The U.S. Census count is critical for determining representation and the allocations of federally funded programs, including those in higher education. Historically, certain groups of people have been disproportionately undercounted by the Census. The
U.S. Census Bureau identifies all college students as a hard-to-count population because they are highly mobile, may live off-campus as renters, and often difficult to persuade to participate.
Lessons Learned from the 2020 Census Count
The shift to distance learning due to the COVID-19 outbreak forced students living both on- and off-campus to return home, complicating the U.S Census Bureau's 2020 enumeration operations. As a result of the pandemic, the Bureau suspended field operations
and modified their efforts to ensure college students displaced from their dorms or off-campus housing because of the coronavirus were counted as living at school, an important consideration for federal benefits for the regions around campuses. The
shift also altered the methods institutions historically utilized to respond to the Bureau, moving from methods that allow student self-response to campus officials reporting information on behalf of the student using administrative records.
In anticipation of the forthcoming 2030 Census, the Bureau recently reached out to partner with AACRAO to solicit feedback on the process or processes that institutions used to provide information for the 2020 Census count. The association hosted a listening
session with Bureau representatives, conducted a member survey, and will gather a working group to inform and improve the Census Bureau's data collection process and minimize any undue burdens for stakeholders.