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 is recommending the university to initiate to promote online degree programs to increase enrollment and solve the issue of budget deficits. In reaching this recommendation, the president relied on several unstated assumptions that will need to be examined further to determine if the recommendation stands on solid ground.
Firstly, most of the president's arguments are backed up by statistics garnered from the nearby Omni University. While the two universities maybe in close proximity ('nearby' is not clearly defined), it does not necessarily mean that any trend observed in Omni University will be applicable to Humana University. Perhaps one is a privately funded school while the other is a public institution; or maybe one school is historical and prestigous whereas the other is only recently founded. There are numerous reasons that could differ the two universities in terms of student demographics, therefore rendering the trend of increased enrollment and reduced building-related expenditures seen in Omni University inapplicable to Humana University.
Furthermore, another assumption (stated in "most likely because the online instruction takes place via the internet") is that the significant decrease in is directly a consequence of offering of the online degree. Although both took place in the same year, it is still possible that the reduction in dormitory and classroom expenditures is a result of other decisons - perhaps Omni University decided to concentrate their classes and dormitories such that less space and maintenance is needed for the same number of students on campus? It was never mentioned whether those that enrolled in the online program would have been on campus if they hadn't enrolled, or if Omni University simply expanded their enrollment capacity to accommodate the new program. If the assumption that the offering of the online programs is responsible for the decrease in building turn out unwarranted, then the recommendation of offering online programs to address budget deficit no longer stands, as it likely won't have the positive impact on finance as the president envisioned.
Even if the above assumption is true and the outcomes of Omni University is truly predictive of those of Humana University, yet another assumption is that the reduced cost in building expenditure will be able to compensate the budget deficit Humana University is currently facing. The extent of the deficit and projected savings in building expenditures were never discussed. Potentially the deficit Humana University is facing is so large compared to any savings possible from reducing dormitories and classrooms that it is like trying to put out a forest fire with a cup of water. If that is the case, more fundamental changes should be considered to the operations of Humana University and whether to offer online programs probably won't be the most urgent on the agenda.
While the example from Omni University certainly make offering new online programs a worthwhile investment, there are many disjunctions in the recommendation for Humana University to follow suite. The assumptions along the way must be carefully examined before deciding if it's a good idea to adopt the president's recommendation.
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