by ALEXANDRA RETTER
With federal funding and congressional representation on the line, local universities encouraged students to fill out the 2020 Census. Though college students may not have been in Winona on April 1, or Census Day, due to going home amid the pandemic, they could be counted as a resident at their usual Winona address, and they could contribute to the population count of Winona and Minnesota, according to U.S. Census Bureau guidelines.
The Census, which is a count of the U.S. population that is completed every 10 years, assists with determining how billions of dollars of federal funding are allocated and impacts the number of seats every state has in Congress. People were instructed to complete the Census based on where they were typically living and sleeping as of April 1.
To date, 99.9 percent of households in the country have filled out the Census, according to the Census Bureau. The completion rate for Minnesota is 99.9 percent. In the city of Winona, 72.6 percent of households self-responded, or filled out the Census themselves online, over the phone or by mail, and the Census office which followed up with households in the city that did not respond themselves has finished 99.9 percent of its work to help those households get counted, according to the Census Bureau.
The majority of students at Saint Mary’s University (SMU) live on-campus, Senior Vice President and General Counsel Ann Merchlewitz said. They were counted in the Census last spring amid the pandemic through the Group Quarters Operation in which Census-related information about people in group-living situations, from college dorms to assisted-living facilities, may be submitted to the Census Bureau by the managers of group-living situations. Students living on-campus at Winona State University (WSU) also were counted through the Group Quarters Operation, shared sociology professor Aurea Osgood, who assisted with leading a committee that informed students about the Census.
SMU and WSU students who had been living off-campus before going home amid the pandemic were directed to complete the Census according to where they normally live and sleep — that is, their Winona address — per Census guidelines.
The guidelines read, “College students who live away from home should be counted at the on- or off- campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time, even if they are at home on April 1, 2020. This includes students who are home early because of the COVID-19 situation.”
SMU students received emails from the university with information about completing the Census according to their Winona address, as well as the link for filling out the Census online and facts about the importance of the Census, Merchlewitz noted. This information was also available on SMU’s website.
At WSU, a Complete Count Committee led in part by Osgood worked to motivate students to complete the Census.
The WSU Complete Count Committee’s work included informing students about the Census through social media and blog posts on the university’s website, in addition to signs and fliers on campus, announcements on televisions throughout campus and an email to students from the university’s president.