Accounting for the missing: Lexington looks to represent students more accurately in 2010



By Roy York

For the 2010 census, Lexington is counting on a historically underrepresented group: the students.

Lisa Higgins-Hord, UK Assistant Vice President for Community Engagement and member of Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry’s Complete Count Committee, said students have been one of the most underrepresented groups in past censuses.

This year, UK is partnering with the city of Lexington and the U.S. Census Bureau to capture an accurate picture of the Fayette County population. In December 2009, Newberry created the 22-member committee to oversee the 2010 census in Lexington, and the group is expected to place a special emphasis on the campus community.

“We really want to count students and every underrepresented demographic in Lexington,” Higgins-Hord said.

Parents usually include students on their forms, Higgins-Hord said, but the correct procedure is for students to complete a census form in their city of residence at the time the census is taken.

For the upcoming count in the spring, Higgins-Hord said she is planning to coordinate with the UK Office of Residence Life, Student Government and the UK administration to ensure that students on and off campus are counted as Lexington residents.

The census has a bearing on the allocation of tax dollars for projects such as roads and schools, and the population counts can affect the number of seats a state has in the House of Representatives or Lexington has in the General Assembly.

Higgins-Hord said her office plans to mail a census form to every student. Further, she said several help centers staffed with trained volunteers will be available across campus where students can receive assistance filling out the paperwork.

“The new form is much shorter than the old one,” Higgins-Hord said. “It takes less than ten minutes to fill out.”

Student Government President Ryan Smith said he is supportive of getting students involved in the census process and hopes students on and off campus will view the count as an avenue to have a significant impact on the Lexington and Kentucky governments.

“I think students have been one of the most under-accounted for groups in the census,” Smith said. “But (the census) is important for national grants, tuition rates and loan rates.”

Smith said his office will be working with residence hall directors and the UK administration to publicize the census, locations of help centers and benefits of participating in the census in Lexington.

“Student participation in the census is very important,” Smith said. “Accurate counting can impact roads, school system and state representation nationally.”