With seven days until the Sept. 30 deadline to respond to the 2020 census, some UNC students may still be wondering how to fill out the census, considering changes in living situations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNC students who were living in on-campus housing during the 2020 spring semester have already been counted in the census by the University, said Kristen Smith Young, director of community relations for UNC. This includes residence halls, Granville Towers, and sorority and fraternity houses.
Young, who serves on the Complete Count Committee for Orange County, said these students do not need to respond to the census even if they moved back home by April 1, which was Census Day 2020.
Students that were living in off-campus housing during the spring semester should respond to the census using their college address even if they moved home by April 1, Young said. They should respond based on where they would have been living on Census Day if not for COVID-19. This also applies to students who graduated between April 1 and now.
Melody Kramer, director of communications for Carolina Demography at the Carolina Population Center, said in an email to The Daily Tar Heel that first-year students should ensure their guardians have filled out the census based on where their families were living on April 1.
Young said that this year, double-counting people in the census is not as big of a concern as under-counting.
“We would much rather have to remove some duplicates than miss you entirely or risk your community being underrepresented and underfunded,” Steven Dillingham, director of the Census Bureau, wrote in a recent statement.
Dylan Heneghan, a junior at UNC and the director of the state and external affairs task force for UNC’s student government, said the possibility of an under-count is a huge concern.
“There’s over $675 billion in federal funding to states and cities that we want to make sure is properly allotted to our communities here in North Carolina,” Heneghan said.
Young said each person counted in the census represents about $1,800 in federal funding.
“This is the count for the next 10 years,” Young said. “North Carolina might also see a 14th congressional seat with this count so it has an impact on political power too.”
Heneghan said one challenge for many students filling out the census is that this is their first time doing it.
"There’s this whole barrier of, ‘What will this actually entail?'" Heneghan said.
Heneghan said UNC students owe it to the Chapel Hill community to fill out the census, ensuring that the community receives proper funding.
Young said since the census deadline is coming soon, students should respond as soon as possible.
“It’s now or never,” Young said.
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