City leaders are well aware of the economic impact students have on Tuscaloosa, and if anything needed to prove that, it was a global pandemic. Though University closures have displaced droves of students from their dorms and apartments, local officials are urging Tuscaloosa’s most transient population to make UA count.
April 1 marks National Census Day, and city and University officials are encouraging students to take this time to give back to the local community.
The census is a constitutionally mandated count of each person residing in the United States held every ten years. A press release from the city of Tuscaloosa noted that results of the census help shape the nation by ensuring fair representation and determining the distribution of about $675 billion in federal funding and grants.
The last census was held a decade ago. Then, college students were one of the largest demographics in Tuscaloosa County that didn’t participate, with 28-37% of students not submitting census data, according to the Atlanta Regional Census Center.
Over the last ten years, Alabama has experienced slower-than-average population growth, falling from 23rd in population to 24th. This makes accurate count from this year’s census a high priority for the city. The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama reports that based on the results of the census, Alabama is at risk of losing a seat in the House of Representatives, resulting in the loss of an electoral college vote for the state. Additionally, without an accurate count, Alabamians are at risk for the loss of federal funding. The 2010 census results provided over $13 billion in federal funding and grants to Alabama.
Federal funding is crucial for the city of Tuscaloosa. In 2015, roughly $1,600 in federal funding was allocated to Tuscaloosa for each person counted. With around 100,000 residents in the city, that’s about $160 million of federal funding at stake.
“Federal funding benefits all of us by assisting with our education, infrastructure, healthcare opportunities, future business growth and more,” Mayor Walt Maddox said in the release.
The Census is designed to measure where people live for the majority of the year. This includes out-of-state students, transient families, young children (including newborns) and citizens of foreign countries living in the United States. The city wants University students who have been relocated due to COVID-19 to mark Tuscaloosa, the place where they live for the majority of the time, as their residence.
“Our University is fortunate to have a large population of out-of-state students and they should be counted where they live now, as per federal law,” said Stephen Katsinas, director of the Educational Policy Center at UA and a professor of higher education in a UA News article.“So we have a tremendous role to play.”
Jim Page, president of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, told UA News that the decision of those who reside in Tuscaloosa to participate in the census in the next several weeks will determine what’s decided for the Tuscaloosa area for the next 10 years.
“Numbers matter,” Page said told UA News. “When we’re trying to reach restaurants and businesses to come here the first thing they look at is your city’s population. “It would be really, really sad if we went backwards. It would hurt our recruitment. … We have one shot to get it right.”
For the first time this year, the Census is available to complete online. It can also be completed by mail or over the phone. Residents are encouraged to learn more and complete their census today at 2020Census.gov.
“I appeal to each and every resident of Tuscaloosa to take the 10 minutes to represent yourself, your family and your community, and be counted in the 2020 census.” Maddox said in the press release. “Tuscaloosa is counting on you.”