KEARNEY — University of Nebraska at Kearney students and alumni contribute to Kearney’s growing population.
“The general population continues to learn what a great asset UNK is to the community and region,” said Pete Kotsiopulos, vice president of the University of Nebraska Foundation for UNK. “It would be an entirely different set of circumstances were it otherwise. It always has been, and will continue to be, a two-way street in that the UNK graduates desire a progressive environment in which to live, and it’s the Kearney area’s responsibility to provide those amenities that are desirable to them.”
Census population totals for 2010 were released earlier this month. Kearney’s count was 30,787, a 12.2 percent increase from 2000 totals.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, college students are counted in the city or town in which they are attending school.
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“Historically, the highly mobile college student population living on and off campus has been hard to count — in part, because many people believe that college students are counted on their parents’ questionnaires,” said the Census on Campus webpage.
According to Doug Wayland of the U.S. Census Bureau, students were also counted in the city in which they attended school in 2000.
The Census on Campus campaign worked educate students about the census and provide information about completing their questionnaire.
Students living away from home received their own questionnaires. Those who returned their questionnaires to the U.S. Census Bureau were counted as part of Kearney’s population.
“Students at UNK are counted as residents of Kearney, whether that’s where their parents live or not, as long as they live on-campus or off-campus somewhere in Kearney,” said Michael Lundeen of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.
Fall enrollment at UNK was 6,753.
The 2010-2011 school year marked the seventh consecutive year of growth in fall enrollment on the UNK campus. Foreign students attending UNK and living in Kearney also were counted as part of the city’s population.
There are 500 international students enrolled at UNK, according to UNK International Outreach Coordinator Bonnie Payne.
Data from the Census Bureau on the number of people attending college is not available.
Students attending UNK are not the only people who contribute to Kearney’s growing population. Many UNK alumni remain in Kearney and start families.
“Alumni seem to be attracted to the quality of life in Kearney, which is due in large part to having UNK here,” said Lucas Dart, UNK Alumni Association associate director and UNK campaign director for the University of Nebraska Foundation.
“It’s an easy transition from being on campus to working in the community. Many grads who live other places express a desire to move back. Sometimes because it’s closer to home, but often because they see it as a great place to raise a family and experience a ‘big, little’ community. It is mainly a matter of employment opportunities or compensation,” he said.
According to the UNK Alumni Association, 4,419 UNK graduates have remained in Kearney or returned to Kearney.
“The graduates who find opportunities, or create them, will continue the tradition of keeping the Kearney area young and entrepreneurial,” Kotsiopulos said. “But like anything in life, it takes a lot of work by a lot of partnerships to make it work.”