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The following appeared as part of a recommendation from the financial
planning office to the administration of Fern Valley University.
“In the past few years, Fern Valley University has suffered from a decline in both
enrollments and admissions applications. The reason can be discovered from our
students, who most often cite poor teaching and inadequate library resources as
their chief sources of dissatisfaction with Fern Valley. Therefore, in order to
increase the number of students attending our university, and hence to regain our
position as the most prestigious university in the greater Fern Valley metropolitan
area, it is necessary to initiate a fund-raising campaign among the alumni that will
enable us to expand the range of subjects we teach and to increase the size of our
Discuss how well reasoned... etc.
The financial-planning office at Fern Valley University concludes that it is necessary to initiate a fund-raising campaign among alumni
that will enable the university to expand the range of subjects it offers and increase the size of its library facilities. Its argument is
based on a five-year decline in enrollments and admission applications together with the claim that students cite poor teaching and
inadequate library resources as their chief sources of dissatisfaction with Fern Valley. The conclusion of the financial-planning office is
not strongly supported by the reasons given.
To begin with, this argument depends on the assumption that providing a greater range of subjects and a larger library will alleviate the
students’ chief sources of dissatisfaction. However, the students have not complained about inadequate course offerings or about the
size of the library; their complaint is that the existing courses are poorly taught and that library resources are inadequate. Offering
more kinds of classes does not improve teaching quality, and increasing a library’s size does nothing to enhance its holdings, or
resources. Accordingly, the recommendation does not bear directly on the problem as stated.
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Secondly, the proposal unfairly assumes that the recent enrollment and application decline was caused by poor teaching and inadequate
library resources. It is equally possible that all colleges, regardless of teaching quality and library resources, have experienced similar
declines. These declines may have been due to unrelated factors, such as unfavorable economic conditions, or an increase in high-paying
computer jobs not requiring a college education.
Thirdly, the author provides no support for the claim that students are dissatisfied with the teaching and library resources at Fern
Valley. It is possible that the claim is based on hearsay or on scant anecdotal evidence. Without more information about the basis of the
claim, we cannot be sure that the financial-planning office is addressing the real problems.
In conclusion, the advice of the financial planning office is not well supported. To strengthen the argument, the planning office must
provide evidence that students are dissatisfied with the range of subjects and with the library’s size, and that this dissatisfaction is the
cause of the recent decline in enrollment and the number of admission applications. To better assess the argument as it stands, we
would need to know whether the students’ attitudes were measured in a reliable, scientific manner.