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The following appeared in a letter from a staff member in the office of
admissions at Argent University.
“The most recent nationwide surveys show that undergraduates choose their major
field primarily based on their perception of job prospects in that field. At our
university, economics is now the most popular major, so students must perceive this
field as having the best job prospects. Therefore, we can increase our enrollment if
we focus our advertising and recruiting on publicizing the accomplishments of our
best-known economics professors and the success of our economics graduates in
Discuss how well reasoned . . . etc.
As a means of increasing enrollment at Argent University, the office of admissions recommends publicizing the accomplishments of its
Economics professors and the success of its Economics graduates in finding jobs. This recommendation is questionable for a number of
First, the author assumes that students will continue to perceive Economics favorably as a source of employment. This assumption,
however, is not supported in the argument. The fact that Economics is currently the most popular major at Argent establishes only that
Economics was perceived by current students as the occupation having the best job prospects when they enrolled; it does not establish
that incoming students will perceive this field in the same way.
Second, since the argument relies entirely upon nationwide surveys that establish a relation between student perception of job prospects
and choice of major, information about the manner in which these surveys were conducted would be necessary to properly evaluate the
conclusion. Specifically, it would be necessary to show that the students who participated in the surveys were representative of students
in general and that a sufficient number were included in the surveys to warrant the claim that choice of major is dictated by student
perception of prospective employment. Without knowing how the surveys were conducted, it is impossible to determine whether they are
reliable, and consequently whether the conclusion based on them is sound.
Finally, even if we accept the survey results it might be the case that Economics is the most popular major at Argent for reasons other
than students’ perception of job prospects. For example, perhaps Economics is favored because it receives more funding and can offer
a wider range of courses than other majors, or because more scholarships are available to Economics majors than to others.
In sum, the plan to increase enrollment at Argent is seriously flawed. To strengthen the proposal it would be necessary to show that
Economics is currently viewed by students as having the best job prospects. Additionally, information validating the reliability of the
survey as well as evidence that Argent’s students chose Economics because of the job prospects would be required.