April Fool’s Day is usually a day devoted to practical jokes, but this year the date took on a new meaning. The U.S. Census Bureau declared Apr. 1, 2010 to be National Census Day to remind people to fill out and send in their census survey. Response rates for students have been unimpressive in the past. But students can change that by taking 10 minutes to complete a census form. In the past few months, the University has taken several measures in an effort to raise awareness and increase this year’s response rate. With forms now delivered to both residential halls and off-campus houses, students need to do their part.

As the Daily reported earlier this semester, many communities in Ann Arbor had an extremely low response rate to the 2000 census. To combat the low turnout, the University held a video campaign that was intended to improve understanding of the census. After viewing 13 submissions, a winner was announced last week. The shorter form of the census for students living in residence halls was delivered last week as well. If a student fails to send in their form by that date, census officials will be visiting their room to obtain the information.

Unless students have been living under a rock for the last few months, they should know that they need to fill out the census. Months of hearing and reading about the census should have informed student of its important purpose. The census determines how much funding the federal government allocates to local governments. This funding could be spent on projects like improving roads and infrastructure. And national ad campaigns in addition to University reminders have left students without the excuse that they simply didn’t know they were supposed to.

And filling out the census isn’t only a civil responsibility. It’s a legal responsibility, too. Every person in the country is required by law to complete the census. If an individual fails to complete the census, they can be fined from $100 to $5,000. And students don’t get a free pass simply because they aren’t permanent Ann Arbor residents. Everyone in the country must fill out a census where they reside most of the year — for students, that’s Ann Arbor. It’s a legal obligation to respond to the census in Ann Arbor. They shouldn’t put it off.

The U.S. Census Bureau is also using a shorter version of the form than it has in years past. With only 10 questions on the form — and even fewer for those living in residence halls — there is no excuse for not filling it out. The Census Bureau has made the census quick and painless. Now students need to do their part to make sure this important and simple task is completed.

Filling out a census is an easy way to help Ann Arbor — and it’s students’ responsibility to do it. So break out a blue or black pen and take 10 short minutes to fill out the census form.

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