Letter to the Editor: SFA Students Should Claim Nacogdoches as Home for the Census

Nacogdoches is the proud home of Stephen F. Austin State University, the force that brings thousands of students, families and jobs to Nacogdoches. Over the years, Lumberjacks have increasingly chosen to live, work and play in the Oldest Town in Texas. As a result, we’ve experienced a steady population concurrent with university enrollment.

We often overlook the tangible impact of a growing population. We’ve watched subdivisions and apartment complexes rise and the service demands expand while welcoming new neighbors and businesses to the Pineywoods. The challenges of that growth require real dollars to preserve the high quality of life we enjoy, which is why an accurate Census count is so important and a vital civic duty. In fact, an actual count of our population is so essential the Constitution mandates it.

The census count informs the allocation of billions of federal dollars to help fund schools, roads and social programs which all impact our community every day. This includes determining how federal money is allocated for the Head Start program and grants supporting teachers and special education. It also helps secure funding for local city services, hospitals and influences future funding for PELL grants and families who need housing assistance.

If you haven’t yet participated in the census, we encourage you to take just 10 minutes to complete the simple online form at 2020Census.gov. You also can take part by phone at 844-330-2020 or by mail. Also, if you have an SFA student in your life who lived off campus, left in March and hasn’t returned, please contact this friend or family member and encourage them to call Nacogdoches home.

Due to COVID-19 leaving many of our beloved SFA students in their hometowns on the original Census date, April 1, 2020, our biggest gap is with our vast population of college students, who account for roughly 40% of our estimated population of 32,877. After constant tracking of our outreach, progress and real-time response data, we know Census tracts with dense student housing have had much lower response rates, while areas with established homeowners associations and more permanent residents exceed national response rates.

Under the Census Bureau’s residence criteria, in most cases, students living at school or off-campus on April 1, 2020 should be counted at the school’s location, even if they were temporarily living elsewhere due to COVID-19.

In order to accurately count all of our fellow Nacogdochians, if you’re a college student or know of any returning to the community in the coming weeks encourage them to follow the 3 C’s:

• Complete the census — If you live in a dorm, or live off-campus most of the time while attending school, you should complete the census according to your physical address here in Nacogdoches. Even if you are on an extended spring break in Colorado or went home to Houston and don’t have access to your mailed census invitation, you can complete the census online, by phone or by mail. (Learn more at 2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond).

• Coordinate with roommates — If you live off-campus with roommates, coordinate with them to ensure that one roommate completes the census for everyone at that address.

• Communicate with families — Talk with your family to ensure you are counted at the off-campus address where you live most of the time.

In short, a complete count helps us care for our community and our neighbors. In the U.S. census, everyone counts!

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