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College town holds raffle to woo students to participate in census

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March 31, 2000
Web posted at: 9:46 p.m. EST (0246 GMT)

MOUNT PLEASANT, Michigan (CNN) -- This college town in central Michigan is determined not to lose out on government funding due to undercounting the student population on Census Day on Saturday.

The city, home of Central Michigan University, says it has lost about $5 million in state and federal funds during the past 10 years because it missed counting about 2,000 students in the 1990 Census.

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The students either did not know how to fill out the census questionnaire, forgot or were simply not interested, city officials said.

To counter that, Mount Pleasant officials have been running an aggressive advertising campaign and holding a raffle to lure the students to fill out the census forms. By turning in a completed form, students become eligible for the prize of $2,000.

Officials hope to cut the losses in government funding by about $3 million if they can persuade more students to participate in the 2000 Census.

Obtaining accurate estimates of university students is a high-stakes endeavor for states and cities across the country. College towns such as Mount Pleasant, for example, depend heavily on government money for road repairs, park improvements and other municipal projects.

On a state level, millions of dollars worth of federal funding is at stake just from the number of college students.

Leading up to this year's census has been an extensive campaign by federal, state and local government officials to persuade the public to fill out and send in census forms. In addition to college students, groups targeted to participate in the census include children and minorities.

In the 1990 Census, officials were able to determine a fairly accurate estimate of college students in states by asking colleges for enrollment figures.

But the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that form of statistical sampling was illegal, and students must now be counted individually.

Census Bureau officials admit it is a challenge for college towns across the country to convince the students to participate in the census.

Mount Pleasant's population in the 1990 Census was about 24,000, a figure that includes about 13,000 students.

CNN's Ed Garsten contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, Michigan
U.S. Census Bureau
  • Census 2000
Census Monitoring Board

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