Kalamazoo Leads Michigan’s Education System

The city of Kalamazoo in southwestern Michigan may be a shining pinnacle in an otherwise economically withering state. The secret may lie within the city’s well-educated population and its incentives to support an enlightened oasis. For 25-year-olds and older in Kalamazoo, 84.2% have finished high school or higher; 32.7% have accomplished a bachelor’s degree or higher; and 14.4% can boast a graduate or professional degree.

Compare this to Detroit’s much more bleak statistics: 69.9% of 25-year-olds have graduated high school; 11% have attained a bachelor’s degree; and a petty 4.2% have acquired a graduate or professional degree. The percentage of unemployed in Detroit is 13.8%, while 12.5% are unemployed in Kalamazoo.

These numbers reflect a well-educated workforce that hasn’t had such an apparent impact from the declining industries in the area. It seems that the answer may be in Kalamazoo’s education services. The most common industries for men and women are educational services, where 13% of men and 17% of women are employed. The area also employs 4% of men and 4% of women in professional, scientific, and technical services, which may lend the city with a more developed economy. Universities such as Western Michigan University and Davenport University help diversify Kalamazoo’s employment base opposed to the historically more manufacturing dependent Michigan .

Unsurprisingly, Detroit’s leading industry for males is transportation equipment (includeing auto manufacturing) at 15% of the workforce. The share in educational services is much lower than Kalamazoo with only 4% of males and 10% of females employed in the area. Figures for professional, scientific, and technical services were not listed.

Kalamazoo also has incentive programs for students in the local school systems. The “Kalamazoo Promise” is a program funded by anonymous donors who provide scholarships for students who attend and finish high school in Kalamazoo. Scholarships can total up to 100% of the student’s college tuition. The program started in 2006 and has likely contributed to the area’s 3% growth in student enrollment. In 2008, Detroit began a similar program in hopes of replicating the small economic boom that the Kalamazoo Promise instigated.

If the city can leverage its higher education institutions and its surging base of high school students entering college, it could ultimately become a prime example of a community improving itself through education. Incentives and opportunities provide citizens with a solid and encouraging way out of a weakening economy inthe state while still providing a standard that the rest of Michigan can attempt to replicate.

For more Kalamazoo facts and figures, visit http://www.city-data.com/city/Kalamazoo-Michigan.html.