The U.S. Census Bureau, however, skipped the residence halls during the 2000 count, missing most of the hundreds of students who lived there, according to city officials.
"Only one student was counted out of 1,406 students," said Joe Lee, census coordinator for the city of Berkeley.
The same mistake won't happen with this year's census, Lee said, because every missed Berkeley household is estimated to cost the city about $1,000 in federal funds. Because the 2000 miscount cost the city precious federal dollars over the last decade, city officials have been working for more than seven months with university administrators and student leaders on a plan to get every student -- of which there are about 36,000 -- counted this time.
In Berkeley and Albany, where more than 12,600 UC Berkeley students live in residence halls, co-ops or sorority or fraternity houses, the university is raffling away textbooks and other prizes to convince busy students to participate in the census.
In Oakland, administrators at Mills College plan to reach out to the school's 1,500 students next month, and administrators at Saint Mary's College in Moraga are doing the same. In Hayward, census takers will be sitting outside dorm buildings at Cal State East Bay to help the 1,300 students who live in campus housing fill out their forms. Most of the Hayward residence halls were built within the last decade, so they have never been included in the census before.
"Our students definitely need to be counted here," said Martin Castillo, housing director at Cal State East Bay. "They are part of the Hayward community for at least nine or 10 months of the year."
Census officials say many students incorrectly believe they get counted wherever their parents live.
"Nationwide, traditionally, college students have not been very good about filling out their census form," said Marty Takimoto, a marketing professor at UC Berkeley working to improve the campus count this year. "Many of the students, especially the younger ones, are under the assumption their mom and dad fills out their census form, but it's actually the place where you reside for the better part of the year (that matters in the census tally)."
For students who live in group quarters, such as a residence hall, there is a simplified form with six questions that will be distributed in April.
But campus housing is not the only challenge the Census Bureau faces. Many students live in off-campus apartments or houses where roommates are plentiful but mail gets lost in the shuffle of college life.
"These are kids who don't eat together usually," said Robert Groves, director of the Census Bureau, speaking in a teleconference earlier this month. "They see each other maybe twice a week. They kind of come and go. They need to fill out that form, and that's a real tough group to get the message out to."
Those undergraduates and graduate students number in the thousands at UC Berkeley, so getting them to pay attention to the census has been a priority for campus and city officials.
"In the 2000 census, there wasn't any institutional memory and the Census Bureau didn't have a plan," said JeNell Padilla, a UC Berkeley manager of planning and research. "In 2002, when the numbers were coming back to city government, they realized we had been undercounted. They made a commitment at that point that the next time around would be different."