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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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College students help propel D.C. population past 600,000

The District’s population surpassed 600,000 people for the first time in decades, according to the 2010 Census, with college students helping to bump up the population count.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 601,723 people currently live in D.C., up from the 572,059 recorded during the 2000 Census. The number is a milestone for the District, after the city faced a sharp population decline in 1950 and faced five decades of stagnant growth.

This is the first census where college students were explicitly told to fill out census forms in the city where they attend college, rather than their parents’ houses. In the past, students may have been counted twice, or sometimes not at all, as it was unclear where they should claim residency.

Counting students living and studying in the District helps give D.C. more federal funding. A student who is not counted by the census costs the District $4,656 per year in allocated funds. This annual cost adds up to $46,000 over the 10 years between census counts.

The jump in D.C.’s population may partly be attributed to the District’s seven major colleges and universities, which have grown over the past decade.

GW’s total enrollment has grown from approximately 17,000 students in 2000 to more than 20,000 students in 2010.

American University expects its enrollment to grow by approximately 3,000 students by 2020, when the next census will take place.

When census forms were distributed last year, the University made sure students were counted by working with the U.S. Census Bureau to provide the total number of students living in residence halls on the Mount Vernon and Foggy Bottom campuses.

“GW was proud to achieve a complete count in the 2010 Census, which helped the city move toward its population goals,” University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said in an e-mail.

Because of low student participation, GW ultimately filled out the census forms for students, pulling information from student records.

Included in this count are 1,270 undergraduate students who did not live in GW housing but lived in D.C., and more than 7,000 undergraduates who lived in GW housing.

Grace Kong, a partnership specialist at the U.S. Census Bureau’s Philadelphia regional office, said specialists organize efforts to promote the completion and retrieval of college students’ census forms.

“We have specialists assigned to all the universities in the Philadelphia region [to which D.C. belongs],” Kong said.

Maralee Csellar, a spokeswoman for American University, said even the students who didn’t manage to turn their census forms in were counted.

For AU’s count, Csellar said the census “worked with the Registrar’s Office to verify enrollment for any student who did not return a census form.”

In 2000, 9.1 percent of the District’s population was between the ages of 20 and 24, and almost 18 percent of the population was between the ages of 25 and 34.

The decennial count of D.C.’s undergraduate and graduate school-age population could prove to be even higher when the U.S. Census Bureau makes these numbers available in April.

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