Assumption. The correct answer choice is (A)
In this stimulus a university president says that the application pool has been shrinking, and that
one possible explanation is the low tuition and fees charged by the school. The president suggests
that these low charges might not reflect well on the quality of the education offered by the school,
from the perspective of visiting students and parents, when compared with more expensive schools.
The president concludes that if the school wants to increase its applicant numbers, tuition and fees
should be raised. This argument is fairly straightforward (though clearly not airtight) and can be
diagrammed as follows:
- Premise: The school’s applicant pool has been decreasing over the last few years.
Premise: One possible explanation is that the school’s low tuition and fees are
perceived, by visiting students and parents, as a reflection of lower quality.
Conclusion: In order to increase the size of the school’s applicant pool, the university
should raise its tuition and fees.
The stimulus is followed by an Assumption question, so the university president’s argument will rely
upon the correct answer choice. As with all Assumption questions, we can apply the Assumption
Negation Technique to certain answers in order to confirm that a given answer choice is correct or
incorrect. In this question, we will negate every answer choice for the purpose of clarity; on the
LSAT you would only negate those answers that you could not eliminate, or to confirm the correct
answer if you were uncertain.
Answer choice (A): This is the correct answer choice. The author’s conclusion clearly relies upon
the assumption that the excessively low tuition and fees are to blame for the school’s diminishing
pool of applicants. If these low costs are not the true culprit, then the author’s conclusion would not
make much sense.
In order to confirm that this is the correct answer, we can apply the Assumption Negation technique,
which will also further clarify the argument’s reliance on this assumption (again, the correct answer,
when negated, or taken away, will hurt the author’s argument. When we negate this answer choice,
we arrive at the following:
- The proposed explanation for the decline in applications does not apply in this case.
Clearly, when we take away the assumption provided by this answer choice, the argument fails: if the
author’s explanation is not applicable, there would be no basis for the assertion that an increase in
tuition and fees would provide a remedy for the dwindling application numbers.
Answer choice (B): The author’s conclusion does not rely on assuming that educational quality
is dependent on the amount of a school’s tuition (but rather on the perception of linking tuition
to quality in the minds of students and parents). While this choice could conceivably be used to
strengthen an argument for increased tuition and fees, it is not an assumption on which the author’s
argument relies. Again, for confirmation we can apply the Assumption Negation technique. The
negated version of this choice would be as follows:
- The quality of a university education is not dependent on the amount of tuition charged by
This negated version does not hurt the author’s argument, because the suggestion to increase tuition
and fees is based on the premise that students and parents might think this reflects poorly on the
quality of the institution (regardless of the validity of such conclusions).
Answer choice (C): This is a potentially tricky wrong answer choice; while it looks like something
the author might like to assume, it is not an assumption that is absolutely required by the author’s
The application of the Assumption Negation Technique might be particularly valuable in the
clarification of this analysis. The negated version of this answer choice is as follows:
- An increase of tuition and fees would not guarantee a larger applicant pool.
Recall that the author’s conclusion was that to increase the size of the university applicant pool, the
school needs to increase tuition and fees. The assertion that the plan would not be guaranteed to
work does not undermine the assertion that the need nonetheless exists.
Answer choice (D): The author’s conclusion is based on the idea that the diminishing number of
applications is potentially attributable to the perceptions of visiting students and parents. This does
not require the assumption that the low tuition and fees are the only possible cause. To clarify, we
can assess the negated version of this choice, as follows:
- There might be additional explanations for the university’s shrinking applicant pool.
Again, even if there are additional explanations, this does not completely undermine the assertion
that an increase in tuition and fees might help to solve the problem.
Answer choice (E): Applying the Assumption Negation Process to this choice, we get the following
- The amount the university charges for tuition has increased in recent years.
This does not undermine the author’s argument, because the suggested increases in tuition and fees
are made on the basis that overall the school charges too little.