Georgetown University administrators will report U.S. census data for students, faculty and other residents who lived in university-provided housing and have since relocated to their permanent residences because of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a March 20 universitywide email.
Approximately 2,684 U.S.universities have closed their campuses or been otherwise impacted, affecting over 20 million students, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus strain. During the pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau issued additional instructions that university students should be counted in the residence they have spent most of their time at so far this year.
Families are often confused about where to list students on the census, according to Cara Brumfield, a senior policy analyst at the Georgetown University Law Center’s Center on Poverty and Inequality. This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely compound students’ confusion about what forms they should be listed on.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there was confusion, or if people were being put down on their forms at their permanent addresses,” Brumfield said in an interview with The Hoya. “I think that sort of thing is probably happening anyways. There’s always confusion about where students should be counted, and with this situation where Georgeotwn students are going back to their permanent addresses, I assume that that confusion is probably enhanced.”
The population data collected by the census, which is administered once every 10 years, is used to determine congressional representation and inform how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated every year. Colleges programs depend on the data collected by the census including the Federal Pell Grant program, adult education grants, mental health services and Medicaid, among other critical programs.
Georgetown will collect census information for residential students and community members using a new Electronic Response Data Transfer, or eResponse, method for the first time in 2020. Administrators will input census data online on behalf of residential students and community members through the new system.
As confusion mounts during the pandemic, students and families should follow Georgetown’s guidance and allow the university to fill out students’ data to ensure that students are not double counted, according to Vice President for Government Relations and Community Engagement Christopher Murphy (LAW ’98).
“This year, the census launches as the nation, and the world, navigates one of its most complex health crises with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Murphy wrote in the universitywide email. “In the midst of so much uncertainty, it is important for our community and nation that we each do our part to ensure the most accurate count possible.”
For Georgetown students who lived off-campus, the university still recommends that they report census data from their Washington, D.C. addresses regardless of whether they have returned to their permanent addresses during the university’s closure, Murphy wrote.
The U.S. Census Bureau has received over five million online responses to the 2020 census as of March 15 and will continue to collect data pending changes due to the nation’s response to COVID-19, according to a March 15 U.S. Census Bureau press release.
“We are adjusting some operations as outlined below with two key principles in mind: protecting the health and safety of our staff and the public and fulfilling our statutory requirement to deliver the 2020 Census counts to the President on schedule,” the press release read.
Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the university will only share directory information of on-campus students including name, date of birth and campus and home addresses, Murphy wrote. Students can opt to withhold the sharing of this information by contacting the registrar’s office with a request to remove these details from the directory by April 1.
“We want to ensure everyone is counted but also that students are in control of their data,” Murphy wrote in the universitywide email. “A complete and accurate count is critical for our community both here at Georgetown and within the District of Columbia.”