Less than half of Isla Vista residents have responded to the 2020 Census as of May 26, and with many college students waiting out the coronavirus pandemic in their hometowns, the beachside college community is struggling to increase its response rates.
Isla Vista’s average response rate is under 50%, below the national response rate of about 60% and Santa Barbara County’s overall self-response rate of about 64%, according to the United States Census 2020 website. I.V. is divided into three census tracts, which are subdivisions in each county used in the counting process; I.V.’s three tracts divide the unincorporated district into strips perpendicular to the ocean.
“Isla Vista has been designated a hard-to-count community. This was before the pandemic,” Spencer Brandt, president of the Isla Vista Community Services District (I.V. CSD), said.
Brandt said I.V.’s young population already made gathering census responses in the community challenging. With the pandemic forcing social distancing regulations and the retreat of Santa Barbara Community College and UC Santa Barbara students, educating I.V. residents and conducting typical census outreach has been complicated. If response rates remain low, the community risks losing crucial funding, Brandt said.
“Whether or not people are counted in our community will affect a ton of different government and education-related programs for funding and how much funding Isla Vista and the UCSB area receives,” Brandt said.
The results of the census affect a decade’s worth of congressional representation and federal funding in communities, which could go toward projects ranging from infrastructure and highways to school lunches and special education, according to the 2020 Census website.
Normal deadlines and operations in the census project have been extended due to complications from the coronavirus pandemic, and the I.V. CSD is looking for volunteers to start calling households as part of the next phase of the census tracking, according to the I.V. CSD website.
At a similar point in the 2010 U.S. Census, I.V.’s response rate was about 60%, according to the I.V. CSD website. None of the three census tracts in Isla Vista have reached 50% as of May 26, and an “undercount of this magnitude would severely negatively impact Isla Vista’s funding until the year 2030,” according to the I.V. CSD website.
”We’re gonna employ every effort that we possibly can to try to get the word out to people,” Brandt said. “The biggest thing that residents can do if they’re concerned about the population is … spread the word to still get counted in Isla Vista [and] don’t get counted at your parents house.”
Despite students’ return to their hometowns, the U.S. Census Bureau said students should respond as if they were at their normal place of residence in I.V. Students normally living in on-campus housing are automatically counted in the census through the university.