Johnson said one big problem with counting college students is timing. The census forms are mailed in March and April, which means they can arrive while students are distracted by spring break or final exams.

The free census screwdriver sets are being handed out at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, but it’s not the only gambit. John Petersen, the city’s community development director, plans other giveaways and repeated eMail blasts.

“Some might think it’s overkill, but we’re doing enough that hopefully they will get sick and tired of it and just fill it out and send it in,” Petersen said.

Texas is already looking at picking up three House seats, but a thorough count of college students and illegal immigrants could get it to four, state Demographer Karl Eschbach said.

At the University of Texas at Arlington, residence hall staff will chase 4,500 residents who live in campus dorms to fill out their forms. But public-relations students are helping, too, as part of a national contest to promote the census sponsored by the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

Besides the “Real World” web parody, the Arlington team is passing out candy bars and other snacks with census information printed on the labels. They also plan a contest where students will race each other to fill out giant forms mounted on easels to drive home the idea that it should take less than 10 minutes.

“Maybe they would see it’s not that difficult,” said Kathelin Buxton, a senior who is part of the effort at Arlington.

At Kent State University in Ohio, Rachel Polchek, 21, and her PRSSA team plan to hit the off-campus bars at the end of February for their census campaign. They intend to stamp the address of their Facebook page, 2010 U.S. Census-Kent State University, on the hands of revelers at Kent’s Cabin Fever weekend.

“When they wake up, they’ll see it,” she said.

Links:

US Census Bureau, counting students

University of Texas-Arlington, Public Relations Student Society of America site

University of California, Berkeley census site


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