2020 Census Resources

Public and private nonprofit colleges and universities in Minnesota are eligible for mini-grants to support a complete 2020 Census count.

These are first-come, first-served, noncompetitive mini-grants made possible by the state legislature. Each grant provides $750 plus a $250 voucher for We Count Minnesota census gear (buttons, stickers, etc). Participating campuses will need to form a campus Complete Count Committee in order to receive the funds. This is intended to be a simple process requiring a letter from a campus administrator.

If your university is spread over various campuses, you can create a committee per campus. At present there are funds for 400 committees of all kinds across the state, and the funds will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis, but they are not competitive. All you have to do is fill out the paperwork and you will be eligible.

The letter asks for an action plan. You can create a plan or copy and paste any census action plans that you may have already developed earlier, such as through the summer Higher Education 2020 Census Planning Institute. 

Step 1: Submit a Complete Count Committee (CCC) Formation Letter

Step 2: Apply for the Minigrant via the Minneapolis Foundation 


College students are at heightened risk of going uncounted for a number of reasons. For one, being a renter is the number one risk factor for going uncounted.  This matters because the census determines how much money each state gets for programs that matter to students like Pell grants, school lunches, special education, contracts for small businesses, and Medicaid. It also determines how many congress members each state has.

  • Counting for Dollars 2020: This document from the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy provides a detailed list of the programs which receive funding based on census counts, including how much money comes to Minnesota for each program. (See the Minnesota report here. Find other state’s reports here.)
  • Census 2020 in Minnesota: This set of slides from the Minnesota State Demographic Center provides more information about how the census works and its implications for Minnesota. (See the slides here.) 
  • Mapping Historically Undercounted Communities: This interactive map allows users to search for and identify census tracts in their area that have been historically undercounted. It’s a project of CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center. (See map here.)
  • Issue: Distrust
    • Prepare students as liaisons to their own hard-to-count communities
  • Issue: People want training
    • Develop resources on how the census works
  • Issue: Off-campus students
    • Develop campus systems and awareness-raising for these groups

Census Basics

    • The census takes place starting April 1, 2020 and is based on the address where someone is living/staying on that specific day.
    • Student highlight: It is NOT based on your “permanent address” or who might claim you as a dependent on their taxes.
    • Students who live on campus in residence halls will have their census information completed for them by their college or university. Everyone else must complete one census form on their own for all the people living at their address.
      • The U.S. Department of Education has released this guidance regarding FERPA, student data privacy, and what information colleges & universities can share directly with the Census Bureau. The Department of Education is now (as of 2.3.20) advising that sex, race and ethnicity can be provided to the Census Bureau if records are de-identified.
    • First, people will be asked to complete an online or phone census form. Those who don’t respond will receive a paper form in the mail. Census enumerators, people from your area who are being employed by the Census, will come to the doors of those who don’t complete the paper form.
    • Some census tracts will receive paper census forms, due to reduced internet access. Find out which communities will receive paper census forms here. 
    • Confidentiality: By law, your responses cannot be used against you by
      any government agency or court in any way. Read more from the US Census Bureau about Census confidentiality here. 

There are many factors that may lead to an undercount in the Census:

  • Citizenship status question – The U.S. Supreme Court decided on June 27, 2019 that a citizenship status question WILL NOT be included on the 2020 Census. 
  • Many people face barriers to participation, such as people experiencing homelessness, and those speaking languages that the Census online form will not be translated into, such as Hmong, Oromo, and Somali. (Note: Videos and printed materials will also be made available in 59 total languages. Many local community centers, libraries, schools, and nonprofits are also offering other census resources.)
  • Despite the fact that the citizenship question will not be included on the 2020 Census, some communities have uncertainty about whether their other Census data could be used against them.

Addressing Fear and Mistrust:

    • It’s illegal for anyone but the Census Bureau to use your information or share your personal census responses.  2020 Census and Confidentiality Overview
      • Title 13 of U.S. Code states that it is illegal for the Census Bureau to share one’s information with another government entity – federal, state, or local – until 72 years have passed. This means that until that 72-year period expires, no one is ever identified individually in the census data. This also means that the Census Bureau would not be allowed to share an individual’s census information with a local housing authority or a federal agency like ICE.
    • Many do not feel comfortable talking to someone from Census at their door. Fortunately, you can reduce the chance of a census worker coming to your home if your household responds to the census online before enumerators begin going door-to-door.

Are you a trusted messenger? Think about communities you’re connected to: geographic, cultural, religious, campus student groups, or other communities. Are you a trusted messenger in those spaces? If the census matters to you, you may be able to help others in those communities get information about and participate in the upcoming census. On the other hand, there is so much distrust about the census that it can actually be harmful for “outsiders” to enter communities where they do not have pre-existing trusting relationship to try to help people participate in the census. Self-awareness and reflection are important first steps prior to deciding how to be helpful.

  • Work for the Census. These are part-time jobs that can be done in the evening or weekend and pay well. The Census Bureau particularly needs people with language skills and relationships in their own communities who can help achieve a complete count. Due to the low unemployment rate, the Census is working hard to fill these positions. If part-time work in your own community could be a fit for you, consider applying. (More information here.) 
  • Talk to friends, family, and neighbors about the 2020 Census. A lot of people just don’t know the Census is coming, and once they understand how important it is to their communities and that others they trust think it matters, they do, too. Dialogue Guide “We all count. But will we all be counted?” — This guide helps communities explore the importance of and issues surrounding how we achieve a complete and accurate census count. It provides informational content, instructions for a simple small group dialogue, and dialogue prompts.   
  • Commit to Count Table. Set up a table on campus before the Census to provide information, have people commit to participate in the Census, and write reminder postcards to have sent to themselves.
  • Help people complete the Census form. If you’re a trusted member of a community, you could be an important helper. Libraries, schools, and other familiar and trusted community centers can be places where neighbors access computers and get help completing the Census form for their household.
  • Join a Complete Count Committee. Across the state, people are coming together to form Complete Count Committees (CCC). You can form a CCC around a physical or interest community, or connect to one that already exists. Learn about CCCs here. 
  • Contact a local library or League of Women Voters. Organizations such as libraries and local LWV chapters are organizing to support complete census counts. Find one near you and reach out to see if you can support their efforts.

Census Study: Colleges & Universities

Researchers Adrienne Falcon of Metropolitan State University, and Debby Walser-Kuntz of Carleton College, have developed an IRB-approved survey of college and university students to better understand their ideas about the United States census. The survey is being administered at schools across Minnesota. The researchers are using this information to help develop education and outreach materials for the next census. If you would like to have your students participate, please contact Adrienne Falcon at adrienne.falcon {at} metrostate(.)edu or Debby Walser-Kuntz at dwalser {at} carleton(.)edu.