KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A new report from a local research organization shows that Kalamazoo Public Schools is outperforming similar school districts when it comes to college enrollment.

The recent study from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research pits KPS against 29 similarly-sized urban school districts across the state, including districts in Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Muskegon, Niles and Benton Harbor.

“Many of Kalamazoo Public Schools are relatively low-income, and that means that we’re not really comparing apples to apples if we compared KPS to the state,” explained Brad Hershbein, who authored the report.

Within six months of graduating high school, the study says KPS graduates were more likely to enroll in college, at 53%, than their counterparts in similar urban districts, at 44%.

Hershbein says the Kalamazoo Promise is a key reason for that, but he also says such programs can be a driving force for declining enrollment across the board.

“A lot of students, particularly recently, may have been thinking, ‘I can go get a job right now, make some money, provide for my family,'” he said. “That’s very tempting and thinking that, ‘Okay, I’ll do that for a few years and then I can go back, because the (Kalamazoo) Promise will still be good.'”

While college-going rates for KPS graduates outpaced similar urban districts across most demographics, this was not the case for Black women. With 36% of Black women enrolling in college, KPS’ rate was lower than the rate of the similar group, at 40%, and the state overall, at 42%.

“We think that that’s probably tied to the same sort of considerations — that in many cases, there’s a very strong pull to try and get a job and provide for their family and hold that down, thinking that they may be able to go back to college later on,” Hershbein explained. “But we think there needs to be a little bit more consideration, investigation about the particular challenges facing Black women, particularly in Kalamazoo Public Schools for the Promise.”

Susan Coney, KPS’s executive director of communications and marketing, released the following statement:

The district is pleased that its rate of college-going students compares so favorably to the rates for similarly sized urban school districts in the state. KPS proudly works to prepare students for the challenges of obtaining a post-secondary credential. The district not only gives students the academic skills they need, it also provides students with career exploration opportunities that encourage them to think about and plan for their future goals. 

KPS remains committed to working with The Kalamazoo Promise to look for new ways to prepare and motivate all students to successfully tackle the post-secondary educational opportunities available to them through the generosity of the Promise donors.

Although we are happy that the district is making progress, we still have a lot of work to do. We won’t be satisfied until all of our graduates reach their fullest potential after graduation.”

A statement made by Susan Coney, KPS’s Executive Director of Communications and Marketing

You can read the full report here.