Korean Americans Top Graduation Rates

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The college graduation rate among Koreans in the United States is nearly double the national average, reports the Korea Times, with more than half holding a four-year degree or higher.

The findings are based on a recent study conducted by the University of Maryland's Asian American Studies Program (AAST), which found that among Korean Americans age 25 or older, 50.8 percent held a college degree, while three out of 10 had completed a master's degree or PhD program.

The figures compare to a graduation rate for Asian Americans nationwide of 65 percent in 2009, the highest among all ethnic groups and significantly higher than the national average of roughly 40 percent.

The U.S. graduation rate places it ninth among OECD nations. President Obama has set 2020 as the goal to return the United States to its former top position.

The Korean American community has grown four-fold since 1980 to approximately 1.5 million, according to the latest census data. According to AAST Director Larry Shinagawa, the study's findings reveal the "tremendous amount of diversity" within the community, with the vast majority having been born overseas while receiving some or most of their education in the U.S.

“They’re not quite second generation, but they’re not quite first generation. And that generation, by far, is some of the most accomplished Korean Americans in the Untied States,” Shinagawa said during a presentation on the study's findings earlier this month at the Korean embassy's KORUS House in Washington, D.C..

According to the study, second generation Korean Americans (those born in the U.S.) were the most likely to hold a university degree, with 70 percent reportedly having graduated from a four-year program. Out of this total, another 28 percent reported having finished a masters or PhD program.

Among 1.5 generation Korean Americans (those who arrived in the U.S. as minors), college graduates accounted for 52 percent of the total population, while first-generation immigrants (those who came to the U.S. after reaching adulthood) reported a 39 percent graduation rate.

The most popular field of study among Koreans was business, representing more than 15 percent of total degrees, followed by the fine arts at 10 percent, the social sciences at 8 percent and biotech at 6 percent. Shinagawa notes such facts contrast with the stereotypical image of Korean students being overrepresented in the sciences, a sign that they are integrating more fully into American society.