Public Relations campaign promotes 2020 census in Oshkosh

Lydia Westedt, News Writer

From the presidential election to the Tokyo Summer Olympics, 2020 is slated to be an exciting year. The 2020 census gives the community one more thing to look forward to.

For communities like Oshkosh, the census is more than just a head count for the government. This year, people in Oshkosh will be given the opportunity to strengthen the community by counting themselves in the census.

There’s power in numbers. The federal government uses census data to allocate about $675 billion to communities in the United States, according to

This funding is used to support over 100 community programs, such as health clinics, educational programs, road repairs and much more.

Courtesy of Alexis Ratliff
UWO students are competing in a nation-wide public relations competition to promote the 2020 Census. Local businesses, such as Polito’s Pizza are sponsoring the campaign.

Jeffery Nau, associate planner for the City of Oshkosh, said there are many beneficial reasons to count yourself in the 2020 census.

“Census data is used partially to determine how much funding is distributed to schools and universities and other related support programs,” he said.

“An accurate count of college students is crucial to ensure the state, county and city receives its fair share of approximately $675 billion in federal funding,” Nau said. “The data is used to analyze population make-up and trends to determine if building a new office, restaurant, factory, etc., will be an economically viable fit in the community.”

Historically, Oshkosh has had an excellent census response rate, Nau said. In 2000, Oshkosh had an 86% response rate, and in 2010, an 85% response rate. Both are well above the national average of 74%, according to Nau.

“The citizens of Oshkosh should be proud of their participation and I hope this tradition continues in 2020 and beyond,” Nau said.

With the rising cost of college tuition, school budget cuts and increasing student debt, Nau said students should be encouraged to participate in the census.

“Census data is used partially to determine how much funding is distributed to schools and universities and other related support programs,” Nau said.

According to, children under the age of 5, racial and ethnic minorities, low income individuals and those who entered the country without authorization are historically underrepresented in the census. Among these hard-to-count populations are people living in nontraditional housing. This includes college students.

“College students are one of the harder-to-reach groups of people to count because of the confusion of where they should be counted from,” Nau said. “College students should be counted from where they reside on April 1, 2020. This means for most UWO students living on or off campus should be counted at their college residence. Parents or guardians should only count their children in college if they live at home full-time during the school year.”

On Feb. 10, a student-run campaign for the census launched on the UW Oshkosh campus and surrounding community. The campaign, called “20/20 Oshkosh: Count Osh In,” is intended to bring about census awareness and increase participation.

The team running the campaign is made up of four UW Oshkosh public relations students. Last semester, Haley Reeson, Alexis Ratliff, Morgaine Prather and Lydia Westedt were selected for the competition and began planning the campaign for the U.S. Census Bureau.

The nationwide competition, called Bateman, is organized by the Public Relations Student Society of America and is intended to give students the chance to challenge themselves with real-world campaign experience.

Since last week, the team has been visiting various classrooms around UW Oshkosh to spread the word about the 2020 census through interactive presentations with prize incentives for the participants.

A number of local businesses, including Polito’s Pizza, Pilora’s Cafe, Mahoney’s and Becket’s have partnered with the campaign to provide prizes and sponsorships.

More information on the campaign can be found at