College Station is the proud home of Texas A&M University, the force that brings thousands of students, families and jobs to the Brazos Valley. As enrollment has surged, Aggies increasingly have chosen to live, work and play here. As a result, we’ve experienced steady population growth concurrent with the university.
We often overlook the tangible impact of a growing population. We’ve watched subdivisions rise and the street network expand while welcoming new neighbors and businesses to Aggieland. The challenges of that growth require real dollars to preserve the high quality of life we enjoy.
That’s what makes participation in the U.S. census (2020census.gov) a vital civic duty. In fact, an actual count of our population is so essential that the Constitution mandates it. The census count allocates billions of federal dollars to help fund schools, roads and social programs that impact our community every day.
To date, College Station has had a census response rate of less than 51%, and participation is at a near standstill, despite extensive, continued outreach. Our biggest gap is with our vast population of college students, who account for roughly half of our estimated population of 123,761.
Counting students presents a significant challenge since many are living elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Census tracts with dense student housing have had much lower response rates, while areas with established homeowners associations and more permanent residents exceed national response rates.
Under the Census Bureau’s residence criteria, in most cases, students living at school should be counted at the school’s location, even if they are temporarily living elsewhere due to COVID-19. Those living in dorms are counted automatically, but those living off-campus are not. If you’re an off-campus college student, follow the 3 C’s:
• Complete the census — If you live off-campus most of the time while attending school, you should complete the census according to your physical address here. Even if you are on an extended spring break in Colorado or went home to Houston and don’t have access to your mailed census invitation, you can complete the census online, by phone or by mail. (Learn more at 2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond)
• Coordinate with roommates — If you live off-campus with roommates, coordinate with them to ensure that one roommate completes the census for everyone at that address.
• Communicate with families — Talk with your family to ensure you are counted at the off-campus address where you live most of the time. Your family has the option to include you in their census count but should answer “Yes, for college” when asked, “Does this person usually live or stay somewhere else?”
The city actively has distributed census materials that cater to specific audiences using familiar faces and languages. We’ve spoken on local radio, made announcements at churches and reminded parents to include their new babies. We’ve worked with parents, schools and social groups to make sure everyone is counted where they normally would be living on April 1.
We also have been monitoring the impact of COVID-19, as nearly half of our population has relocated. Because of the pandemic, we encourage everyone to respond to the census now, so a census taker doesn’t have to show up at your door later. Starting Aug. 11,
census takers will begin knocking on doors to follow up on non-responses.
If you haven’t yet participated in the census, we encourage you to take just 10 minutes to complete the simple online form at 2020Census.gov. You also can take part by phone at 844-330-2020 or by mail. If you have an A&M or Blinn student in your life who lived off campus, left in March and hasn’t returned, please contact this friend or family member and help him or her do the right thing.
Census results help determine how federal money is allocated for the Head Start program and grants supporting teachers and special education. It also helps secure funding for firefighters and hospitals, and influences future funding for PELL grants and families who need housing assistance. The census count even determines how many representatives Texas has in the U.S. Congress.
In short, a complete count helps us care for our community and our neighbors. In the U.S. census, everyone counts!
Jade Broadnax is in her third year as a staff planner and project manager for the city of College Station.
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