Paul Campos’ essay “The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much” aims to persuade the audience that the rise of the college tuition fees over the past thirty-five years in America has resulted not from the cuts in state appropriations but in the unprecedented growth of administrative personnel. To support his main claim, the author provides the evidence of the increased state funding and rapidly growing administrative personnel with the focus on high salaries of the university high-ranking officials.

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MAIN CLAIM: Paul Campos’ essay is persuasive because he consistently uses ethos, pathos, and logos as he establishes his credibility as an author, appeals to the emotions of the audience, supports the claims with high-quality evidence, and effectively refutes the opposing view.

For a start, Campos’ argument is strong because he masterfully applies ethoss. With regard to ethos, Campos establishes his credibility by stating his expertise as someone who earned his degree around thirty-five years ago, had to pay more than double for his resident tuition in contrast to the students in the 1960s, and owns information about current college tuition fees at the university he graduated from. Specifically, Campos writes, “For example, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan in 1980, my parents were paying more than double the resident tuition that undergraduates had been charged in 1960, again in inflation-adjusted terms” (Campos par.8). Further, he establishes his authority by citing relevant reliable authorities. In particular, he cites the researcher Sandy Baum from the Urban Institute and refers to the findings by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona (par. 3, par.13). Also, Campos demonstrates his reliability by maintaining a fairly objective and to a certain extent impartial tone and avoiding references to his own views and thoughts. For instance, Campos avoids using phrases like “I think” or “I believe” and instead makes every effort to establish the good character as well as reputation. For example, Campus uses the impersonal it-structure when expressing his opinion, which does not sound as if he imposed his view on the audience (“It is disingenuous to call a large increase in public spending a “cut”) or uses such introductory phrases as “interestingly” or “even more strikingly.”

Now, Campos enhances his argument with the effective use of pathos. Specifically, Campos appeals to the audience’s emotion, imagination, and sympathy. He correctly identifies the interests of his audience – predominantly male, middle-class/high-income, college-educated audience aged between 18 and 49, democratically inclined in politics, and moderate or liberal in ideology. In this regard, the appeal to the emotions and sympathy of the audience has been made with focus on their interests in the topic – the majority of the readers have either a college degree or even a postgraduate degree. It means they either have already gone through the college loans or are in the process of earning a degree/paying out the loans. The appeal to emotion and sympathy is achieved through making the readers feel certain emotions, namely indignation, sadness, and anger. For example, Campos uses such emotionally loaded phrases as “even more strikingly,” “would probably be met with derision,” and “what cannot be defended, however.” To appeal to sympathy, Campos provides his own experience of his parents having to pay a lot for his tuition at the University of Michigan. To relate to the audience, the author traces how much the tuition fee has risen through the years in his alma-mater and how much it is nowadays.

Further, the author makes his argument strong by appealing to the audience’s logos and focusing on rationality, reason, and logic. Campus demonstrates his use of logos as he refutes the opposing argument with reliable evidence and shows that it is unreasonable not to side with him. In particular, he writes, “What cannot be defended, however, is the claim that tuition has risen because public funding for higher education has been cut. Despite its ubiquity, this claim flies directly in the face of the facts” (Campos par. 15). Moreover, he calls his opponents’ argument “a fairy tale in the worst sense” and “almost the inverse of the truth” (Campos par. 2). In addition, Campus makes use of numerical and factual data, such as comparative statistics of the tuition fees in America thirty-five years ago and in 2014. The appeal to reason works well as Campos carefully structures his argument around the claim of the inconsistency of his opponents’ views and provides more data that evidences the opposite of what everyone has got accustomed to. The essay’s flow of thoughts is guided by the use of various transitions and linking phrases such as “then,” “in fact,” “for example,” “in other words,” “because,” “moreover,” “on the other hand,” and “despite.” Finally, the author avoids logical inconsistency. He does not deviate from the topic of his essay and always sticks to the point; he avoids hasty generalizations and overgeneralizations; he avoids oversimplifying the argument, and provides the objective assessment of the situation.

In conclusion, the author’s argument is strong because it is logically constructed, supported with reliable and relevant evidence, refutes the opposing viewpoint, and appeals to the audience’s emotions while using the correct tone. The mastery of ethos, pathos, and logos has been demonstrated through the choice of relevant vocabulary and grammar structures, the gradual unfolding of the argument, and appeal to the audience’s feelings. Given all this, the essay can be said to be highly persuasive.

  • Campos, Paul. “The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much.” The New York Times. April
    4, 2015. Web. 10 September 2016.