IN THE SPOTLIGHT
CU, city of Boulder join forces in Census 2010 drive
The U.S. Census counts every resident in the nation, both citizens and noncitizens, every 10 years in fulfillment of a requirement in the U.S. Constitution. For the 2010 census, CU and the city of Boulder have agreed to collaborate in an effort called “Boulder Counts!” with an emphasis on the campus community. Anyone living in Boulder for the majority of their time – more than six months out of the year – must be counted, according to Chris Meschuk, a planner for the city of Boulder and the 2010 census coordinator. “One quarter of the population of Boulder is CU students, and they all count,” he said. “Consequently, a key part of our outreach efforts for Census 2010 was to coordinate the city’s efforts with those of the university.”
Meschuk has been working closely with Jennifer Korbelik, city of Boulder university liaison, as well as with Vice Chancellor for Administration Frank Bruno and with Alpha Phi Omega, a coed student service fraternity at CU-Boulder. “Last fall, we were forming what the U.S. Census calls a ‘complete count committee,’ and an education subcommittee was recommend,” Meschuk said. “First steps were to determine what the university was already doing and who was involved.” He met with representatives from Off Campus Student Services, the Office of Parent Relations and others to compare the timing of census forms delivery with the academic calendar and CU-Boulder activities to determine how best to reach students along with the rest of the campus community.
April Pederson, president of the Gamma Theta Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, said, “Few students returned their forms during the last census and Chris encouraged us to help with the outreach efforts on campus and in student-dominated neighborhoods. Our efforts will begin in March and continue into April so that we can reach the greatest number possible before the deadline for returning census forms.” Those efforts will include a lunch hour information table in the UMC through the target period, and personal, door-to-door visits in student neighborhoods such as University Hill. The drive is intended to reach as many students as possible before they leave for the summer.
Meschuk has included faculty and staff in the outreach effort as well. “We will ask faculty to make announcements in their classes the week of March 15 when the census forms arrive in Boulder,” he said. "Also, Alpha Phi Omega will distribute reminders to complete and return the forms." Staff can help out by reminding the students with whom they work and interact about the importance of completing the census.
The U.S. Census is crucial because federal funding is reliant upon the numbers of residents it returns. “The city of Boulder was undercounted by at least 3,300 residents in the 2000 census,” said Meschuk. “The city’s challenge of the count wasn’t accepted by the U.S. Census. Since 2008, that gap has grown to 8,600 people. The state demographer estimates that every person in Colorado is worth $875 in federal funds per year, and we estimate almost $40 million dollars in potential funding opportunities were missed.” He added that approximately 73 percent of residents responded to their mailed census form in 2000, a number above the national average. “Certain areas such as University Hill had our lowest response rate at 58 percent,” he said. “Above all, we want to convey a three part message: the census is important for your community; it’s easy – only ten questions; and it’s safe – the information is not shared with anyone and cannot be used for any other purposes.”
The campaign for Census 2010 begins in the next two weeks, Meschuk said. Census Day is April 1, when forms should be returned. Not all of the census forms will arrive at the same time. People living off campus will receive standard forms during the week of March 15, whereas campus housing residents will get an individual “group housing” form several weeks later. All forms will be mailed directly to residences from the U.S. Postal Service. Forms will be accepted throughout the summer.
In early April, the city of Boulder will sponsor a community-wide event, with volunteers canvassing the neighborhoods, knocking on doors of residences to encourage people to return their census forms. U.S. Census enumeration workers will then visit residents up to six times through July if the form has not been returned.
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