2010 census starts off with a bang


Students’ Association senators and city officials are encouraging SDSU students to register for the census in Brookings, an action they say could help entice new stores and bring in federal dollars to the city.

Students living off campus should receive their census forms in the mail this week, while those living in the dorms are counted through the agreements they signed with the halls when they moved in. Students are encouraged to register here in Brookings and then let their parents know so they are not registered twice.

“College kids count where they go to school,” said Max Wetz, a partnership specialist for Census Bureau. “That’s where they spend a majority of their time, where they live and sleep a majority of the year.”

At 10 questions, the census questionnaire is one of the shortest in history. Even in households with multiple roommates, the process is easy, said Hassan Ali, part of SA’s census committee. Students pick a roommate to fill out the form, and only one form is needed per household, even if roommates are unrelated. Then students mail back the form in the prepaid envelope.

“The survey only takes 10 minutes, and down the long run, think of the benefits it holds,” Ali said.

For many communities, the benefits of the census could be great. Census data helps determine how $400 billion of federal funding each year is distributed to state, local and tribal governments for infrastructure and service projects.

At the local level, the census helps cities decide what projects are needed and where to place service centers by providing an accurate portrait of the community. Businesses also use the data to find areas with right population sizes or demographics when they build new stores or relocate.

“The best way and most practical way to get Brookings a better retail selection is to register for the census in Brookings,” said outgoing SA Senator Patrick Weber, who is working to promote the census at SDSU.

Another prime use of census data is determining legislative representation. At the federal level, census data determines the number of congressional seats a state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the state level, a legislative district map will be redrawn after the census. Mike Struck, community development director for the city of Brookings, said if Brookings’ district becomes larger as the population shifts in the state, that could be detrimental to area citizens.

“Right now it’s easy to contact the legislators and arrange meetings ?,” he said. “If they have to cover a much larger area, they may get spread a bit thin, and it could make it difficult to get around to their constituents.”

While some students may want to help their community by registering for the census, they may also fear they will get in trouble for the information they provide. For example, only three unrelated people can live together according to city laws, and those violating that rule may think they will get caught by filling out the census, Struck said. Students do not need to worry, though, because all answers are strictly confidential and census workers can receive stiff penalties for sharing that information, he said.

“We’ll never see this information,” Struck said. “Other federal agencies can’t access the information. It’s just for statistical purposes.”

Wetz agreed.

“Confidentiality is one of the pillars that the census is built on,” he said. “Your personal identity information, we don’t share that with anyone. We don’t share it with other federal agencies or law enforcement. Not even the president of the United States can get a hold of your data.”

If students have questions about the census, they can visit the census questionnaire assistance center, which is headquartered in The Union for about a month. Weber said the census worker manning the booth can help students that lost their census form, need a form in a different language or have general questions.

This resource can make it even easier for students to complete the census and thereby help the community, Weber said.

“Registering for the census in Brookings is the easiest and most effective way to help Brookings provide the services that students want from their community,” he said.