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Accurately counting over 300 million people in the U.S. Census every 10 years is no small feat — but Penn students and staff are doing their part to make Penn’s count as seamless as possible.

The census counts each individual based on where they are living or sleeping “most of the time” as of April 1, according to Monica Davis, the Census Bureau’s spokeswoman in the region. For college students, she said, this means at Penn — not parents’ homes.

In the past, confusion over where to count college students has led to many students being counted twice or not at all.

Glenn Bryan, the Assistant Vice President for Community Relations and the head of Penn’s census efforts, said the University is actively reaching out to parents to let them know they should leave their college students off of their home census forms.

Bryan and Wharton and College junior Rohan Grover, the president of Penn’s Asian Pacific Student Coalition, stressed the importance of making sure Penn students are accurately counted in Philadelphia.

“It’s really important for students to be counted in the right place so that Penn and Philadelphia can get the funding they deserve,” Grover said.

Census data is used to determine how $400 billion in federal funds is distributed across the country, according to the Census Bureau’s web site, and will be used to determine the need for Congressional redistricting across the country.

“I hope that people saw from the 2008 election that one vote can make a really big difference,” Davis said. “So too can one person make a really big difference in the 2010 Census.”

At Penn, students will be counted in one of two ways, Bryan said.

Students who live off-campus will receive census forms in the mail in mid-March just like households across the country. They must fill out the forms and return them by April 1.

Students living in on-campus or Penn-owned housing will receive their forms directly from the University in late March or early April that will be due in May, Grover said.

Members of the APSC are heading the efforts to increase student awareness about the census, Grover said, and are working with other student organizations to get the word out and help more people get involved.

Last week, the APSC met with representatives from the Census Bureau as well as University offices, including the College Houses and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, to discuss logistics for Penn’s campus.

Grover said the meeting was “really productive,” and that it is important for all parts of the University to “be on the same page” in regards to census efforts.

Students who are studying abroad this semester will not be counted in the census, Davis said.

Penn President Amy Gutmann said the University — especially the Office of Government and Community Affairs — is working “very closely” with the Census Bureau on the issue.

Both Bryan and Davis stressed that while both Penn and the Census Bureau will do everything possible, ensuring an accurate count can only be done if students join the dialogue and make sure they are informed about how to be counted.

“A lot of students might just assume, ‘My parents are going to count me,’” Davis said. “It’s better if they have a conversation about it.”

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