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CNN Today

College Towns Place Special Emphasis on Census 2000

Aired March 31, 2000 - 1:58 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. government wants you to fill out your census form, but your state government and county government and city government are equally insistent -- maybe more so.

To find out why, Ed Garsten went to a Michigan town whose population basically turns over every four years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here's a challenge: how to pry college kids away from the foosball table or video game controller to fill out the census form that's been sitting on the table for weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I haven't filled out my part yet.

GARSTEN (on camera): Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I haven't got to it yet.

GARSTEN (voice-over): To convince them to get around to it, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, home of Central Michigan University is using everything from public service announcements...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fill out your census form. Make sure you count in Mount Pleasant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARSTEN: ... to raffles...

TONY KULIK, CITY PLANNER: Somebody's going to win $2,000 just because they filled in their census form.

GARSTEN: ... to campus television shows.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There has been a major effort to inform the community, particularly the students, how important Census 2000 really is.

GARSTEN (on camera): For college towns like Mount Pleasant, convincing students to fill out there census forms is more than merely an elaborate exercise in taking attendance. City officials here estimate that an undercount of 2,000 students during the 1990 census has cost Mount Pleasant some $5 million in state and federal funds over the last 10 years.

(voice-over): This time around, a change in the formula would put Mount Pleasant's loss at about $3.2 million for missing the same number of students.

KULIK: Three-point-two million will fix a lot of potholes, buy a lot of park improvements, provide a better life for the citizens here in Mount Pleasant and the students on campus.

GARSTEN: Undercounting students is a headache in college communities all across the U.S.

TERRY SATCHELL, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU: We don't have enough time to go back and do the follow-up for the non-responders because the students have left the area.

GARSTEN: The campaign at Central Michigan seems to be getting through to students like junior Adrian Elder.

ADRIAN ELDER, CMU STUDENT: I think that the students mean a lot to this town, and if you didn't count the 13,000 students that go to this school then they'd lose a ton of money for their schooling and their public building and stuff like that.

GARSTEN: City and census officials hope more students will heed the handwriting on the walk.

Ed Garsten, CNN, Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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