The national 2010 census is beginning to wind down, but USC is just beginning its effort to make sure students are counted.
Census workers arrived on campus Wednesday, setting up shop at customer service centers in USC Housing facilities on and off campus where they’ll be working 12-hour shifts until April 20.
USC Housing sent campus-wide e-mails Monday informing students about the census and why it’s important for them to participate. Students living in dorms are being instructed to pick up their forms in the Customer Service Center lobby and return them to housing staff. Although some students living off campus received their forms in the mail, others received the forms from R.A.s on their floor.
The university and the Census Bureau are making a special effort to make sure students are represented because they are a traditionally undercounted group, said Sandra Alvarado, a spokesperson for the Census Bureau.
“Students are harder to count,” she said, looking at a map showing return rates for areas across Los Angeles. USC’s 90007 zip code had a return rate of 30 percent.
“That’s really low,” Alvarado said. “Right outside in the neighborhoods is 43 to 46 percent. Nationwide, the current rate is 60 percent.”
Alvarado said it is important that students fill out their forms where they live to attend school, not at their family homes.
“We’ve been doing a lot of outreach to community leaders and hit up some of the campuses with presentations and materials,” she said. “Students should be counted where they live for most of the time. We just want to make sure college students are informed about the process, so we don’t double count.”
Although some students were confused about the process, others found it was relatively painless.
“There were a zillion signs talking about the census,” said Allison Dorr, a sophomore majoring in international relations, who filled out the forms in Fluor Tower. “And L.A. needs the money, so I might as well.”
Leah Mireles, a sophomore majoring in international relations who works in housing, was handing out forms and checking off students’ names on a list. She said many students had already filled out the forms.
“A lot of people have come,” she said. “There was a line where I live.”
Mireles said she wasn’t sure the census effort would reach all the students at USC.
“I think it would be almost impossible to set out to do it, but we have signs and we’re trying to get as many people as possible,” she said.
But Maria Rico, a census worker on campus, said they would not stop trying until they had contacted every student.
“If we’re missing someone, we have to call them back,” she said.
Alvarado said students reluctant to complete the census should think about the impact it would have on their community and the services they want to see 10 years from now. Because of undercounting in the 2000 census, she said, not enough money is given to Los Angeles today.
“Ten years ago, we didn’t count everybody, 20 years ago the same, and now we’re paying the price,” she said.