GMAT : Analysis of An Argument
35. 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 enrolments 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 library facilities.
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion.
The financial-planning office at Fern Valley University concludes that it is necessary to initiate a fundraising 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 enrolments 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.
Secondly, the proposal unfairly assumes that the recent enrolment 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 unfavourable 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 enrolment 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.