Every ten years the United States Census conducts a survey to determine the number of people living in the United States. The purpose of the survey is to determine how to distribute six hundred seventy-five billion dollars of federal funds.
“According to the number of people that reside in each state, the federal government allocates money for infrastructure, SNAP, childcare, Pell Grant—the FAFSA grant,” Teresa Donate, professor in counseling, and Census Champion, said.
While this is critical and affects not only students at NCC, but all over the country, Donate said, “It’s important for the whole nation to respond to the Census.”
A portion of these funds go to colleges through Federal Aid, FAFSA and Pell Grants. This help students who can’t afford college, to attend, by providing direct and indirect benefits, examples of that being childcare assistance on campus, or fixing roads and bridges.
According to Dr. David Ruth, vice president and chief of staff, “Almost 50 percent [of our students] get some kind of financial aid, yet still there’s that gap for our students. That’s why we’re fighting so hard for more Pell Grant so that every student can go to NCC.”
For every person that isn’t counted, a state loses $2,093, and that makes a huge impact, Donate said. According to Donate, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was undercounted by approximately 15,000 people in areas such as South Bethlehem, east side Allentown, and Westward Easton because of the large concentration of people of color who are more suspicious and fear that the government might use the information they submit to find them and penalize them, whether it be for multiple unpaid parking tickets, unpaid taxes, or residing in the U.S. illegally, Donate added.
“We get representation in congress depending on the number of people living in the state, so we’re very close to losing two seats in congress,” Donate said. “This is a result of the population of Pennsylvania being reduced, or people aren’t being counted,” she added.
The sole purpose of the census is for the government to create a snapshot of the residents in the country in order to distribute the appropriate funds to each state, Donate said. The chance of an individual being arrested or deported is off the table and is also illegal.
NCC students can respond to the census at Bethlehem Library, Monroe Library, Fowler Center, and South Side Bethlehem The city of Easton will also participate in assisting faculty, staff, students, and members of the community can come in and complete the census forms, “because we want to do our part to help the community and make this easy for them,” Ruth said.
One exception goes for students living on campus, Donate and Ruth said. Because of the policy of group quarters, residents don’t have to respond individually to the Census—the college automatically submits it for them—nor do they need to be counted by their parents or guardians.
However, Donate said, “It is also critical that students go back home and say to their folks or the places they live, ‘when you get the information, please do the Census.’”
To show just how important this is, each household will be sent three census forms in the mail if they don’t respond, before Census takers are sent out to ensure that the individual fills it out.
This is the first year that the Census will be accessible online, so it’s easy to avoid that confrontation in case there was a redirect in the mail.
Visit 2020Census.gov to see a sample of their questions, to respond as early as mid-March, or to find out more about the Census and how it helps to shape communities and futures.