Bertram Rantin

USC students encourage others to participate in census

Jason Davis and his peers were barely in middle school the last time the United States took an official inventory of its residents.

Ten years later, the University of South Carolina senior is more than aware of the need to be counted

"Most people don't realize you need to fill out the information," Davis said.

Wednesday, the English major joined hundreds of other USC students who pledged to do just that, as they took part in an on-campus campaign promoting the 2010 Census.

Carolina Census Awareness Day was put on by Carolina Counts, composed of public relations students in USC's School of Journalism. Members hope to raise awareness about the upcoming census and encourage more students to take part when forms go out in coming months.

"Most students are unaware that they are not included in their parents' households and will need to fill out the census to ensure they are counted," said Laura Brodie, a student coordinator for Carolina Counts.

Even Wednesday's rainy weather didn't dampen the group's enthusiasm, as members gathered under a tent outside the Russell House, greeting students and sharing information about the census.

Students, in turn, could ask questions and pledge to take part.

Brodie stressed the practical implications of participation, pointing to reports showing that South Carolina missed out on about $1,200 in federal assistance for every person not counted in the 2002 census.

That's money that might otherwise have funded roads, higher education, hospitals, job training centers, senior centers and emergency services, she said.

Many students were impressed by the potential impact of their participation on funding for such things as public education, Brodie said.

"When you put it that way, it's more relatable for them," she said.

A selling point of this year's census is the relatively short amount of time required to complete the 10-question survey.

Census Awareness Day is one of many ways USC students have encouraged others to get involved.

Members of Carolina Counts produced a 20-second commercial about the census that has appeared on the group's Web site, as well as Facebook, You Tube and the S.C. Census Web site.

"We want to be sure that every student and local resident gets counted this year," said Jaime Shook, another student organizer.

USC senior psychology student Dominique Dawkins said she thinks the time it takes to fill out her census form will be time well spent, adding she thinks others will have the same attitude.

"I think if it comes in the mail, they will fill it out," Dawkins said. "It's only a few minutes and not that long."