to make use of that city or town's resources more than those in their hometown. This practice will not change due to the coronavirus, Hyer said.

“Students who normally live at school should be counted at school even if [they] are living somewhere else due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

Hyer said students who were living in dorms or college-owned Greek housing do not need to report themselves, as colleges and universities are working with the bureau to ensure those counts, adding that those students are “off the hook” for replying to the census.

For students who normally live off-campus in an apartment or house either alone or with roommates, should respond to the census.

Invitations to respond to the census were mailed to each dwelling in mid-March. The census can be completed online, by phone or by mail, she said.

One roommate should respond for the entire household, but Hyer said that if people are unsure whether a housemate has already responded they should respond themselves anyway.

“We have tools to un-duplicate your responses,” she said. “We’d rather eliminate duplicates than miss you or your roommates entirely.”

Hyer said if students are not around to receive their mail, they can still respond online at https://2020census.gov.

Lastly, Hyer said that if students live with their parents during the school year, they should be counted in their parents’ response to the census.

“The reason why we want to make sure you’re counted where you normally live is because those responses impact how billions of dollars in federal funding will be distributed to your school’s community for services that affect you—like school safety, mental health services and Pell Grants,” Hyer said.

The Census Bureau has also modified its operations timeline, pushing back when census takers—federal employees who go door-to-door to he homes of nonrespondents—by at least two weeks.

The bureau is continuing to push for responses via online and phone, reminding the public that by doing so, respondents will save the federal government time and money in hiring census takers.

“It has never been easier to respond on your own, whether online, over the phone or by mail—all without having to meet a census taker,” a March 15 bureau news release said.