Census participation rates are the lowest on college campuses

Despite weeks of outreach, statistics show low census participation rates in areas where students live.

According to the Tallahassee 2010 Census Participation Rates Map, as of April 17, residents around Tallahassee Community College have the lowest rate of participation at 42 percent. Areas along Tennessee and Pensacola streets also show participates rates.

Professor Juanita Gaston, director of the Florida A&M Census Information Center, said students still do not understand the importance of filling out a census form.

“Students are busy. They leave forms on the coffee table, or even throw them away, not knowing the importance,” Gaston said. “Federal programs are funded because of the head count, including Pell Grants, food stamps and even child care.”

Rontel Batie, 21, a third-year political science student, filled out his census and mailed it back.

“I think it’s positive,” said the St. Augustine native. “Our race is already underrepresented when it comes to government funding and policies that are enforced.” The map shows that residents from the areas near FAMU have a slightly better return rate.

The participation rate for residents near Gaines and Gamble streets, crossing Lake Bradford Road, was 45 percent as of April 17. However, these figures do not include the students living on campus. Those students will be counted in another process called the Group-Quarter Enumeration, according to Gaston.

“The resident directors will distribute and collect these forms from the students April 22 and 23,” she said.

Tallahassee’s overall participation rate is 64 percent, which is slightly less than the state’s rate of 68 percent and the national rate of 69 percent. Residents still have a little more time to mail back forms.

After May 1, census takers will knock on doors to urge people to mail them back. If students have not filled them out yet or have made some mistakes on them, representatives are there to help. Nerline Jean-Jacques, a third-year student from North Miami Beach, said she tried to fill out her form.

“I intended to mail mine back, but I messed up on the form and desperately need a new one,” Jean-Jacques said. Coleman Library is hosting a “Be Counted Site” and has a questionnaire assistance table to help students like Jean-Jacques, who have either lost their forms or made a mistake when completing one.

Gaston and the census ambassadors recently made one last attempt to inform the community. They walked the area of the Bond neighborhoods with horns and flags on Saturday. Gaston said she wants students to know that even if they have not filled out their forms, they still have time to get them in the mailbox right away.

Those interested in working for the census can sign up for jobs this week. Students can call 850-205-6220 to register to take the census test or call Professor Gaston at 850-412-7545.

The testing date is Thursday, from noon to 2 p.m. in the North Wing of the School of Business and Industry, room 115.

Students will need to bring two forms of identification, which can be a valid driver’s license, Rattler card, birth certificate and passport or social security card.