‘It can impact student life’: U.S. Census is more important than it may seem, Mayor Reddi says

Bluemont Hill, commonly known as Manhattan Hill, boasts a beautiful view of Manhattan. Visitors can drive to the going north on Juliet. (Archive Photo | Collegian Media Group)

With the United States census concluding its count soon, Manhattan Mayor Usha Reddi has concerns about everyone getting counted.

Even though the U.S. Census has a 99.8 percent total response rate for Kansas so far, Reddi still wants to see it be more accurate.

“We need to make sure everyone is counted appropriately,” she said.

An email statement from the U.S. Census Bureau said an inaccurate account can have negative effects on a local community.

The department says that residents who don’t respond lose their voice for “money and power brought into their communities” for public projects — parks, roads and other infrastructural needs.

“Census data are used every day to solve problems around you,” the statement said.

Reddi mainly just wants everyone to understand the importance of filling out the census – especially college students. For those students who don’t know what the census does, she wants to make sure they learn.

Reddi echoed the Census Bureau’s statement, adding more to the effects for students in particular.

“It’s extremely important because we are a university town, as well as a military town,” Reddi said. “If everybody doesn’t take it and if we have and we don’t have metrics over 50,000, we may lose federal funding for school programs, roads, parks and just things to make needs meet in the community.”

Federal funding is essential for roads in particular, Reddi said, which everyone relies on.

“Everyone uses the roads that we have – whether it’s College, Denison or Manhattan [Avenue],” Reddi said. “Just your regular infrastructure needs. Right now we are working on the north campus corridor right now, expanding all of that infrastructure. We had a lot of federal funds come for those projects.”

Reddi said the census can also affect affordable housing for students off-campus by causing issues for rental spaces and the landlords who rent out those spaces, as well as elections.

“Right now we have four congressional districts, and if our population is decreasing, then we may end up with three congressional districts,” Reddi said. “It also impacts local and state elections. Basically, it matters — our representation we have — so our city can have the funding it needs to make sure we are meeting the needs of the community.”’

A poll available for 24 hours on Twitter asked participants whether or not they had counted themselves in the U.S. Census yet. Of the 92 participants, 92.4 percent said they have filled out the census and 7.6 percent said they have not.
A poll available for 24 hours on Twitter asked participants whether or not they had counted themselves in the U.S. Census yet. Of the 92 participants, 92.4 percent said they have filled out the census and 7.6 percent said they have not. (Infographic by Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

Jacob Land, senior in industrial engineering and local relations director for the Student Governing Association, said students might get confused about the census because they might not be year-round residents in Manhattan.

“I think some students think they still technically live where they came from,” Land said, “However, the census cares about where you live for the majority of the year. So for that full-time, undergraduate students that go to Manhattan, that is Manhattan.”

In the city, students account for around 30 percent of the population. With that said, if the city gives an inaccurate account, federal funding could decrease for certain projects that help make Manhattan the city it is, or can be.

“For a college town like Manhattan, whose population declines over summer break, but the majority for the year it is higher it’ll be really detrimental if students don’t understand the importance of the census,” Land said. “Manhattan needs that money to be able to provide for its citizens when students are here for the majority of the year.”

Like Reddi, Land emphasised the impact on infrastructure like City Park and roads. Though road construction may be inconvenient at times, Land reminded people that the city is able to maintain and improve roads because of government funding.

“If we don’t have the right count on people then those opportunities may go away,” Land said.

At the end of the day, both Reddi and Land just want the student body to fill out the census.

“You would be more likely to get funding and grants if you can show that need, and the only way to show that need is through the demographics that the census provides,” Reddi said. “It can impact student life quite a bit.”

Those who haven’t yet completed the census can do so online at 2020census.gov.