Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

University spreads the word that students
should be counted here

University officials want students to know they count, and when it comes to the census most should be counted in the Ann Arbor area.

What you need to know
• A student’s census residence is where he or she lives and sleeps most of the time as of April 1, 2010, not a parents’ home.
• Students who are graduating and planning to leave the city, state or country where they go to school should still fill out the census form sent to their campus-area residence.
• College students who are studying abroad are not counted in the census if they are abroad on April 1, 2010.
• Students who are not U.S. citizens should complete and mail back the census forms they receive while at school.
• Everyone in a student’s household should be listed on the census forms as long as the person has no other usual place of residence.
• It doesn’t matter who is listed as “head of household;” what matters is that everyone is counted, just once.
• Census information is confidential and never shared with other government agencies, or with parents, who may not know about student living arrangements or roommates.
• Parents of college students who live away from home during the academic year should not list students as household members on parental census forms.

Web sites
Census video contest
U-M’s official census site

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.

In an effort to encourage participation, the Office of the Provost and the Institute for Social Research sponsored a contest that asked students, faculty and staff to create video ads on YouTube to promote census participation. Thirteen videos were accepted for consideration.

Anyone with a U-M Kerberos login was allowed to vote on which video they liked best. Voting ended March 17 and winners are to be announced today. The maker of the video with the most votes will receive a $1,000 cash prize; another $1,000 will be divided among those that place second through fifth. The ISR-based Census Video Ad Committee also will give a $1,000 Creative Choice award to the video that best conveys the message that students who live away from home in a dorm or rented apartment are responsible for filling out and mailing in their own Census 2010 forms.