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Census 2020

GVSU students and the U.S. Census

U.S. Census and COVID-19

The U.S. Census occurs every ten years and your participation matters! The 2020 Census will directly impact political representation for the next decade, federal funding and will inform other decisions guided by census data. Here are a few important things to know about how to fill out the Census, in light of COVID-19.

How to submit your Census response:

  • ALL people (without regard to citizenship status) need to submit the Census.
  • On and off-campus students should complete the Census online using your college address. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “When responding to the 2020 Census, college students should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time as of April 1, 2020. For most students, that means in their college town, not back home with their parents. Parents or guardians should only include children in college who live with them full time during the school year. They should not list college students studying or living abroad on April 1st, 2020".
  • In light of COVID-19, if you have gone back to your hometown (and are not living at or near GVSU), you should still count yourself for here, even if you weren’t here on April 1 (you would have been living at or near GVSU then, if it weren't for COVID).
    • Students who live in on-campus housing: Use your on-campus address. Find it on the Housing Mail & Package page.
    • Students who live in off-campus housing / apartments: Use your off-campus address. (Only one person per household who is not a member of the same family can use the same Census ID. If you live with roommates, you will need to login using the process below.)
    • Students who live at home with family: You should be counted as a member of that household.
    • All students should ONLY count themselves in their Census submissions (NOT roommates who live at the same address). Roommates will need to submit their own responses, independently.
  • If you have not received a Census ID, students will need to login to www.2020census.gov and follow the directions below:
    • Click on green "Respond" button.
    • Click on "Start Questionnaire".
    • Click on "If you do not have a Census ID, click here".
    • Enter information about your address (see above) and then submit your Census!
  • For more information, visit the U.S. Census website.

Why it Matters:


The Census is not just an exercise in bean counting. The framers of the Constitution intended for it to be an important form of political empowerment of the people over government. Mandated under Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the Census provides data necessary to appoint representatives among the states for the House of Representatives and to redistrict legislative districts.


In addition to determining representation, an accurate Census helps every community get a fair allocation of resources. Census data are used to help determine how $675 billion is distributed from the federal government to state and local governments, including funding for programs like Head Start, Medicare, SNAP and Pell grants. A December 2018 report by the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy estimated that census numbers guide $880 billion a year in federal funding distributed for schools, roads and other public services in local communities.


One Census Bureau tract highlights 50 different ways census data are used including: the distribution of over $675 billion annually in federal funds and even more in state funds; assessing the potential for the spread of communicable diseases; making business decisions and understanding consumer needs; rural area development; planning for faith-based organizations; planning new schools; attracting new businesses to state and local areas; planning for hospitals and other health services; and designing public safety strategies. Demographic data from the Census are used by businesses to determine, for example, where to build new supermarkets, and by emergency responders to locate injured people after natural disasters.

Census Data
Census Data

Survey research data and response rates have shown that those who know more about how census data are used and about the process are more likely to participate. In the 2010 census, for example, Pew Research Center found that age and education were the biggest predictors of participation. Survey respondents with lower levels of education and income were also less likely to say they would participate. To counteract these previous trends, the Census Bureau is emphasizing local organizing and educating the public on how census data are used.

About the 2020 Census Process

The Census Bureau includes every person living in the U.S. — regardless of citizenship or immigration status.

College students will be counted in the communities where they go to school and live the majority of the year. Most college students should be counted at their college address, either on campus or off campus. They should be counted at their parents’ home only if they live and sleep there most of the year.

In June 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that the controversial question asking Americans whether they are citizens won't go on the 2020 census form.

Under current federal law, the Census Bureau cannot share census responses identifying individuals with the public or other federal agencies, including immigration authorities and other law enforcement, until 72 years after the information is collected. The Census Bureau, however, can release anonymized statistical information about specific demographic groups at a level as detailed as a census tract which usually have a population between 2500 and 8000 people.

Helpful Resources:

Download the Higher Education 2020 Census Tool Kit, a resource developed by KH Consulting in partnership with Cal State Los Angeles with best practices for developing a census outreach and engagement plan for your campus.

Campus Compact Census 2020 Hub

Students Learn Students Vote has created a Census Working Group to share resources and information.

American Libraries Association has a toolkit and website with helpful materials