OPED-CENSUS-EDITORIAL-DMT

If you've never been FRUGed, it's likely you've never voted. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Chancellor Donde Plowman announced on Monday, March 16 that classes will continue online through the end of the spring semester. With this, campus residents were asked to move out of their on-campus residencies for the rest of the semester as well.

Since then, students living off campus have also been urged to return to their primary residencies during this public health crisis, leaving areas like Fort Sanders sparsely populated. As 2020 is a census year, questions have arisen about how to fill out the forms sent out to students including some confusion on where students should report their residency.

The Census Bureau published the video, “2020 Census: What College Students Need to Know to Be Counted in the Right Place,” which is aimed at informing college students on how to properly fill out the Census.

Students who were living in on-campus residency don’t need to worry about their displacement affecting the population count.

“If you normally live in a dorm or college-owned Greek housing, don’t worry — your college is already working with us to count you,” the Census Bureau said in the video.

Although students have moved out, the college will still count them as a resident of the university, so student don’t have to fill out anything for the census. They are already being counted.

Students living off campus who have moved back to their areas of primary residence do need to participate in the 2020 Census on their own by responding through either phone, online or by mail.

The Census asks that students respond for their entire household, using their normal address of where they live while going to school and include their roommates in the response.

“We have tools to un-duplicate your responses, and we’d rather eliminate duplicates than miss you or your roommates entirely,” the Census Bureau said.

Nicholas Nagle, a professor of geography at UTK, works on projects that improve the reliability of data from the U.S. Census and emphasizes the importance of students filling out their roommate's information.

“Students who live off campus but are now at home are supposed to enter their school address. They should also enter their roommates,” Nagle said. “Don’t worry if you and your roommate both fill it out and list each other; the Census can figure all that out.”

Duplicated responses are better for the Census than the risk of under counting the population, which could happen as the spread of the coronavirus pushes students away from their university residencies.

“Knoxville’s population could drop by thousands of people because students are off campus right now,” Nagle said.

If the census isn’t filled out correctly, Knoxville’s population could be reduced drastically leading to insufficient federal funding for the area in the future. Census data is used to determine funding for services that directly affect students living on and around campus.

“The reason we want to make sure you’re counted where you normally live is because those responses impact how billions of dollars in federal funding will be distributed to your school’s community for services that affect you — like school safety, mental health services and Pell grants,” the Census Bureau said.

Students continuing to live at their primary residences should be counted per usual. If you usually live with your parents or guardians, they should continue to include you in their responses.

Filling out the census appropriately during this time of the coronavirus pandemic is important for the future of allocating federal funds for UTK and its surrounding community.

Those looking to respond to the 2020 Census can go to the U.S. Census Bureau website to fill out the survey and learn more about how the Census works. 

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