WashU Counts: campus prepares for 2020 census

Census Day is April 1

The 2020 U.S. census starts soon, and the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement wants to make sure every student at Washington University in St. Louis is counted. A new website explains how the census works and dispels some common myths. 

“It is vital that all WashU students — whether they are from St. Louis or across the globe — be counted in the 2020 census,” said Theresa Kouo, assistant director for civic engagement education at the Gephardt Institute. “The census determines everything from the size of our congressional delegation to the amount of money our region receives for schools, roads and other important services. In addition, data collected in the census is the foundation of much of the important research conducted at Washington University.”

Kouo acknowledges the census can be confusing, especially for college students. For instance, students who live on the South 40 do not receive census forms. Rather, people who live in “group quarters,” such as dormitories, military barracks and skilled nursing facilities, are counted through the “group quarters enumeration” process, so such students will be counted by Residential Life staff.

But students who live in private off-campus apartments will complete the census. By mid-March, every address will receive a postcard invitation with a unique code to complete the census online.  The census is comprised of 13 simple questions, including the number of people in the household, their ages and races. The census does not ask for citizenship status, Social Security numbers or bank account information, and all data collected by the census is considered protected information.

Another key point: Parents of a Washington University student should not include their child on their census form unless their child lives at home throughout the year. 

It’s also important to note that international and nonresident students are counted in the census, while students studying abroad this spring are not counted.

Students with questions are encouraged to contact Colleen Smyth, the Gephardt Institute’s student engagement coordinator, at colleen.smyth@wustl.edu.

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