Census will still count students as part of DeKalb community

Census will still count students as part of DeKalb community

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Kierra Frazier, Senior Reporter

DeKALB — As census invitations arrive in the mail, NIU students, whether they have moved back home or not, should still be counted as a part of the DeKalb community.

Students that live off-campus should still be counted at their address by their college, even if they are temporarily returning home, according to the Census Bureau website. Those who lived or are living on-campus don’t need to respond to the census because they will be counted through the university as if they still lived in the residence halls.

Meg Junk, coordinator for signature programs and events administration, said off-campus students who lived with roommates in an apartment in DeKalb, need to get together to fill out one census form for their apartment.

“One person would need to get everyone’s information, and then submit the form on behalf of everyone who was rooming together,” Junk said.

Due to the outbreak, the Census Bureau has extended its original deadline to respond to the census from July 31 to Aug. 14. People can respond by mail, phone or online at my2020census.gov.

College students, even before the outbreak of COVID-19 have been considered a hard-to-count population. Junk said because some students have moved back home, they might not see the census invitations in their mailboxes at their college apartments.

An undercount could mean less federal funding for Illinois and one or two less U.S. House Representatives. Colleges also depend on the census to receive federal funding for Pell Grants.

Sherrie Taylor, senior research specialist for the Center for Governmental Studies and interim lead of the State Data Center in Illinois, said this census count will impact the City of DeKalb for the next 10 years so it’s important that students and residents are filling it out correctly.

“We need to make sure that we get everybody counted once and only once and in the right place and that’s the real challenge right now especially for universities with residential housing,” Taylor said.

Because universities are counting students who lived in their dorms prior to spring break, parents might automatically count a student because they’re now living at home, which will result in a double count.

Junk said prior to the spread of COVID-19, NIU was going to hold completion events where students were able to fill out a census form and win food or prizes. She said the university will continue to post census information on the Huskies Count website to spread the word.

“We’re also partnering with Husky Sports Properties, who does all of the marketing for our athletics teams, and they’re running a campaign for us while using their social media channels to promote the census,” Junk said.

Jason Blumenthal, management analyst for the City of DeKalb, said the DeKalb Complete Count Committee has taken a more digital approach to advertise the census since the spread of COVID-19. He said the city will continue to digitally advertise the census on social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter.

“I think this kind of works out for us that there’s the opportunity for people to fill it out right there as people are sitting at home today,” Blumenthal said. “We’re a very tech society right now and people can fill it out right there on their phones in less than 10 minutes and we’re really trying to stress that message.”

Junk said her biggest message to students is that they should fill out the census based on where they were living before spring break.

“There’s a lot of misconception around that April 1 date because that’s Census Day and sometimes it’s communicated that people should fill it out wherever you rest your head on April 1,” Junk said. “This year, more than any other year, that is very wrong for a lot of our college students, it’s really where you would have been living this semester.”