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Saturday, May 17, 2008

TANSTAAFL on surveys

Why doesn't the FCC just put this issue to bed? Yet another appeal has been filed aksing the FCC to allow applicants to use the percentage of low-income students looking only at those that returned the free lunch form, rather than looking at the entire enrollment.

Schools are allowed to use surveys, so several seem to have taken the idea that the NSLP form can be used as a survey instrument. And as the applicant in this appeal correctly pointed out, the FCC has never expressly forbidden this, nor do the USAC rules tell applicants not to do this.

But the reason for not allowing this is obvious. If I made up an income survey, and on it said: "Please fill out this survey. All low-income families that return it will receive $100. Families that return the form but are not low income will receive nothing." Would the response be representative of the population? Of course not. Well, a low-income family that fills out the NSLP form gets a couple hundred dollars in free lunches. Families that are not low-income get bupkus.

So the FCC should just come out and say outright: "Any survey (including the NSLP form) which rewards low-income families for returning the form, but does not reward families that are not low-income, cannot be used as a survey instrument."

As my physics teacher used to say: TANSTAAFL; There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

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