The newly-arrived House Democrats passed their promised package of six bills this week but received almost no attention from the network newscasts. No reporter was assigned to their alternate energy plans; none to their Medicare prescription drug revisions. The Democrats' plan to reduce interest rates on student loans was the news hook for Jerry Bowen's report on the rising cost of college tuition on CBS.
He reported on a survey conducted by UCLA that found that high prices are forcing freshmen to turn down a place at the university of their choice in favor of a less expensive secondary selection. However he used statistics deceptively to make the problem seem worse than it is: some 33% of all freshmen are not attending their first-choice college despite being accepted; 34% of those cited expense as the reason. A clearer use of the data would have been to say 11% were priced out of their first-choice college, rather than citing a higher thirtysomething percentage twice. A couple of weeks ago Bowen's colleague Sharyn Alfonsi used the same statistical sleight of hand about teenage drinking.
But even the 11% seems high: why would they apply to a college they knew they could not afford?
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