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Grant-Funded Effort Established to Promote Student Participation In 2020 Census

Caitin St. Clair

A collaborative effort to support the city of Big Rapids and neighboring communities is underway, with a second-year Ferris State University student actively developing a marketing and outreach plan, ahead of the 2020 U.S. census.

Career and Volunteer Services Coordinator Michele Albright, in Ferris’ Center for Leadership, Activities and Career Services, said Caitlin St. clair, of Petoskey, a Social Work student minoring in Legal Studies, is the student advocate. An $8,000 grant from the Fremont Area Foundation will fund marketing materials and informational activities for the campaign, and provide support for St. clair’s position.

Albright said presenting an accurate and representative count of all Ferris students on campus and those who live in the greater Big Rapids area, along with any spouses or family members in their homes, is important to the university and area governments.

“In a review of 2010 data, it was estimated that 7,000 students in the Big Rapids area were not included in local census figures,” Albright said. “Each uncounted person means a loss of $18,000 over the next 10 years in potential federal funding for government operations, student loans, and research grants, and impacts appropriations for K-12 schools, along with regional health and social service programs. That represents $126 million that could have come into the region but did not. In our successful grant application, we made it clear that the area cannot afford to miss out on available resources, so assuring an accurate report is a focal point for our outreach and education efforts, leading up to the 2020 census.”

Albright said the partners collaborating with St. clair and their office to promote participation in the 2020 census include the city of Big Rapids and its Neighborhood Services Office, the zoning departments of surrounding township governments and the Big Rapids Property Owners Association. University-based support has come from the Office of Community Engagement, Political Engagement Project, Office of Multicultural Student Services and the Hispanic/Latino Cultural Center.

“Whether a student is from Michigan, from out-of-state or another country, they are supposed to be counted where they reside on Wednesday, April 1,” Albright said. “We will work alongside Census 2020 recruiters to assure that enumerators are active on campus and throughout the community. There is a forum scheduled for Ferris faculty and administrators Thursday, Oct. 31 at 11 a.m. in Room 203 of the University Center building, and another session for the entire community Thursday, Nov. 21.”

Albright said another aspect of St. clair’s activity is to make Ferris students aware of the employment opportunities census enumerators enjoy.

“The positions pay $14 an hour, with flexible schedules available,” Albright said. “These workers will be important to the success we seek in this campaign.”

Albright also welcomes emails from those interested in partnering with CLACS in the education and outreach campaign, or those students who are interested in working as census enumerators.