April 1 marked National Census Day, and UCLA leadership is encouraging every person in the campus community to make sure he or she is counted. Getting the message out is more important than ever because in-person classes have been suspended and students have been encouraged to continue their studies remotely from home through the end of the academic calendar because of COVID-19.

The California Complete Count committee — the state entity helping to carry out the census — is instructing students who may be back home due to the coronavirus to report the address where they usually live while at school.

“National Census Day highlights how critical it is that every one of our campus members is properly counted in the 2020 Census,” said Jennifer Poulakidas, UCLA associate vice chancellor for government and community relations. “This will ensure that the UCLA community is correctly reflected in this once-a-decade data collection.”

She added that an accurate count will include those who would have been living on or near campus, except for current remote-learning circumstances. 

“We need you to count as a UCLA/Westwood resident,” Poulakidas said. “In addition to impacting congressional and state legislative districts and the number of California seats in the house of representatives, census data determines important federal funding allocations, including Pell grants and work study, public transit and infrastructure, and health care and housing. It won’t take but a few minutes to complete the census, and we thank you in advance for taking the time to do it.”

Although some students and faculty who normally live on campus or in the Los Angeles area may be observing quaratine directives elsewhere, the University of California and UCLA are imploring each of them to fill out a census form by mail, phone or online for the location on or near campus where they intended to be living on April 1.

The importance of being counted has never been greater.

Beyond electoral votes and congressional representation, the data will also influence how political districts are drawn by the state’s independent commission. Locally, the census can influence funding for school lunches, plans for highways and support for firefighters. Nonprofits that help fill in service gaps to the homeless and those in need also rely on the data.

For the university community, it can even influence the government’s investment in research and facilities. Simply put, the census affects almost everything that touches the lives of those living in the United States.

“We need that data to approximate the evidence-based interventions and reforms necessary to improve people’s lives,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “If we don’t count everybody or we don’t have all the information necessary, we’re less likely to really be able to better understand the ways in which people are experiencing quality-of-life issues.”

Filling out the census is easier than ever this year, with the introduction of online e-response, along with responding by phone or by mail.

The University of California has compiled important details for the campus community, especially students, to keep in mind regarding the census count:

  • Even if you are living at home now, report where you usually live while at school. Under normal circumstances, the census asks people to report their home address as their primary place of residence on April 1. In this case, the California Complete Count committee — the state entity helping to carry out the census — wants students who may be back home due to the coronavirus to report the address where they usually live while at school.
  • If you live in a residence hall, your campus will arrange for you to be counted. For those who live in university housing — including dorms, fraternity and sorority houses, graduate student housing and the like — the campus will work with the census to gather and submit information. Your campus will either submit your information for you, or follow up with instructions on how to be counted. You do not need to fill out a census form.
  • If you live off campus while at school, you need to fill out the census. Do that online, by phone or by filling out the form and mailing it in. Support is available in 12 languages. You should have received a notice from the census in the mail, although if you are no longer at your school address you may not have received it. Not to worry! You can still fill out the census online or over the phone by providing information about your address. If you do have your census notice, use the ID provided. If you live, or lived, with roommates, fill out the census together or decide on one person who can gather everyone’s information and submit it. 
  • There is no immigration question on the census. Here’s what it asks: What is on the census is pretty basic: nine questions, including the name and birthdate of everyone who lives with you, their sex, gender and relationship to you, and their race and ethnic background. The Trump administration earlier this year tried to include a question about citizenship on the census, but the U.S. Supreme Court would not allow it. Opponents said the question was intended to suppress the count of immigrant and undocumented communities.Learn more about the questions and what they’re for.
  • The census is completely confidential. Your information cannot be used against you. It is illegal for a census taker or anyone affiliated with the census to share your information with any outside entity or to use it for any purpose other than the legally mandated headcount. Census information cannot be shared with law enforcement, immigration authorities, credit agencies, or any other person or entity.

Sometime later this spring or summer, the U.S. Census Bureau will send out census takers to follow up with those who have not been counted or who have submitted incomplete forms. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, officials are looking to minimize home visits. You can help California get the safest and most complete count by submitting your responses no later than April 30.