Census workers are stepping up efforts to count District residents, a population that includes GW students, in a process that could provide up to $3,500 per person per year in federal funding for D.C.
College populations – which are counted in the decennial census because people are tallied where they live and sleep most of the time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Web site – have a big impact on federal funding in the District. Students, who have long been underrepresented in census counts, could help nudge the District’s population count over the 600,000 mark for the first time in almost 20 years, and a higher population means more money from the federal government.
“What’s at stake is nearly $2.5 billion in federal funds that could potentially go to the District,” D.C. Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning said in an October statement. “A low response rate equates to millions of dollars lost over a 10-year period for vital community services and development, over $3,500 per resident per year, while a high response rate will ensure we can fund needed services.”
Preparation for the census count, which occurs April 1, has been gearing up over the past seven months, junior Adam Wise said. Wise, who is helping to aid in the counting process, said that making students aware of the census, which was recently shortened to a 10-question form, is no easy feat.
“The biggest hurdle to educating students about the census has been apathy,” Wise said. “We’re college students. We’re naturally lazy.”
Geocoded letters are currently being sent out to students in the first of several waves, Wise said, and students who don’t receive a form will be able to pick one up on campus. Wise said he is also working to get a local drop site for forms set up.
Wise said there will not be an enumerator, which is a census counter who goes door-to-door, at the University. The more likely scenario will be a heightened on-campus outreach as April 1 nears.
Maurice Henderson, the director of D.C. Counts, a volunteer census awareness group launched by Mayor Adrian Fenty, told the Washington City Paper that his group has “actively engaged with all nine colleges and universities here in the area” to ensure that the 23,000 students in college are counted.
In the meantime, the census workers are leading a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter, Wise said. A Web site promoting the count will launch soon, and musical artist Beyonce has signed on to be a national spokeswoman for the count.