CHICAGO (CBS) — Another unintended consequence of the coronavirus pandemic is that college towns could take a financial hit for the next decade, because the 2020 Census is underway. Students are supposed to report where they living April 1. Normally, that would be at school, but with universities switching to remote learning, many students are no longer in their college towns.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory breaks down the process.
Gabrielle Cooke and Nathan Fairbairn would normally be in Normal, Illinois, but now the Illinois State University students are stuck at home, attending class online because of COVID-19.
Classmate Nate Doro is camped out in Downers Grove.
“I’m not a good online student, so it’s been a bit of a challenge,” Doro said.
Also being put to test are Normal and other college towns like Evanston. Thousands of undergrads and MBA candidates from Northwestern University live in off-campus apartments. Their absence during the COVID-19 pandemic affects local dollars, of course, but also could have a big impact on Evanston’s federal funding for the next decade; such as school safety, mental health services, and Pell grants.
The 2020 Census determines funding and congressional representation; and the data is supposed to be based on where you are on April 1, or at least, where you were supposed to be.
The Census is supposed to count college students at their “usual residence” as of April 1, and since most attend college away from home, they aren’t counted as part of their parents’ household.
With so many students now back at home, some parents and students might not realize that.
“I had no clue,” Doro said.
We’d bet many parents don’t either, which could lead to overcounting in students’ hometowns.
“I might have to ask mine. That’s a good question. Probably ask when I get off this call,” Cooke said.
Champaign city communications manager Jeff Hamilton said they understand the current situation might cause some confusion.
Tens of thousands of University of Illinois students usually live in Champaign and neighboring Urbana, whose mayor said she hopes the U.S. Census Bureau can “come up with a different enumeration approach.”
DeKalb, home to Northern Illinois University, is “waiting for guidance” to avoid undercounting, but plans to continue advertising the Census on social media.
Nnormal is leaning on more than 20,000 student responses.
“They were kind of promoting it on campus a decent amount,” Cooke said.
“If they don’t get us counted as population, I just feel like the town’s economy would suffer,” Doro said.
There’s always next year; sort of. The Census self-response deadline has been pushed back to mid-August, so maybe college towns can catch kids coming back from summer break.
To reiterate, parents, shouldn’t count college age children when filling out Census forms. University students should submit their own information using the Census website, but if you live on campus, your school will count you automatically.