Four Ways to Engage Your Campus About the 2020 Census
Think back on the last ten years of your life. You may not have known it at the time, but a majority of your everyday life was determined by the size and makeup of your community’s population, as counted in the 2010 Census.
In the most basic terms, the United States Census is a headcount of every person living in the United States of America. The government gathers these confidential survey results to gain an understanding of the country’s population and economy.
More importantly, our responses to the Census help determine how billions (YES, billions with a “B”) of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities each year. This funding shapes health clinics, fire departments, schools, roads, and highways in your area. COVID-19 has shown just how important it is for hospitals and emergency services to be properly funded and equipped.
A major reason why other necessary community services may be underfunded or unattended to is because your community may be misrepresented in the Census. If households don’t respond, the government assumes the population in that area is lower than it actually is. Therefore, less federal funding is allocated to your community, and instead, your tax money is going elsewhere. Not only does your community miss out on funding, but your state may also lose a vote in the House of Representatives. That is why it is crucial that we ensure a complete and accurate count during the 2020 Census!
As students, the United States Census is particularly important to us. The Census impacts funding for the Federal Pell Grant Program, research grants, and public institutions’ budgets. The Census is especially important to our campus community, as the Federal Pell Grant Program makes it possible for many of our students to attend. Results from the Census also support student wellness programs, like free mental health services and school safety. Colleges and universities are intellectual hubs, filled with future leaders. Let’s do our part to make sure that our campus community is accurately counted and represented, especially during this global health crisis! Here’s how you can educate your campus about the 2020 Census:
1. It Takes a Village
Making sure our entire community is counted will require engaging as many people as possible. On our campus, we identified the following audiences for much of our Census outreach.
- Engage your faculty! As students, we receive so many emails, but we always take special notice of something shared by our professors. Reach out to your institution’s faculty and ask them to share information about the 2020 Census during their online lectures.
- Club meetings are still happening virtually. Reach out to the Office of Student Life on your campus and ask for a list of Club Presidents and Advisors so that you can contact them directly. At Bergen Community College, we found the Student Government Association to be particularly helpful as they know many student leaders and were able to connect us.
- Don’t be afraid to contact college administrators, or even better, your college president! We met with our administration and were able to secure additional funding to support our 2020 Census efforts. Our college President also agreed to send a message from his office to the entire college community.
- Encourage your family and friends to complete the Census. Word of mouth is powerful! Remember:
- If you live on campus, your university will count you, and you should not fill out the Census. Students’ parents should indicate whether students primarily live somewhere else in Question 11 of their household’s Census questionnaire. (Visit the Questions Asked page on the official 2020 Census website to see a sample questionnaire.)
- If you live off campus, you need to fill out the Census, and if you live with roommates, one person should be assigned to fill it out for the household.
- Remind everyone to speak to other individuals they know outside of school. Due to our diverse student population, that sometimes means translating the form for a relative or explaining the significance of completing the Census to immigrant family members who are not familiar with the system.
2. Online Marketing
- Utilize different social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Remind. Students use different applications and seeing information about the Census on multiple channels will reinforce the importance of filling it out.
- Utilize this live map provided by the Census Bureau to bring awareness about your community’s 2020 Census response rate.
- Use hashtags like #Census2020, #IStanDemocracy, and #CivicallyEngagedAF.
- Participate in our 20 Push-Ups for the 2020 Census Challenge! They don’t have to be proper or perfect, and modified push-ups are still pushups! Join us by posting your video and challenging at least 3 friends to participate after they complete their 2020 Census questionnaire.
3. Host Virtual Events
- Sometimes, people may neglect the Census because they don’t know what it is. Sharing available or original videos that explain the importance of the Census and how to complete it are easy and effective ways to raise awareness.
- Another effective way to increase Census completion is to host webinars for your campus. Your peers may benefit from free, online sessions that show how quick and easy it is to complete the Census. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Cisco Webex, and Skype are some amazing web conferencing platforms that are available for free!
4. Volunteer Opportunities / Ways to Get Involved
- Join your community’s Complete Count Committee (CCC). CCCs are groups of community leaders, from educators to businessmen and women, who come together to develop and implement local 2020 Census awareness campaigns. You can participate at either your campus or county level.
- To be honest, we were not experts about the Census before we became involved with The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF). Collaborating with AGF and our county’s Complete Count Committee was key to our ability to inform ourselves and raise awareness about the Census at our college. By attending their meetings, we were able to collaborate with county officials, college administrators, and staff at the Bergen Volunteer Center.
- Enumerator positions are still available and are expected to begin again once the social distancing regulations are lifted. Apply online here!
You’re in luck—the Census has never been easier to complete. Now offered online, in addition to by phone and mail, there is no way to blame the mailman, and there is no reason to be anxious about a stranger knocking on your door. It is a new decade and a new year for the United States Census, and the responses from 2020 will determine your roads, your quality of life, your opportunities, and your future for the next ten years.
The official mission of Bergen Community College is, “to inspire our community to realize a better future.” As Andrew Goodman Ambassadors, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to inspire our peers to help better our community by simply upholding their civic duties. The Census, like voting, is a chance to be represented in our communities, and we are confident our work with The Andrew Goodman Foundation will strengthen our representation. Thanks to the generous support from AGF, we will be able to spread awareness and ensure an accurate and complete count of our campus.
About The Authors
Jenna Santacroce is an Andrew Goodman Ambassador and student studying Environmental Policy at Bergen Community College.
Robin Yoo is an Andrew Goodman Ambassador and student studying Philosophy at Bergen Community College.