Essay topics: The following is part of a memorandum from the president of Humana University.
"Last year the number of students who enrolled in online degree programs offered by nearby Omni University increased by 50 percent. During the same year, Omni showed a significant decrease from prior years in expenditures for dormitory and classroom space, most likely because instruction in the online programs takes place via the Internet. In contrast, over the past three years, enrollment at Humana University has failed to grow, and the cost of maintaining buildings has increased along with our budget deficit. To address these problems, Humana University will begin immediately to create and actively promote online degree programs like those at Omni. We predict that instituting these online degree programs will help Humana both increase its total enrollment and solve its budget problems."
Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the prediction and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the prediction.
The president of Humana University wishes to increase the university’s total enrollment and solve its budget problems by introducing an online degree program, citing the fact that the expenditure for dormitory and classroom space of Omni University reduced significantly after online degree programs were provided. Although this argument seems plausible, a close scrutiny reveals its logical untenability.
First of all, the reason why expenditure for dormitory and classroom space decreased in Omni University is unknown. Presumably it is due to a reduction in the number of students who use the dormitories and classrooms. However, a causal relationship does not necessarily present between the increase of online students and the decrease of on-campus students. Perhaps less students enrolled in Omni University because its education quality has deteriorated. There are lots of possibilities and without further investigation, conclusion cannot be reached that it is resulted from the online programs.
Even if offering an online program does lead to a decline in the number of on-campus students in Omni University, there is no assurance that it would have the same effect on Humana University. Students could have different preference in these two schools. Perhaps students in Humana University prefer face-to-face lectures. Or perhaps many of the students in Humana University could not afford a computer or Internet and hence have no access to online learning programs. In this way, on-campus students in Humana University may not reduce simply because the introduction of online programs.
What’s more, even assuming on-campus students are fewer after providing the online program, this does not necessarily mean Humana University could hence cut down its budget. The president mentioned that the cost of maintaining buildings has increased, but does not state the reasons. It is possible that Humana University was established a long time ago and thus the buildings are old and maintenance and update is therefore needed. If this is the case, then it has nothing to do with the number of students. Humana University would still have to maintain its buildings.
The reasons of the budget deficit are not clear as well. It could be resulted from other expenses, for example, salaries for faculties. Therefore, the deficit would not necessarily be cut by limiting the expenditure for dormitory and classroom space. The causes of the deficit should be investigated carefully and relevant measures should be taken. The president also fails to consider that a potentially large expenses would be needed to develop an online program. Hence, offering an online program seems not suffice to solve the budget problems either way.
Finally, the president expresses his wish to increase total enrollment by introducing the online program. Without further evidence, it is hard to conclude that the online program could attract more students.
In sum, more facts would be needed to determine whether the proposal of instituting an online degree program could achieve the president’s objectives.
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