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The following appeared in a letter to prospective students from the admissions
office at Plateau College.
“Every person who earned an advanced degree in science or engineering from
Olympus University last year received numerous offers of excellent jobs. Typically,
many of the Plateau College graduates who want to pursue an advanced degree
have gone on to Olympus. Therefore, enrolling as an undergraduate at Plateau
College is a wise choice for students who wish to ensure success in their careers.”
Discuss how well reasoned . . . etc.
In this letter the Plateau College admissions office advises students wishing to ensure success in their careers to enroll at Plateau. In
support of this advice the admissions office argues that many Plateau graduates have pursued advanced degrees at Olympus University,
and that all students who earned advanced degrees in science or engineering from Olympus received numerous offers of excellent jobs.
This argument is unconvincing for several reasons.
To begin with, the argument depends upon the assumption that the Plateau graduates who have pursued advanced degrees at Olympus
University did so in science or engineering. Given this it is reasonable to conclude that for these students enrolling at Plateau was a wise
choice. However, for students majoring in disciplines other than science or engineering it is inconclusive whether enrolling at Plateau is a
good idea or not. For example, it may be the case that for students majoring in philosophy, English, or history, Plateau is a poor choice
because it has a mediocre program in these areas or because few of its graduates in these disciplines are admitted to Olympus.
Next, the author has failed to indicate how many Plateau graduates who pursued advanced degrees at Olympus actually received them.
This information is critical to determining whether Plateau is a wise choice for students planning to attend Olympus. For example, if it
turns out that only a small fraction of Plateau graduates who attend Olympus earn advanced degrees, the advice to attend Plateau
would be highly dubious.
Finally, the fact that all students who earned advanced degrees in science or engineering from Olympus University last year received
numerous offers of excellent jobs is insufficient to warrant the claim that this pattern will continue in the future. Lacking evidence to the
contrary, it may be the case that this phenomenon was unique, and was the result of factors other than the fact that these students
attended Olympus; for example perhaps a major employer moved into the area or the overall economy was unusually healthy.
In sum, the reasons for enrolling at Plateau offered by the admissions office are inconclusive. To strengthen the argument it would be
necessary to show that Plateau graduates in fields other than science and engineering might also benefit from attending Olympus.
Furthermore, to properly evaluate the argument, information regarding the percentage of Plateau graduates who received advanced
degrees from Olympus would be required.