Across North Carolina, there are many communities impacted by the presence of a college or university. Where will these students be counted in the 2020 Census: at their school address or at their parents’ home?
According to the Census Residence Criteria, students are counted at their “usual residence” or where they live and sleep “most of the time.” This means that college students are counted at their college address, either on or off campus. They should only be counted at their parents’ home if they are living and sleeping there most of the time.
The Census Bureau provides detailed information on the Residence Criteria governing college students in section C.10.a-f of the census rules. Specifically:
- College students living in on-campus dorms on April 1, 2020 are counted at the college/university student housing, even if they are staying at their parents’ or guardians’ home on Census Day “while on break or vacation.”
- College students living in an off-campus residence on April 1, 2020 are counted at that address, even if they are staying at their parents’ or guardians’ home on Census Day “while on break or vacation”. The Census recommends that “Students who live in off-campus housing that is not designed specifically for students – such as a rental apartment or house – need to respond to the census themselves. They should not count on their landlord to fill out a 2020 Census questionnaire. Residents of every housing unit should work together to fill out one questionnaire per household. They should include all roommates (nonstudents, too) who live and sleep in the home most of the time.”
- College students who are living outside of the United States on Census Day due to study abroad or other programs are not counted in the census.
- College students who are foreign citizens living and attending college in the United States are counted at their on- or off-campus address.
College students who typically live away from their family’s home IN DORMS and are no longer on campus on/before April 1, due to guidance from the school or public health authorities, do not need to respond to the Census. They will be counted at their college address by their college or university through the Group Quarters Enumeration process. (Sources: Census Bureau guidance on Coronavirus; Census Bureau via Hansi Lo Wang, NPR; Population Reference Bureau.)
College students who live IN OFF CAMPUS HOUSING and are no longer on or near campus on/before April 1, due to guidance from the school or public health authorities, should use their off campus address and follow the Census Bureau instructions for Responding to the 2020 Census without a Census ID number.
College students who are STUDYING ABROAD abroad at the time of the census are usually not counted in the census at all. However, many students have come home early due to COVID-19. Any students who have returned to the U.S. by April 1, 2020, can be counted at the place considered their “usual residence” as of Census Day, which often is their parents’ home.
What did this look like in Chapel Hill in 2010? Students living in on- or off-campus housing that was owned, leased, or managed by UNC-Chapel Hill were counted under the Census Group Quarters Enumeration operation.
In Chapel Hill, there were 8,457 individuals living in college or university student housing in 2010 — less than one third of the 27,748 total student enrollments at UNC-Chapel Hill in spring 2010. The other 19,291 UNC students — if they were not studying abroad — were counted at the off-campus residence where they lived and slept most of the time.
College students are counted where they live and sleep most of the time on April 1, 2020. That means:
|Where college students live||Where college students are counted|
|If you live in an on-campus dorm||You are counted at your dorm address**|
|If you live in off-campus housing||You are counted at the address where you live**|
|If you live with your parents||You are counted at your parents’ home|
|If you are studying abroad on April 1||You are not counted in the Census|
|If you are a foreign citizen living and attending college in the US||You are counted at your on- or off- campus address|
**Note: This is where you are counted even if you are not on or near campus on April 1, 2020 due to COVID-19-related guidance from the school or public health authorities. Students in off-campus housing who do not receive their census packets before leaving should do a non-ID response to the census; they should report information on the census for their college address and “household.”
The Census Bureau is encouraging eResponse for Group Quarters enumeration; however, there may be other options available for universities, such as having RAs accompany Census workers. Specific questions about college group quarters enumerations and the potential to report selective data through eResponse should be directed to your local Census regional office.
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Editor’s note: This perspective was first published by Carolina Demography. It has been posted with the author’s permission.