University students should be counted where they live, not where they're from, in 2020 Census

United States Census 2020
United States Census 2020 logo from
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As the registration for the 2020 census approaches, local and national census officials are reminding college students to count themselves in their college town, where they’re currently living, rather than back home.

It doesn’t matter if they’re a student living on campus in a residence hall, living in an off-campus house with friends, or living in an apartment somewhere in town. Students are counted where they reside when the census takes place, even if they’ll likely move away after graduation.

“They might not think of home as here yet, but they should be counting themselves here and filling out the census that way,” said Stephanie Halford, senior planner with the city of Grand Forks and co-chair of the local “Complete Count” committee.

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, the U.S. Census Bureau says.

“For most students, that means in their college town, not back home with their parents,” the agency said. “Parents or guardians should only include children in college who live with them full time during the school year.”


The local “Complete Count” committee in Grand Forks is making an effort to ensure every Grand Forks resident is counted in the upcoming census, including college students. There will be information about the census in emails and newsletters, as well as through social media and campus events.

“There’s many channels that we’re trying to work through,” she said.

Students who live in off-campus housing that is not designed specifically for students – such as a rental apartment or house – need to respond to the census themselves, the Census Bureau said. They should not count on a landlord to fill out a 2020 census questionnaire.

Residents of every housing unit should work together to fill out one questionnaire per household. They should include all roommates who live and sleep in the home most of the time.

Students who live in campus dormitories and residence halls, university-recognized sorority and fraternity houses, or off-campus housing designed specifically for students will be counted as part of the 2020 Census Group Quarters Enumeration operation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A representative of each group quarters will be given several choices for how to handle counting the students who are living there.

College towns across the country depend on students’ responses to the census because its results can help determine how much federal funding cities will get over the next decade, the U.S. Census Bureau says.

Federal funding is around $1,900 per person counted in the census, which equates to about $19,000 per person over the 10-year census period.

“It’s very important that everyone is counted here, in the right place,” Halford said.


This census will also be unique as it will be the first time people can respond to the census online. Responses by phone or mail will be allowed, as well as typical door-to-door counting.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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