College towns plan to challenge results of 2020 census

2020 Census College Towns

Some college towns plan to challenge the results of the 2020 census, claiming they were shortchanged because the pandemic forced students to leave campuses and complaining that the undercount could cost them federal money and prestige.

College communities such as Bloomington, Indiana; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and State College, Pennsylvania, are exploring their options for contesting the population counts, which they say do not accurately reflect how many people live there.

When the pandemic struck the U.S. around spring break of 2020, it set off an exodus in college towns as classrooms went virtual almost overnight. The sudden departure of tens of thousands of students from these communities made it difficult to count them in the census, which began at almost the same time.

Because universities were able to provide the Census Bureau with records for students living in dorms and other on-campus housing, off-campus students "ran the risk of being missed," said Dudley Poston, a sociology professor at Texas A&M University.

An Associated Press review of 75 metro areas with the largest share of residents between 20 and 24 showed that the census results fell well below population estimate