“We are adjusting operations to make sure college students are counted.”

College students living in on-campus housing are supposed to be counted in the Census through their university, but now with students scattering in response to the coronavirus, the Census bureau is hustling to respond. 

College students are to be counted as part of the Census’ Group Quarters operation, which counts all students living in university-owned housing. In addition to college dormitories, the Group Quarters operation also includes places like nursing homes, group homes, halfway houses and prisons. 

Even if they are home on census day, April 1, they should be counted according to the residence criteria that states they should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time.

In general, students in colleges and universities temporarily closed due to COVID-19 will still be counted as part of this process. In advance of the Census, college and university administrators were contacted to get their input on the enumeration methods that will allow students to participate in the 2020 Census.

The majority, about 47% percent, chose the eResponse methodology and about seven percent chose paper listings, both of which provide the Census Bureau directory information (electronically or via paper records) about each student.

About 35%, however, chose drop-off/pick-up, which allows students to self-respond using an Individual Census Questionnaire (or ICQ). The census is contacting those schools to ask whether they would like to change that preference in light of the emerging situation. 

“We are asking schools to contact their students and remind them to respond,” said a recent U.S. Census press release. 

The Census previously announced a delay in the start of their Mobile Questionnaire Assistance program.  They had originally planned to start their field outreach on March 30, but have pushed that back to April 13.

In this operation, census takers begin following up with households that haven’t responded yet around some colleges and universities. By starting early, the Census hope to count households in areas with off-campus housing before the end of the spring semester when students may leave for another residence. They’re delaying the start of this effort from April 9 to April 23.

The Cenusu Bureau’s key message right now for anyone with questions about how COVID-19 will affect the 2020 Census: 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.

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