Publication Date



Policy Paper No. 2021-025




The COVID-19 pandemic greatly reduced the college enrollment rate for students during the Fall 2020 semester. National data show that although enrollment of new students declined overall, it varied substantially by institution type and student characteristics. What national data do not reveal is how certain communities with already high college-going rates responded to the pandemic. We use data from Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) and the tuition-free program the Kalamazoo Promise to compare the immediate college enrollment of graduating high school students from the class of 2019 to that of the class of 2020. Overall, immediate college enrollment of KPS graduates declined from 74 percent to 60 percent. These declines were concentrated at two-year institutions among students who were socioeconomically disadvantaged, as well as among Black and Hispanic students. Contrary to national trends, immediate enrollment for KPS graduates at four-year institutions increased, with gains driven primarily (but not entirely) by White students. We present suggestive evidence that the Kalamazoo Promise, and policy decisions at four-year colleges, allowed some students to “trade up” from a two-year to a four-year institution.

Issue Date

April 2021


Upjohn project #58505

Subject Areas

EDUCATION; Postsecondary education; Promise scholarships




Collier, Daniel A., Isabel McMullen, and Brad J. Hershbein. 2021. "How College Enrollment Changed for Kalamazoo Promise Students Between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020." Policy Paper No. 2021-025. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.