Census seeks data from off-campus residents

Jenny Whalen

Representatives of the U.S. Census Bureau have started to knock on the doors of Allendale’s off-campus apartment complexes in an effort to encourage students who have not returned their 2010 census forms to do so immediately.

As of Wednesday, Allendale Township had a 72 percent return rate, according to the Census Take 10 Web site.

Although forms are still being counted, neighboring townships are posting return rates 10-12 percentage points higher than that of Allendale.

Pat McDonnell, a partnership specialist with the Census Bureau’s Grand Rapids office, said this disparity is largely the fault of students living in off-campus apartments either filling out their forms incorrectly or failing to return the forms altogether.

McDonnell said she and other representatives of the census will continue visiting off-campus apartment complexes throughout the month but time is running out for Grand Valley State University students to be counted in Allendale.

While May 1 is the official follow-up date, MacDonnell said this presents a problem, as many GVSU students will have vacated their Allendale residences by this date.

Jerry Alkema, Allendale Township supervisor, said it is critical students living in Allendale be counted as township residents as they represent a large part of the population.

“Funding is the biggest issue,” Alkema said. “The federal government distributes funding on a population basis. Businesses look at our demographics and we consider population when adding infrastructure such as parks, sidewalks and libraries.”

Each individual accounts for about $1,000 in federal funds. If students living in Allendale fail to report their residence in the township, Alkema said early estimates show the township would lose out on more than $10,000 in the next 10 years.

Since the 2000 census, Alkema said Allendale has had a 45 percent increase in population, largely due to the growing student body at GVSU.

As the census is only done every 10 years, Alkema said the township has been unable to secure sufficient federal funding to match this population growth.

McDonnell reminds students that while they may graduate or leave Allendale this summer, someone will return in their place at the start of the new academic year, so it is important that Allendale’s census data reflect the area’s population during the fall and winter semesters.

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