UI to work with neighbors on census

The University’s neighboring cities are working to account for residents who live in the campus area for the 2010 census. The census forms will begin being distributed the week of March 29, once school resumes after spring break.

Officials from Champaign, Urbana and Savoy are continuing to collaborate with the University and the U.S. Census Bureau to encourage students to fill out the 10-question form, said Andrew Levy, Champaign County planner. These efforts are a continuation of initiatives taken for the 2000 census.

“Last time, we had a less than 50-percent response rate for students returning census surveys,” Champaign city planner Lacey Rains said. “(The Campustown area) was the worst response area.”

A full-census account allows cities to receive funds for city services such as mass transit, reconstruction work and political representation. Rains said determining Champaign County’s population has been an issue of concern since the relative decrease in population in recent years may affect the amount of political representation the city receives.

Brad Tran, student body president, said the student government has begun the Campus Community Connection Committee, which works to foster relations between the community and students. Of great concern to the committee is the full representation of students within the census so that the campus communities may reap the benefits.

“Getting funding for things that affect the students in the community, such as roadwork and transportation, is an important focus of ours,” Tran said. “We look at how much money can be brought in with each additional student accounted for.”

Levy said most students tend not to understand what the census is for. Amanda Millen, junior in LAS, said she has not heard much about the census.

“I’m not really sure of what the census is, but I know that it counts for how many people there are and what kind of living situation they’re in,” Millen said. “But I don’t know what it really is for in the end.”

Graduate student Jessica Albright said she was partially aware of the census’ significance for federal funding. Because of this, she said she heard the questions asked were personal so that funding would go to the proper places, such as mental health centers or hospitals.

“I was under the impression that it asked a lot of the people who took it,” Albright said. “I know many people who don’t think they’ll be willing to take it because the questions are supposed to be personal.”

Rains said there are many students who are unaware that they should not be accounted for in their hometown censuses.

“The census policy is that you fill out a form for where you sleep the majority of the time,” Rains said. “Chances are you spend the majority of your time at campus as a student. Parents shouldn’t count their kids within their residence areas’ censuses.”

Rains added that student housing complicates the issue of accounting for everyone. Because the forms are filled out per living residence, students often do not account for their roommates.

Also, organizational issues arise with older methods of census taking, such as using the mail or a census-taker. Those methods do not reach the majority of student residents.

“What people should know is that it’s coming in late March/early April. It’s only 10 questions long and sealed with a prepaid envelope,” Levy said. “It’s quick, easy and helps the community a ton.”

Rains said other student organizations will help promote the city campaigns for accurate census representation. Also, the student government will set up a booth in the Illini Union to facilitate distribution and return of the census forms.

“We’ve been cooperating with the University a lot on the issue of the census count,” Rains said. “They have other issues that are of greater importance to them, such as the budget, but we’ve been doing good work with the University to compare notes of what our plans are for the census report.”