The following appeared in a memo from the director of student housing at Buckingham College.
"To serve the housing needs of our students, Buckingham College should build a number of new dormitories. Buckingham's enrollment is growing and, based on current trends, will double over the next 50 years, thus making existing dormitory space inadequate. Moreover, the average rent for an apartment in our town has risen in recent years. Consequently, students will find it increasingly difficult to afford off-campus housing. Finally, attractive new dormitories would make prospective students more likely to enroll at Buckingham."
Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
In this memo, the author argues that Buckingham College (BC) should build more dormitories for the following reasons: BC's enrollment is rising and is expected to double in the next 50 years, rents in town will rise, and new residence halls will attract students to apply. Although the author's conclusion seems reasonable, we still need some further evidence to evaluate the author's argument.
First, although the author mentions that BC's enrollment is on the rise, we need evidence that this trend will undoubtedly continue. Specifically, we need proof to determine whether local conditions ensure that enrollment is rising, such as local birth rates, local economic development, and population growth, etc. If there is evidence that the local birth rate has increased in the past few years and this has provided BC with a large number of students, or if the local government and law have made significant efforts to develop the local economy so that foreigners continue to move in, these conditions would further ensure that the upward trend in BC's enrollment will continue, which would strengthen the author's conclusion. In addition, even if enrollment continues to rise in the future, we still need to know the vacancy rate of existing dorms. If there were evidence of significant vacancy in existing dorms, which would allow BC to accommodate future years of student growth, then new dorms would be unnecessary, and the author's conclusion would be weakened.
Second, although average rents for apartments in town have risen in recent years, we do not know the actual impact of this on student rental housing. Specifically, we need to know whether average rents will continue to rise in the future, whether rents have increased beyond the reach of students, and whether rents for apartments around the school have also risen significantly. The author's argument is weakened if there is evidence that the rise in average local rents is only a temporary phenomenon that will come down in the future, or if the rent increases are actually still within students' reach, or if they are due to rent increases in locations far from the school but not in the apartments around the school.
Third, the author also mentions that new, beautiful dorms can facilitate enrollment, but we need to know the relationship between the attractions of dorms and students' willingness to apply. Any evidence showing that students are more interested in academics, teaching ability, and job placement when choosing a school than in dorm appearance would weaken the author's conclusion. Otherwise, the conclusion would be strengthened.
Finally, even if enrollment would continue to rise, students may have difficulty paying off-campus apartment rents, and good dorms could stimulate enrollment, we need evidence to determine the necessity and feasibility of the school's option of building new dorms. For example, building dormitories would be a waste if there is evidence that there are other, better solutions to the problem of student housing, such as schools providing housing assistance to students. Beyond that, even if the school does need to solve the problem by building dormitories, we are not sure that the school has the capacity to build more dormitories. For example, the school may be short of fund or may not have more land to build new dormitories. If that were the case, the author's conclusion would be weakened. However, any evidence suggesting the opposite would strengthen the article.
To conclude, we need further proof to form a better evaluation of the argument. Only after weighing all of the evidence that serves to weaken the argument and those supporting the argument can we come to a decision about the soundness of this argument.