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Newsletter > March 2010 > "CENSUS BUREAU STARTS COUNTING"
CENSUS BUREAU STARTS COUNTING
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
Between April 1st and May 21st, the United States Census Bureau will be conducting the portion of its Census enumeration that concentrates on counting college students living on or around campus. This will be the final step in the Census Bureau’s count of students living in “Group Quarters.” Group Quarters include on-campus college and university residence halls, dorms, and fraternities and sororities. The Bureau defines Group Quarters as “places where people live or stay in group arrangements that are owned or managed by an entity or organization (such as a college or university) providing housing and/or services for the residents.” Off-campus residences where students live are not considered Group Quarters.
In preparation for this final step, a census taker from the Bureau will have dealt with a contact person at each university. The census taker may have already visited, or soon will, the campus to work with the university’s contact person and develop a method for distributing “Individual Census Reports.” During the advance visit to prepare for the count of Group Quarters, the census taker may ask for information to help them identify the names of residents in group quarters, including in fraternity and sorority houses. Contrary to prohibitions against providing information on individuals under other circumstances, the Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) permits the providing of information to census takers to assist in their completion of the Decennial Federal Census.1
During the final phase (April 1st through May 21st) Individual Census Report forms should be provided to every resident of a fraternity or sorority house. They may be received directly from the census taker or they may be provided by a college official or even a chapter representative who has agreed to receive the forms, from the census taker, distribute them and then collect them for later pick-up by the Census Bureau.
Individuals are to be counted where they are living on April 1, 2010. That is the official census day. Even though a college student’s permanent home may still be where their parents reside in a different state, for the purpose of the Census Bureau, they are to be counted where they are living on April 1st on campus.
There is a benefit to colleges and universities and their surrounding communities ensuring all their students are counted. The census ensures that the college community receives its fair share of political representation and governmental funding. Undercounts of individuals who are not counted when they should have been can significantly affect the amount of money local government and educational institutions ultimately receive from the federal government.
The specific questionnaire, the individual Census Report, that a student receives is short and simple. According to the Census Bureau, “the census form will take only about ten minutes to complete.”
In contrast to the legal ability to provide information to the Census Bureau about who is living where, information the Census Bureau obtains from individuals who fill out a census form may not be shared by the Census Bureau with anyone. Census Bureau employees take an oath to protect confidentiality and they know that they are subject to a federal prison sentence of five years and a fine of up to $250,000 or both for disclosing information that could identify an individual or a household.