The University of Colorado and the city of Boulder are reporting 100 percent participation in the 2010 census from students living on campus — though no all students actually filled out a form.
Census participation rates, according to the U.S. Census Bureau:
72 percent: National
70 percent: Colorado
75 percent: City of Boulder
59 percent: University Hill area
100 percent: CU dorms
Thanks to a census awareness campaign, CU officials said many students did fill out the survey. But the university provided the U.S. Census Bureau with public information for each student that failed to turn in a form, resulting in census records for all students living on campus last spring — a big change from 2000, when Boulder’s population was undercounted due to poor student participation.
It’s preferable for students to fill out the forms themselves in order to get the most accurate and comprehensive information, according to the Census Bureau. But the bureau was able to get enough information for each student to count his or her forms as complete.
“I think there’s about 10 questions on the survey, but they only need four pieces of information to count it as complete,” said John Fox, associate director of residence life for CU. “We provided four points from our public information records, like the student’s name, for each person that was missing.”
While neither census nor university officials could say how many students actually filled out the information themselves, both said they were happy with the results.
“It’s an amazing feat,” said Chris Meschuk, census liaison for the city of Boulder.
In 2000, on-campus completion was 74 percent, while University Hill, a hub for students living off-campus, saw only 59 percent participation. Though campus efforts greatly increased the participation for students in the dorms, the Hill saw no change in 2010, again with 59 percent completion.
“We would definitely like to see some improvement in that area next time,” Meschuk said. “We are already pinpointing the lowest participation areas throughout the city so we’ll be able to plan for higher success rates citywide in 2020.”
The state of Colorado saw a 70 percent participation rate, slightly lower than the national average of 72 percent, according to Census.gov.
Like small towns, group quarters, such as dorms, often have a higher participation rate then large metropolitan areas, said Shelly Lowe, spokeswoman for the Census Bureau. But 100 participation is rare, despite the convenience of group quarters.
An awareness campaign launched at the university encouraged students to participate and is somewhat responsible for the successful results, Fox said.
Participation efforts were increased across campus this year after the Boulder’s 2000 census results were low due to a lack of student participation, according the city officials.
The population of Boulder recently was adjusted from 94,171 to 99,466 after the city successfully challenged the 2000 census count, arguing that people living in “group quarters,” such as dorms and Greek houses, were left out of the count.
While posters and flyers around campus were helpful in letting students know about the census, Fox said it was census personnel that drastically increased student participation.
Dining halls across campus had tables set up for a week in March with census employees answering questions and helping students through the survey.
Some students said while the employees were too pushy, the efforts were effective in getting them to fill out the census forms.
CU sophomore Roberta Casnellie filled out the census survey while living in the dorms last spring. She said she filled hers out because there was a table in her building and every time she’d leave or come back, “They’d bug me about it.”
Officials said it is often confusing for students, especially those from other states, because they think they will be counted on their parents’ survey and don’t fill out their own forms.
CU junior Hannah Witte is used to her parents taking care of things for her — and the census was no different.
“My parents filled it out for me,” Witte said.
CU senior Nora Keane said the census was not a high priority, and like many off-campus students, didn’t fill out her survey.
“I just didn’t feel the need to,” Keane said.