For Brown University students who live off campus, participation in the 2020 U.S. Census is essential.

This year’s census is critical for Brown’s home state of Rhode Island. One of the state’s two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives is at stake — as is an Electoral College vote and the distribution of $975 billion in federal funds that support programs in education, food assistance, social services and more. For those reasons, it is essential to ensure that the 2020 Census count is as comprehensive as possible.

[On March 15, the U.S. Census Bureau issued new guidance for college students in light of novel coronavirus. Details on process and timeline adjustments due to COVID-19 are available here. Or, please see the first FAQ, below, for details.]

The Census is a snapshot of every person in the U.S. where they live on April 1, regardless of the state of a driver's license, voter registration or immigration status. While Brown will provide data for students who live on campus, students who live off campus must self-report per apartment or household to be counted. Participation by all students who live off campus — undergraduate, graduate and medical, including international students — is critical.

One of the most important considerations for students to keep in mind is that only one report can be submitted per apartment or household. For that reason, it’s essential to speak with roommates and coordinate a response before submitting the Census form. Please consider this now and urge your roommates: “Don’t count me out!”

Responding is easy and can be done online. Students living off campus should look for an official mailing from the U.S. Census between March 12 and 20 with details. Additional information is available at, and questions can be addressed to [email protected].

On March 15, the U.S. Census Bureau issued new guidance for college students in light of COVID-19: “Students living away from home at school should be counted at school, even if they are temporarily elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

For Brown students, this means that if you usually live on-campus — even if you have departed campus now due to COVID-19 — Brown will report you as living on campus.

If you typically live off-campus, even if you are away right now due to COVID-19, you should have received a mailing already with a web address and Census ID number to use to report. Please respond immediately, but be sure to coordinate with roommates to the best extent possible, as each address only gets one response. Your roommates should respond together, as a group, even if you reply online. Communicate your information to each other, and decide who will be the one person to respond.

If someone is missed, they can reply at without a Census ID by responding with the requested information. Learn more at

The 2020 Census counts every person living in the 50 states, District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. The count is mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. The U.S. has counted its population every 10 years since 1790. Each household will receive an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire — online, by phone or by mail.

Ensuring a complete count for Brown’s home state of Rhode Island is essential. The results of the 2020 Census will help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding flow into our communities every year for the next decade. That funding shapes many different aspects of life in Rhode Island — from local schools to support for families in need to programs that restore wildlife or provide housing for older people. The results also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

College students who live away from home should be counted at the on- or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time.

Any Brown student who lives off campus as of April 1 should respond — both U.S. and international students at any academic level, whether undergraduate, graduate or medical. Brown will provide data for students who live on campus in residence halls, but all others must respond directly.

The survey will ask for name, gender, date of birth, origin and race. The 2020 Census will not ask about citizenship or immigration status. And the Census Bureau will never ask you for your Social Security Number, money or donations, anything on behalf of a political party, or your bank or credit card account numbers. More information and sample questionnaires are available on the U.S. 2020 Census website.

When you respond to the census, your answers are kept anonymous. They are used only to produce statistics. The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. Under Title 13, the bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you or your home, even to law enforcement agencies. The law ensures that your private information is never published and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.

The survey still counts, though the Census Bureau strongly encourages people to answer all the questions as best they can.

Yes. International students living and attending college in the United States should be counted at the on- or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time.

U.S. college students who are living and attending college outside the United States are not counted in the census.

The Census Bureau will send a mailing to each residential unit between March 12 and 20 asking for responses online, by phone or by mail. For students living off campus, it’s essential to count everyone under your roof — friends, family members, roommates, fellow students — before submitting a response. Make sure to coordinate with other residents in your household or apartment so that no individuals are missed in the census.

The deadline for responding to the census has been extended due to COVID-19. The original deadline was July 31, 2020, which has been extended to August 14, 2020. Brown encourages all off-campus students, staff and faculty to respond as soon as possible. Brown will report all students who usually live on campus. Additional details on the process and timeline adjustments due to COVID-19 are available here.

The Census prefers one response per household. But you can self-report via the web or phone without a census ID should you be inadvertently left out of your apartment or household’s count.

Census workers will follow up with residential units that don’t respond in May, June and July.

Visit the U.S. 2020 Census website. Questions can also be addressed to [email protected].