The United States Census is more than just a headcount.

The decennial event helps set political boundaries and determines funding for local government functions like police and fire services.

It’s especially vital for communities like Pullman, Vancouver, Spokane, Tri-Cities and Everett, which provide robust public services for their college student populations.

“It takes 10 minutes to answer 10 questions that will shape investments in our communities for the next 10 years,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “I encourage all members of the Cougar community to participate — billions of dollars in federal funding for local public services is determined by census data.”

Officials from across the WSU systems are working to educate their communities about the importance of the census, and provide up to date information in the face of the outbreak of COVID-19.

Being counted is a simple process, made simpler this year with the introduction of an online portal that is available for all U.S. households.

Even if WSU students are home on census day, April 1, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time. Students who live in apartments should coordinate with their roommates and select one person to complete the census questionnaire for the entire apartment.

Historically, college students have been undercounted, which has a significant impact on communities that support colleges and universities like WSU.

Undercounts have the greatest impact on students from diverse socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds, as well as first-generation students. City and university officials are working to reduce undercounting this year by reaching out to the diverse student population to ensure they know that the census is taking place and educating audiences on how to participate.

WSU students are also getting involved in outreach efforts: The Cougs for Census Team conducted a campaign to increase awareness as part of a nationwide competition.

Students should contact their parent or guardian to ensure they aren’t being double counted. Residence hall counts will be submitted to the Office of the Census by the university as part of the group quarters process. Students living in apartments or in fraternity or sorority houses should coordinate to ensure one resident fills out the Census form.

International students should be counted in the U.S. Census so long as they are living in the country on April 1. Students without a permanent place to live should be counted in whatever household they are staying as of April 1. Outreach is being done in places like homeless campus, soup kitchens and food pantries.

Seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are shuffled as needed based on Census figures, with state and local officials redrawing congressional, state and local boundaries to ensure voting power is maintained. Accurate population numbers ensure localities receive federal funding for health, education, housing and infrastructure programs. This data is also used by officials to plan for things like new hospitals and roads, and to prepare emergency response plans in the event of a disaster.

This month, households will begin receiving official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census. WSU is also distributing files and information regarding specific groups and their responsibilities in the coming weeks.

For more information, visit 2020census.gov.