August 13, 2020

Massachusetts Congressional Delegation Asks Census Bureau to Confirm Commitment to Utilizing College and University Directory Info in Final Census Count

Text of Letter (PDF)

Boston, MA - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), along with Representatives Richard E. Neal (D-MA-01), James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA-08), William Keating (D-MA-09), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA-04), Katherine Clark (D-MA-05), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07) and Lori Trahan (D-MA-03), sent a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau requesting they commit to utilizing college and university directory information that has been provided by institutions across Massachusetts and the United States in the final Census count. 

Communities across the United States face unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and college and university students in Massachusetts are at risk of a significant undercount due to campus closures caused by the COVID-19. Earlier this year, the Census Bureau adopted the policy changes requested by the delegation, in a delegation letter led by Senator Warren, to allow colleges and universities to report on all their students - including off-campus students - using directory information, rather than relying on individual surveys. Massachusetts's college and university students have been dispersed all over the United States and the world because of COVID-19. According to Census Bureau guidance, students should be counted where they would normally reside as of April 1, 2020, even if they are temporarily in a different location due to campus closures.

"Given the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting school closures, we seek your assurance that students living both on and off campus will be counted via colleges' and universities' directory information provided to the Census Bureau," the lawmakers wrote. "We therefore urge you to reaffirm your commitment to a full and accurate enumeration of students in Massachusetts by including the directory information you receive from institutions in the Commonwealth and across the country in the final U.S. Census counts for each state."

"This step is particularly necessary now that you have announced that the Census Bureau 'will end field data collection by September 30, 2020'-four weeks earlier than expected, in a highly controversial decision that has raised concerns from many quarters," the lawmakers continued. "Especially if the Census Bureau is aiming to complete the Census enumeration so soon, we strongly urge you to use all information available to you, including directory information supplied by colleges and universities, to ensure an accurate count."

The Census Bureau's process protects student privacy by ensuring that identifying information is never disclosed and can only be used for statistical and research purposes. The process for submitting student directory information complies with the Federal Educational Records Privacy Act (FERPA).

Senator Warren has been actively engaged in ensuring a fair and accurate Census count of college and university students. In addition to leading the previous delegation letter to the Census Bureau, she also led a delegation letter urging Massachusetts college and university presidents to cooperate with the U.S. Census Bureau's recent request for directory information for off-campus students.