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A fairly recent study publicized through Korea Daily and New America Media makes an interesting finding: almost one in two Korean American students in Ivy League and top-tier universities drop out.

A rather oblique way to defy the model minority stereotype, this figure is a contrast to the 25 and 21 percent of Chinese and Indian Americans, respectively, that drop out. The author Samuel Kim of this doctoral dissertation points toward parental pressures as cause for this high dropout rate. Hmm.


  1. Anonymous said...

    As a Korean-American with three degrees from Ivy League universities (college, doctorate, and professional), I can assure you that Mr. Kim’s claims are completely bogus. In my experience, the undergraduate retention rates at top schools like Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton are typically in the 95-99% range (If you don’t believe me, check any of the college guides at your local bookstore). The Korean-Americans that I knew more often than not excelled in college and graduated with honors. Many went onto top graduate and professional schools and successful careers. In fact, among the 30 or so Korean or Korean-American undergraduates in my Harvard College class, I do not recall a single one who dropped out.

    Mr. Kim’s dissertation is not publicly available for scrutiny but there are already some glaring inconsistencies. For example, how do you reconcile the 95+% retention rates that we know exist at Ivy League schools and the astonishingly high 34% general dropout rate for Americans (and 44% for Koreans or Korean-Americans) Mr. Kim cites in his dissertation? One explanation is that Mr. Kim is very likely not just looking at undergraduates but all degree programs. This might be legitimate, so long as he does not suppress that information, but he cannot use the graduate or professional school dropout data to make sweeping generalizations about undergraduates. Students enrolled in graduate degree programs drop out at higher rates, often for reasons that have nothing to do with academics. Another explanation is that Mr. Kim is using certain state schools, which are known to have very high dropout rates, to make conclusions about Ivy League schools. For example, U.C. Davis and U.C. Berkeley, schools known for a very high percentage of Korean and Korean-American student populations, had 1658 dropouts (general population, not just Koreans) between the two of them. At the same time, all of the eight Ivy League schools combined plus Stanford, Duke, Georgetown, and Amherst, had only 1087 dropouts. Mr. Kim’s dissertation is first and foremost a study of the U.C. Davis, a decent school but certainly not a top school, and yet he falsely implies that his data apply to the most elite U.S. universities. I find it rather astonishing that he was able to defend this dissertation successfully. I will not speculate on his motives, but can only say that he has done a serious disservice to his fellow Korean-Americans and Koreans, and to the public at large.  

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