Local area could miss out on millions of dollars because of uncounted commuter students

Courtesy of 2020census.gov.

Many college students are unfamiliar with the census having been 14 years old or younger the last time it was taken. However, for how little students know about the census, it plays a large role in the area surrounding the campus.

The census is taken every 10 years. Simply, it’s a headcount of everyone in the United States and its five territories. It is required by the Constitution. The data is used to distribute federal money, draw up congressional districts, and decide how many congressional seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives.

George Washington University conducted a study that found that the federal government allocates roughly $1,600 per-person, per-year based on census population data.

It was previously estimated that the state would earn an additional congressional seat because of the population growth since the last census in 2010. Roughly four out of every 10 households haven’t filled out the census leaving the state ranking in 40th out of 55 for accuracy in the census count. As a result, the state is in danger of not gaining that seat and missing out on more than $1.5 trillion of federal money.

It is required by law for every household to fill it out. However, every 10 years there are numerous households that fail to do so. Last semester, the university was required to submit the number of students on campus to the U.S. Census Bureau to be counted, but the hundreds of students off-campus needed to submit their information themselves. Bryson Rodier lived off-campus last semester and was unaware that he needed to submit his information until an enumerator, someone hired by the Census Bureau to track down those uncounted, knocked on his door.

The census dictates that you should be counted where you sleep or spend most of your time during the year. For Western Carolina University students, that would be here in Cullowhee. If they were to be counted at home, the community here could miss out on millions of federal money for resources that students use every day such as roads, hospital as well as emergency services.

Since the census requires citizens to be counted according to where they lived on April 1, 2020, there were over 2,500 commuters that should have been counted in Jackson County. Assuming only half of the commuters completed the census, Jackson County would face a loss of $2 million in federal funds.

If you lived off-campus on April 1, 2020, go to my2020census.gov to fill out their short survey to be counted. All roommates within your unit should also be included.