Cooper Union and the Cost of Higher Education

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Richard Perez-Peña, education reporter for The New York Times, talks about why the Cooper Union is considering charging tuition for the first time, and what that says about the cost of higher education.


Richard Perez-Peña

Comments [103]

chz from NY

Brian, please come back to this topic.
Doesn't latest development interest you in any way?
I have somewhat believed you have some personal tie to the school. If I am wrong, I'm sorry but it is strange that you left out its engineering school all together by kept saying Cooper is more of an art school, which, actually nor everyday NYer would have known. Because engineering school is the largest and most heard about by people who is happened to be aware of what Cooper does, which, many locals are not.
If there is no hidden agenda in between WNYC and Cooper, or you in person, please do fair assessment and come back to it.
I am disappointed that how little have been said in the WNYC programs and the blog.

Mar. 16 2013 09:52 AM
freecooperunion from The Cooper Union, 10003

The Cooper Union is a College for Arts and Sciences in New York City. For 110 Years The Cooper union has admitted undergraduates SOLEY on merit and has awarded FULL SCHOLARSHIPS to ALL enrolled students. HELP KEEP COOPER FREE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS!




Dec. 17 2011 11:21 PM
Kerry Carnahan from New York, NY

Brian! You're cordially invited to:
FREE COOPER UNION! A Community Summit

WHEN: Monday, December 5, 6:30 PM – 9:30 PM

WHERE: The Cooper Union Great Hall, 7 East 7th Street, between 3rd and 4th Ave

Stand up for a FREE COOPER UNION! Join your fellow alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends for a series of alumni-led presentations on the current circumstances of The Cooper Union, followed by breakout discussions on keeping Cooper wild, healthy, brilliant – and “free as air and water.”

“I trust that all the youth of our city and country, through all coming time, will realise that this Institution has been organised for their special use and improvement; and I trust that they will rally around and protect it, and make it like a city set on a hill, that cannot be hid.” -Peter Cooper, November 2, 1859.

WHO: Free to Cooper students, alumni, staff, faculty, and our friends in the general public! If you do not have a Cooper ID or an Alumni Association Card, please RSVP in advance to in order to ensure admission.

Members of the press are welcome. Please coordinate in advance at the above email.


6:30-6:40 - Welcoming Remarks/Introduction

6:40-7:00 – Affirmation of Core and Guiding Principles

7:00-7:30 – Institutional Governance

7:30-8:00 – Finances

8:00-8:20 – Get Connected, Get Involved

8:20-9:15 – Breakout Sessions: Financials and Forensic Accounting/ Institutional Structure, Governance, and Charter Issues/ Alumni Outreach/ Fundraising/ Community Engagement/ Uncategorizable Ideas/ Planning for Next Forum

9:15-9:30 – Closing

SWAG: T-shirts will be for sale! Artwork, pamphlets, and other materials will be available. All proceeds generated by T-shirt sales will go directly to the Cooper Union. Any donations will go directly towards the cost of covering security for this event, and surplus will be applied towards the cost of security for future events.


NOTE: This event is envisioned as part of a larger conversation about preserving Cooper Union’s mission to admit students solely on the basis of merit and award full scholarships to all enrolled students. Please bear in mind this is the sole topic of the evening.

“FREE COOPER UNION! A Community Summit” is not organized by the Cooper Union Alumni Association (although many involved in the event are leaders within the CUAA). It is intended to provide a public space in which to continue the conversations occurring online at these locations - all grassroots efforts by faculty, staff, concerned alumni, and most significantly and importantly, the current students:!/CooperTaskForce

Nov. 27 2011 11:05 PM
Concerned Cooper Parent

As I look back 4 years ago when we were visiting colleges in many states to help our daughter decide which college she would attend, it was very clear to her and us that Cooper Union was the place for her. However, the challenges were great as we knew the school was very selective. In addition, unlike any college in the country, Cooper gives a "Home Test" which reflects a major portion of the decision making for admissions. A true test of talent.
Also unlike any other college we visited there were no Dorms (except for the first year then your "on your own"), no student activity center, no cafeteria that serves every cuisine under the earth, no athletic facilities, pool, track ( not even a gym!), no endless list of social activities Frats or Sororities, and on and on.... This was a unique college unlike any other in the country, or the world, that focused on the educational ciriculum first and formost and the intellectual fabric of the Cooper Community. When she was accepted she was beyond ecstatic as we were but she was also accepted to other very top teir schools. They charged substantial tuitions, room and board fees which we were prepared to pay and urged her to accept but her heart pulled her to Cooper. We were concrened parents and thought that she would miss the "College experience" We now know we were clearly wrong as she has grown intellectually beyond our expectations. But what drew her to Cooper? Clearly its uniqueness and mission unlike any other college in the world. What would happen if this changed ? Indicitively, the college will be veiwed much differently and will be competing with other colleges around the country that do charge tuition.What will happen to the incredible think tank that Cooper is today? Students who cannot afford Cooper financially will look to other colleges for financial aid ....what would be the difference? Will the new Cooper have to build a new cafeteria and serve pancakes with Peter Coopers image on it to compete with the same old colleges around the counrty that charge tuition too to attract its students?
On a final note: as the Times reporter stated on the NPR program it will be diificult to accept any solutions by a "Task Force" selected by the board. To be totally transparent the task force should be populated with concerned and commited students, alumni, faculty and parents that have Peter Cooper blood running through their veins and will be dedicated to finding real solutions to maintaining the Cooper legend.
Let all think twice, three times and more about what will happen if Cooper Union changed its true mission.....

Nov. 27 2011 12:39 AM
Laura Newman from Brooklyn

It is wrong to blame the financial crisis on the lack of alumni contributions. Cooper Union’s fundraising efforts have been astonishingly amateurish. I have donated artwork many times and it is always in the context of something like Casino Night, Young Alumni, or Urban Visionaries, a silent auction amid tchotchkes, not venues that encourage high prices. Even more importantly, letters and telephone calls I received never communicated that Cooper Union really needed my money, compared to other causes like Doctors without Borders, or food banks-- particularly in the context of the visibly expensive new building and the knowledge that Cooper owns the land the Chrysler building is on-- and its rosy public financial profile. When I gave money it was out of gratitude and solidarity, not actually thinking it would make a difference.

Nov. 26 2011 05:46 PM
Julie Castelluzzo from Jersey City, NJ

I have been a librarian at the Cooper Union for almost 17 years.

Brian Lehrer should realize from all the comments that people deserve a followup on this story.

This interview / call-in show missed the mark on so many levels. 1. The Times reporter and Brian Lehrer both seemed to do no homework - could they not even mention that half of the student body studies engineering? (Then again, the Times really has egg on its face at this point after the glowing articles they published about Cooper and its former president in the last few years. We probably shouldn't expect much from the Times.) 2. The short format was completely inadequate to cover varying points of view. 3. The president was given a disproportionate amount of the airtime. 4. The explanation for the current predicament was oversimplistic at best, mostly blamed on a generally bad economic environment and inadequate donations from alumni.

There was only a hint of the internal review being undertaken by the board of trustees and the likelihood that the internal nature of that review will not satisfy people at Cooper who want an honest accounting of what put the institution in such a precarious financial situation.

If they wanted to draw meaningful parallels with more general problems in higher education today, how about discussing trends such as student debt, administrative bloat, disregard for the contributions and expertise of faculty, and the disconnect between boards, administration, and responsibility for safeguarding the most important aspect of an institution of higher education - the education part?

Julie Castelluzzo

Nov. 26 2011 04:50 PM
Free from New York, NY

The greed that has killed the philanthropy of New York is trying to kill The Cooper Union.

Nov. 25 2011 09:18 PM

Interesting that they felt they needed to give extended airtime to the official mouthpiece of the institution, AND the most visible proponent of the tuition plan, AND someone who has only been with the institution for four months...

Also interesting that although Richard Perez-Peña mentioned the lack of "a realistic alternative" to tuition, nobody thought to ask the guy on the other line where that realistic alternative is... the same guy who's getting paid $400,000 a year to come up with realistic ways to preserve the institution.

My favorite quote is from Lehrer:
"People may say it's easy for you to sit there in Drawing I, and not have to worry about how they're actually going to have to pay for this free education."
From what I understand, the Board of Trustees was entrusted with defending the Cooper Union from all the "people" who "may say" that. The School's educational philosophy was as radical in 1959 as it is today, and I'm sure people were saying the same thing then. You can argue that free education is absurd, but if you want to dismantle a philosophy that has defied that kind of thinking for over a century, you need a better argument than "easy for you to say."

You can find more detailed financial information here:
You will see that this ideal is not undergoing improvements. Perhaps with Cooper's New Academic Building the school is upgrading its facilities, but it's part of an agenda that is eroding its philosophy.
Everyone heard President Bharucha say that the school's deficit is "a full 27% of its budget," right? Did anyone hear him mention that interest on the loan for the New Building is a full 65% of that deficit? That loan, by the way, is a mortgage on CU's principal asset, the land under the Chrysler Building. How can you call that strengthening Peter Cooper's legacy?

Mr. Lehrer, if you return to this story, which I hope you do, please consider whose voice needs a platform in this debate.

Hum... providing a venue for expression to those who have least access to it. Funny, that sounds an awful lot like President Bharucha's version of "Peter Cooper's mission."

Nov. 24 2011 01:55 PM

This is part of a national and global issue. Look around us: UC Davis, CUNY, UC Berkeley, Santiago Chile. If anyone walked down New York City on Nov 17 and encountered thousands of students expressing their frustration with the issue of tuition, the act of putting “tuition” on one of the most solid tables of education in the nation immediately expresses the contradiction. This country’s education system is collapsing under the weight of such contradictions. As John Hejduk, (alumna, faculty and former dean of the Architecture School) put it: “to be within the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is to be within a spiritual institution that is lovingly held in trust.” This structure is held up passionately by a diverse student and faculty body. Charging tuition would eradicate this diversity, would erode the structure of the community. It is a clear equation, one that deals with equality and inclusion, tuition (and expansion) would set an imbalance, one which would eradicate the diverse voices, conversations, equality and free thought. As Toby below expressed: it is “NOT” about money, the school’s highest resource is its radical place of difference and inclusion, one expressed through the students work and faculty interaction. It is an asset to NYC and the rest of the nation. The “I” and “ You” in the conversation that structures the education in this school’s ethics of creativity and precision are disseminated in diverse fields throughout this country and abroad. The school has deep and expansive roots that move in unexpected ways. This community is mobilizing, speaking to one another, writing long letters to close and distant friends.  As Jonas Mekas has said: “the avant-garde is always the front line of any field… moving ahead into some totally unknown area, the future…that’s where usually it’s all very fragile, and on the front line is where usually most of the bullets hit you.” We are ready to take the bullets, because as another alumna and faculty of the Architecture School summed up in Education is a Human Right: It is not that The Cooper Union holds up free education but that free education holds up The Cooper Union.” Let Cooper Union be the first to stand and fight for this right rather than the last.

Nov. 24 2011 09:01 AM
Pamela from NYC

As Alys stated before this issue is universal. We need to bring all the possible community awareness! The ideals that The Cooper Union stands for are getting extinct in the America’s education system.

As a cooper union student I cannot stop saying that we, the current students in school, are standing next to the surrounding community to preserve at all costs the philosophy of free education for future generations. Yes we have an inside perspective, but we are fighting to maintain our school completely based on scholarship. We are already the past; this decision is going to determine the future of academic institutions especially related to art architecture and engineering.

The cooper union accepts students solely based on merit. Because there is no paying-student quota per year, the school has the power to freely create a talented and unique student body, and that IS the base structure of the Cooper Union.

Nov. 24 2011 03:08 AM

Welcome to the real world. Money does not grow on trees. I wish someone would have paid my college years.

I have yet to hear that a professor or one of the administrators is willing to take a pay cut to help the cause. I have also missed the call for students to volunteer even ! hour per day to help the school reduce maintenance costs.

You received a gift to attend a great school for free, do not equate gift from generous donors with a God Given Right.

Nov. 24 2011 12:43 AM
Toby Cumberbatch from Connecticut

I have been privileged to teach at Cooper for about 18 years.
I cannot really explain this statement but in so many ways this whole dicussion is NOT about the money. It is about everything except money even though money underlines the whole discussion.

We are incredibly privileged to have an exceptional student body that is so often ignored and alienated.

The administration needs to take the time to understand the entire proper community and to understand its own role in the company of such an elite AND unassuming group of individuals. The administration needs to understand that its role is that of a facilitator not a dictator.

Nov. 23 2011 08:45 PM

I totally agree with the comments below.
There exists greater implications within the understanding of what the full tuition merit based scholarship provides.
There exists the opportunity for equality and equal opportunity to be experienced by students, however it is also about avoiding the conditions where students become consumers to their own education.

Students then are in a relationship where there is an exchange for education for money. Students are then clients that can become unsatisfied with what they are paying tuition for, and demands become stratified when education should be at its core demand.
The Cooper Union always has education at its core demand, because that is all there is. The students give their full devotion, dedication and passions to their education and in return they get to participate in one of the most unparalleled Undergraduate programs in the world.

Many students at The Cooper Union come for AND ONLY the education. They come already aware of the shortcomings about the school.

Sure, we don't have a student union, we don't have a cafeteria, we don't have the greatest study abroad program, we don't have a gym, we don't have a huge collection of student clubs, we don't have a dorm for all four years... (but then again, why would we? we're in the heart of New York City). However, we do offer the best education---a free education, that provides the opportunity for the cultivation of free creators and free thinkers which have relentlessly given rise to perhaps some of the most radical and precise work in the sciences and the arts.

Nov. 23 2011 06:09 PM
Richard Stock from NYC

I've been a professor in the engineering school at Cooper Union since 1994. I was listening to the broadcast and thought of a couple of anecdotes that might help answer the question about what is so important about the meritocracy that is The Cooper Union. One is from my first year at Cooper, the second is from last year.
Early in my career at Cooper a student made a specific appointment with me to discuss his grade. I assumed that he was dissatisfied but I was wrong. He came to apologize to me for getting a "B" in my class - a completely new experience for me.
Last year the faculty and students from my department (Chem.Eng.) went to see the Yankees (we do this most years). There was a rain delay. As the delay continued the students got out their homework and projects. In the end there was a section of Yankees stadium that was in study session!
I don't know of another school that engenders that kind of focus and work ethic in the celebration of intellectual pursuits.

Nov. 23 2011 06:00 PM
Y Masnyj from NYC

We often here the line that the Alumni of Cooper Union do not give as much as Alumni from other institutions. I think a number of posts below call those assertions into question, but I would like to address the fact that many of those is positions to donate back to universities like Columbia, Yale, Princeton etc. attended those schools at a time when tuition was considerably lower. I wonder how enthusiastically future alumni will give after paying off their 200,000.00 student loan debt.
It is often said that in America you can "pick yourself up by your bootstraps"
I'm thinking that after you pay off 200,000.00 (add interest) you won't have any money for your boots or the straps to pull yourself up with.


Nov. 23 2011 03:46 PM
Benjamin Degen from Cooper Union

Tuition and alumni giving are red-herrings. Taken singly or together, neither will create enough of a revenue stream to sustain Cooper Union. Cooper is sustained by its endowment trust. For over a century EVERY SINGLE BOARD OF TRUSTEES AND SCHOOL PRESIDENT has been willing and able to sustain the school using this trust as the primary funding.  Yes times are financially hard, but let's get real: This is not the great depression. This is not World War 1 or 2. We are in the midst of an economic recession like many others that have occurred in the 20th century, all of which our endowment survived by the strong will and competence of Cooper's past trustees. If the current administration does not posses the will or competence required by the responsibility they have been entrusted THEY MUST STEP DOWN FOR THE GOOD OF TH SCHOOL. If we are to believe that our endowment has been severely depleted that means that very recently hundreds of millions of dollars have disappeared. If this is true we must establish accountability and good governance so that institutional givers- large charitable organizations not small donations from alumni or tuition- can entrust Cooper with large grants to replenish our endowment. Every minute that Cooper remains locked in this divisive and distracting debate about tuition is hurtful: Alumni are disenfranchised students are panicked and the school appears out of control and too risky an investment for big charitable organizations. Come on Bharucha! Now is the time to get in front of this crisis and be a leader. Tuition off the table now! Let's get to a place where the entire Cooper and donor community can get together and CO-OPERATIVELY BUILD!

Nov. 23 2011 03:26 PM
martinez.emily.a from Brooklyn, NY

In response to Lehrer's question to a student regarding how faculty and student relationships will be effected if tuition is implemented.

This is how:

There is common belief being discussed widely among the Cooper community that if tuition is charged to those who can pay then faculty will inadvertently be forced to favor paying-students vs. non-paying students for the simple fact of their monetary contribution to the school. And by favoring I mean padded grades and extra chances.

The reason this is a huge issue with Cooper Union is because obtaining a seat in this institution isn't the end of the battle. Keeping that seat is competitive as there are many others in the world applying to take that seat as transfer applicants.

The students at Cooper work extremely hard because they are dedicated and passionate about their disciplines. Coupled with that, in my view, is the fear of losing the scholarship. Even under this rigorous academic environment students may have a "low-performing" semester/year due to whatever external reasons. Students are reviewed and graded by semester and put in front of a panel when facing flunking a semester or full out expulsion. Student evaluation is something Cooper Union takes seriously. Cooper doesn't accept slackers.

If charging tuition to some and not others is implemented it will cause a huge socio-economic split which does not currently exist. The price of expelling the paying-student is much higher than expelling the non-paying student. This system may create situations in which non-paying low performing students would be replaced with paying ones and expelled at a rate higher than that of low performing tuition-paying students.

We do not need to put our excellent professors in uncomfortable predicaments when grading students. What they do best is educate freely - blind to the depths or shallowness of their student's inherited pocket books or lack there of.

What makes Cooper so unique is that the children of the rich and the children of the poor sit side by side in an equal playing field. Cooper has the brightest minds from three different disciplines across all socio-economic backgrounds working to solve the complex problems of the day and of tomorrow. This country needs more of this dynamic. At Cooper Union we graduate with a broader understanding of social equality and because of this free education we are indebted to society and work tirelessly to fight for social justice. We need to preserve this school as an example to the nation and to the world.

The reason Cooper Union is passionate about free tuition is not because we like things free, but because our lives have been greatly impacted first hand as a result of an extraordinary eye opening education and experience. It is of paramount importance that we keep this legacy going for future generations to come.

Nov. 23 2011 02:43 PM
forcooperforever from The Cooper Union, New York, NY

The full tuition merit based scholarship allows students to finally become empowered by making their first decision as an individual actually be a decision as to how they are going to be educated, and who is going to educate them.

To not have The Cooper Union as an Undergraduate institution of New York City that provides free education to all students would be to ruin the legacy of the darling institution as it has been known for the past 150 years.
It would be the end of The Cooper Union.

Nov. 23 2011 01:41 PM
lovecooper from New York

If the president and the board of trustees cannot even defend the school's ideologically as much as it's students, alumni, and facutly...who will? These financial can be surmountable if the spirit behind overcoming this crisis is evident in those who have the power and the body of the institution.

Sure Perez is asking to hear financial solutions! He's talking to the person that is being PAID to have such answers. Perez asks why aren't there any other solutions being presented? Why haven't any of the solutions being proposed by alumni and students even being considered?

This is a financial crisis that can be overcome with ideological convictions.
If there is a mission at hand being led by those in the highest monetary powers, anything can happen. Peter Cooper himself achieved this 150 years ago when starting The Cooper Union.

I direct ALL of your attention to the Mark Epstein Meeting here:

Nov. 23 2011 01:22 PM
Jasmine S. from Brooklyn

I'm a junior in the School of Art at cooper union.
First of all, thank you for all those who spoke for being articulate.
With all due respect, I agree that J. Barucha was given too much air-time. Remember that someone who can rationalize tuition and possibly other tasteless expansion measures can rationalize anything.
Two points:
1. Someone named Mark made a comment about the class of Cooper students and to beware of idealizing its function. I think it's an important point because we all have the tendency to idealize the present moment to harden ourselves against change. But he is absolutely right : Cooper Union is not free, it has been hiking up its "student fee" since the '70's and the cost of living and materials leaves a lot of students in debt after school. Also,
Yes most students are not 'working class'. But unlike at colleges like Harvard, those that are indeed working class do not stand out like a thorn in the community and they do not have to be significantly more intelligent and eager than the rest of the bunch to be there. This is what would happen with the introduction of tuition. It will be based on the families' means and as Willis justly noted, inevitably creating a quota of them. Remeber that in America 'having the means' does not mean having the cash handy, it means being able to take out a loan.
The model of our institution is not morally, its just that the tuition based model is immoral to the core. Before 1902, cooper union did charge tuition to a small pool of wealthy students and there are accounts of how problematic and resentful their relationship with those accepted on full- scholarship was. The discrepancy would in fact eliminate the largest portion of our current students: middle or lower middle class.
2. The word 'sustainabiity' irks me more and more. What is really meant is 'compatibility' with and 'assimilation' to the current U.S. Higher education system as a integrated wheel of neoliberal shameless capitalism. Mr. Barucha has vowed that Cooper Union 'will not shut down' during his time here. Considering that he has tenure, I find this redundant if not insulting. If the administration cannot come up with a 'sustainable' model that does not compromise the mission, then we do not deserve the name of Cooper Union. Asking students to come up with ideas, which the President has done repeatedly, is ostensible democracy: the responsibility will weigh less on those who actually hold that responsibility. In short, if tuition is on the table, the failure of a model that causes friction to its surroundings must be acknowledged. If we are past our prime, so be it. I do not want a degree from another factory, now or in the future.
Thank you

Nov. 23 2011 01:15 PM
Alys from East Village, The Cooper Union

Not charging tuition at Cooper is moreover a universal issue that should be brought to attention to all students, professors,colleges, universities, the city of New York----and the American Society at large. There exists the deeper educational question which evokes the moral and value ideologies that are being threatened with this situation....there also exists the issue of unnecessary academic inflation.

It surprises me that a show such as WNYC did not give preference to more student voices in the open calls.

I've seen better segments done in Brian's orchestration and craft with juxtaposing various conversations simultaneously, this segment was embarassingly I know for a fact that the call board was being FLOODED by alumni, students, and faculty.

This is not the public radio I thought listened to.

Nov. 23 2011 01:10 PM

please fix the audio

Nov. 23 2011 01:07 PM

I think the audio on this segment is broken...

Nov. 23 2011 01:00 PM
Y Masnyj from NYC


Richard Perez Pena was not sufficiently prepared or simply not informed enough to speak authoritatively about the history of the school or it's current crisis.
Also President Bharucha was afforded too much time to walk us through his talking points.
The community of Alumni/Faculty/Students asks WNYC for the opportunity to present a rebuttal.

Nov. 23 2011 12:54 PM
Sarah Crowe from Brooklyn


It looks like there's going to be a task force that specifically looks at extraneous spending. The problem is that it should be one in the same with the "revenue" task force. Divide and conquer, yadda yadda yadda.

Nov. 23 2011 12:22 PM
Barry Drogin from NY, NY

Cusack tweets:
Perez: not enough alumni fundraising, or not good enough
Call in 212-433-WNYC
Perez: Cooper is important in NYC, for example we own the land under the Chrysler Building
Perez: One of the first speakers at Cooper was Abraham Lincoln
Paul in Tribeca: tuition-free is part of the culture, it must remain pure
Pres Jamshed Bharucha on now
Pres: Cooper is way ahead of its time, Peter Cooper saved up his whole life to make the school for those that lack access
Pres: It is my job to see to Cooper's vision, including helping students pay for their needs
Pres: We need a stronger financial model that can meet all our needs
Willis (student): what's important is the merit-based scholarship, it would be a cultural loss if tuition happened
Ben (alum/instructor): in class (Drawing 1), listening in
Ben: It's important to humanity to be able to explore
Lehrer: It's easy to sit in Drawing 1 and not worry about how to pay for this
Pres: they're all right, it's cherished as a feature of the culture here, we have to treat these issues sensitively
Perez: a lot of people will find that a completely board-internal task force will not be taken well
Perez: other schools have a juggernaut of fundraising that Cooper just doesnt have, new alums are pulled in more strongly
Show ended - quite short, was hoping for more discussion on solutions, was just dialing in :-(

Nov. 23 2011 12:21 PM
Bhaskar Krishnamachari from Los Angeles

I am an engineering alumnus of Cooper Union (EE'98), and now a faculty member at the University of Southern California. Earlier this year, I wrote a short essay about Peter Cooper, the founding of this amazing institution, and what it means to me, which you can find here:

Thousands of students, alumni, and faculty agree that charging tuition would deprive The Cooper Union of its very soul. Its culture of excellence is inextricably tied in to its offering merit-based full-tuition scholarships to all students.

It is important to keep in mind that alumni-giving is neither the reason for the current financial crisis, nor the magic bullet that will single-handedly solve the problem. But it could certainly be improved. The school has had a lackluster approach to alumni fundraising for years, characterized by poor communication and lack of transparency about its financial solution. The new Administration has promised to change this and be more open to input from the community, but it remains to be seen how effectively they will carry this out. It also remains to be seen if the Administration is able to identify other sources of revenue, such as grants and large gifts.

Increasing revenue, of course, is only one way to close the deficit. President Bharucha has announced the creation of a Revenue Task Force. Why isn't there also a Cost-Cutting Task Force?

Nov. 23 2011 12:12 PM
Barry Drogin from NY, NY


"As would be expected, most comments were philosophical. Repeated postings about petitions, about the facts, and about the Alumni Association-sponsored December 5 summit for students, faculty, and staff were lost amongst long missives, up from 50 to 72 after the show was long off the air, that The Alumni Pioneer will analyze and summarize."

Nov. 23 2011 12:10 PM
preservethepeter from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art NYC

please. please tell me why...please tell me WHY ONLY ONE STUDENT GOT TO SPEAK.




Nov. 23 2011 12:05 PM
Barry Drogin from NY, NY

NY Times Reporter repeats “Blame the Alumni” argument

Lehrer Correctly Points out that Majority of Graduates are not the Super-Rich

President Bharucha carefully, on air, refers to the Revenue Task Force only as a Task Force

In a brief segment at the end of The Brian Lehrer show on WNYC on November 23, 2011, phone lines were jammed and posted comments accumulated faster than could be reasonably read by any human, a strong indicator of just how much President Bharucha has misjudged the passion of the students, faculty, alumni, and the New York City listenership at large over the value of the unique institution that is tuition-free education at The Cooper Union.

Guest Richard Perez-Peña, a reporter on education for The New York Times, tried to stress that a financial story is not a financial story. President Bharucha was free to re-tell his Peter-Cooper-as-Founding-Father tale, without mentioning the alteration and clarification of that vision that Abram Hewitt contributed. (If not for the existence of the Cooper-Hewitt museum, Hewitt’s name may be erased from Cooper Union history with the replacement of the Hewitt Building by the as-yet unchristened New Academic Building.) And Brian Lehrer repeated the New-President-Discovers-Financial-Mess story that the Chairman of the Board of Trustees has already discounted as nonsense.

The only high point was when an adjunct faculty member called in to say he would gladly give up his job to preserve free education at The Cooper Union. President Bharucha promised a release of historical financial information audited by the Board, information that Vice President of TC Westcott has also promised to provide to The Alumni Pioneer for its independent review, prior to once again leaving the office for several days, this time for an extended Thanksgiving vacation.

As would be expected, most comments were philosophical, including pleas to sign petitions and to attend the Alumni Association-sponsored December 5 summit for students, faculty, and staff. These postings became largely lost amongst long missives, up from 50 to 72 after the show was long off the air, that The Alumni Pioneer will analyze and summarize.

Sean Cusack, who had taken a few days off to concentrate on paying gigs, was back in fine form, tweeting the radio show live as it happened, forming an informal transcript of the radio content as it happened.!/CooperTaskForce

Barry Drogin EE ‘83
Publisher, The Alumni Pioneer

Nov. 23 2011 12:05 PM
Betsy Alwin

Wow. This was a very short segment. I think a lot of voices have yet to be heard and a lot more information needs to come out. Mr. Perez-Peña stated in this interview that while he's heard an overwhelming opposition to the tuition model at Cooper, he's heard few real solutions for an alternative. I feel this is an inaccurate statement. I feel that alternative solutions have been expressed by many students, alumni, staff, and faculty and have been posted on specific blogs and Facebook pages. Hopefully the "revenue task force" can be open to suggestions from all stake-holders at Cooper.

Nov. 23 2011 12:02 PM
Nadia Pervez from Brooklyn, NY

@Alan: The Cooper Union Task Force was following the show at:!/search/coopertaskforce

Nov. 23 2011 11:54 AM

We are the ONLY institution that follows The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally ACCESSIBLE TO ALL ON THE BASIS OF MERIT.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.


Nov. 23 2011 11:49 AM
something corporate from somewhere corp.

good segment however, can wnyc please go the extra mile and seek out non-corporate journalists for guests. it's always nyt that, chris matthews this, bloomberg that, wsj this, this is public radio, why can't public radio do something spectacular and invite non-commercial non-corporate guests. those people are only allowed to say what their corporations approve fr them to say in advance.

Nov. 23 2011 11:48 AM
Nadia Pervez from Brooklyn, NY

@Mark: You are correct that housing in NYC is expensive. This is certainly a difficulty for Cooper students from outside the NYC area from working class families. Inside the NYC area, many students from working class families commute from home.

Cooper is a meritocracy, which means the admissions are merit-based. The process doesn't do anything to address the achievement gaps that may be present before that point (e.g. increasing representation of underrepresented groups). Some students are from working class families while others are not. Some are local, some are not. What the process does do, is allow students to interact with others of the same caliber on a level playing field. In this model there's no preference for more affluent yet less capable students.

2 different models: (1) need based scholarships and (2) merit based scholarships.

(1) Given a finite number of scholarships, the bar is higher for less wealthy students. This is the current situation in the limit that all students meet the need-based scholarship criteria.

(2) Given a finite number of scholarships, the bar is higher for the scholarship recipients. This is the current situation in the limit that the number of scholarships equals the number of students.

With the imposition of tuition, there is no possibility of (1) for all because a population of wealthier students is needed to supply the tuition. Worse, depending on the proposed tuition the school may well be unable to attract wealthy students of the same caliber, lowering the bar for the tuition paying students.

Regardless of socioecomic background, we can all agree there's a huge difference between $5k tuition and $50k tuition. There are certainly people who pay $50k tuition for college but they generally expect things like housing, dining halls, fancy gyms, and grade inflation. At $5k the expectations are probably different.

Nov. 23 2011 11:45 AM
Barry Drogin from NY, NY

I am asked to correct that it is the office of alumni relations, not the alumni association, that surpressed mention of the December 5 summit. The confusion comes from the fact that the edited e-mail (meaning the e-mail with the deletion) came from "Alumni Association."

Working on this, will post rest when complete:

NY Times Reporter repeats “Blame the Alumni” argument

Lehrer Correctly Points out that Majority of Graduates are not the Super-Rich

President Bharucha carefully, on air, refers to the Revenue Task Force only as a Task Force

In a brief segment at the end of The Brian Lehrer show on WNYC on November 23, 2011, phone lines were jammed and posted comments accumulated faster than could be reasonably read by any human, a strong indicator of just how much President Bharucha has misjudged the passion of the students, faculty, alumni, and the New York City listenership at large over the value of the unique institution that is tuition-free education at The Cooper Union.

Guest Richard Perez-Peña, a reporter on education for The New York Times, tried to stress that a financial story is not a financial story. President Bharucha was free to re-tell his Peter-Cooper-as-Founding-Father tale, without mentioning the alteration and clarification of that vision that Abram Hewitt contributed. (If not for the existence of the Cooper-Hewitt museum, Hewitt’s name may be erased from Cooper Union history with the replacement of the Hewitt Building by the as-yet unchristened New Academic Building.) And Brian Lehrer repeated the New-President-Discovers-Financial-Mess story that the Chairman of the Board of Trustees has already discounted as nonsense.

The only high point was when an adjunct faculty member called in to say he would gladly give up his job to preserve free education at The Cooper Union. President Bharucha promised a release of...

Barry Drogin EE '83
Publisher, The Alumni Pioneer

Nov. 23 2011 11:45 AM
Sarah Crowe from Brooklyn

The tuition-free model a Cooper is significant in that it provides the most beautiful gesture an educational institute can provide-- that the act of learning doesn't have to be a monetized process, and that our knowledge is not a quantifiable resource in the first place. Cooper is an ADMIRABLE school, very literally eliciting admiration from those associated with the school and those unrelated to it. The School of Art has a lower acceptance rate than Harvard, right? I already consider us a global leader in education, what with European universities giving in to and being lightly crushed by the pressures of American-style financing.

The economy isn't going anywhere, for a while, at least. The tuition bubble is ripe for a burst, and where will the short-sighted trustees of Cooper Union be then? The students here are outraged, even though they know they'll be grandfathered past tuition, and the alumni are absolutely livid. We're not protesting any skin off our backs, but the destruction of a dream that's been hacked away at for 40 years without our knowing. The entire world can be bought and sold a million times over, but Cooper can and has shown that the human mind is categorically "free" space.

Nov. 23 2011 11:44 AM
Robert Q. Topper

Peter Cooper's legacy is a gift to all New Yorkers. His fondest wish would come true if all qualified New Yorkers could come to Cooper Union to study and discourse freely, regardless of their ability to pay. A lifetime free from the crushing debt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans is a great gift. Cooper lived his life in fear of such a burden and wanted other young people to be freeer than he was as a young man. He was the first American philanthropist. His life inspired all other philanthropists to follow in his wake. I hope that everyone who reads these words will join me in supporting the Cooper Union and keeping his dream alive, because his dream is our dream as well.

Nov. 23 2011 11:42 AM
Robert Q. Topper

Peter Cooper's legacy is a gift to all New Yorkers. His fondest wish would come true if all qualified New Yorkers could come to Cooper Union to study and discourse freely, regardless of their ability to pay. A lifetime free from the crushing debt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans is a great gift. Cooper lived his life in fear of such a burden and wanted other young people to be freeer than he was as a young man. He was the first American philanthropist. His life inspired all other philanthropists to follow in his wake. I hope that everyone who reads these words will join me in supporting the Cooper Union and keeping his dream alive, because his dream is our dream as well.

Nov. 23 2011 11:40 AM
Audrey from in NYC

to those who want to learn more about the current financial crisis as well as hear from current students and alumni please come by

On the Table: An Exhibition for Free Education
will be held in the first floor colonnade of
The Cooper Union Foundation Building, located at 7 E 7th Street.
The exhibition will open at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, and close Friday, December 2. Open to the public.

Nov. 23 2011 11:38 AM

i'd like to encourage the Richard Perez-Pena (and the BL team) to a) watch the Art of the Steal and b) do another follow up story (or two, or three or four) that doesn't include the administration's talking points or alumni finger pointing.

Nov. 23 2011 11:36 AM
Connie from New Jersey from North Bergen, NJ

As an Alumna, I want to add my voice to those advocating free tuition. Without it Cooper Union would not be the great institution it is—with admission based on merit alone. Charging tuition, even if some would pay less or none, will corrupt the admission process, forever changing Cooper.
In response to a previous comment, when I went to Cooper there was a night school, so students who had to work could still get a great education, although it took longer. What happened to that idea?

Nov. 23 2011 11:34 AM
David Brooks from New York, NY

Yes, the community of Cooper Union is special; Yes the students of Cooper Union are unprecedentedly talented; Yes the student-to-student and the student-to-faculty dynamic is like no other school (I am a Cooper alum and have taught at Columbia, RISD, MICA, Parsons and Haverford. I can attest to this as fact, and verify that it is not just an opinion).
The exceptional caliber of the students and the learning environment is 100% a direct result of it being a merit based school. The merit based process of admission IS what generates the high caliber of students and faculty. Peter Cooper knew this, and thus created an infrastructure to make it possible. This is not just a matter of getting a free education. This is a matter of maintaining a very unique space of thought, learning, experimentation and communication that can exist no where else in the same manner.

THIS IS NOT CLARIFIED ENOUGH: The merit based process of admission IS what generates the high caliber of students and faculty. It IS what has generated it's illustrious history. Peter Cooper knew this would be the case, and created an infrastructure to make it possible.

It is not what Mark Epstein says: it is NOT at two-part aspect of Cooper Union that 1) it offers an exceptional education that is second to none 2) and that it is also tuition free. This is not the case. It is not two aspects that make Cooper unique. THEY ARE THE SAME THING. There is no other way to conceive of this. The tuition free aspect of the college is precisely what generates its high caliber of students, faculty and learning. IT IS WHAT MAKES THE "EDUCTION SECOND TO NONE" even possible!
If Cooper becomes a tuition based school we all know that this will be a dictum impossible to maintain. And after hearing Mark Epstein end his open forum with the community of Cooper Union on November 7th by saying, verbatim: "other schools charge tuition...and why shouldn't those students who are able to pay tuition, pay tuition?": makes me realize that perhaps not everyone fully understands this verity. The merit based process of admission IS precisely what generates the high caliber of students and faculty. It's not about just getting a free education. Let me say this one more time:
The merit based process of admission IS what generates the high caliber of students and faculty.

the lines were the busy, and was not able to call in.

Nov. 23 2011 11:27 AM

The public is invited to the exhibition we're holding on the 29th of November, First Floor Colonnade:

On the Table: An Exhibition for Free Education will be held in the first floor colonnade of The Cooper Union Foundation Building, located at 7 E 7th Street.

The exhibition will open at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, and close Friday, December 2.

Open to the public.

Nov. 23 2011 11:20 AM
Barry Drogin from NY, NY

The Alumni Pioneer will present some form of synopsis tonight.

Nov. 23 2011 11:20 AM





Nov. 23 2011 11:19 AM
Student from New York

Like stated, Cooper Union is a merit based school. Our acceptance rate rivals that of Harvard and part of what keeps the school so prestigious is the free tuition. Professors treat their students with respect because they know that Cooper Union students are not just high school grads looking for a simple degree. Students here are constantly encouraged to be radical and revolutionize their fields. Charging tuition would not only make Cooper lose prospective talented students who cannot afford higher education, but also lose students with higher merit.

Not all alumni are poor graduates. The engineering school has about 120 students per year. Art students range at about 60 and architecture students only at 30 per year. Most engineering students find stable jobs as soon as they graduate, and we have famous art and architecture alumni who are exemplary in their fields. The biggest problem I feel is that the school always has and had with it a notion that it was always doing well. No one knew there was this serious deficit that has lasted for 40 years! From what I've heard, only 14% of our alumni give back (at all!) to Cooper Union. 14% is unacceptable knowing that 100% of them were given a scholarship valued over $100,000. I believe that will change very, very soon. At the least, when I graduate I plan on going on a monthly donation commitment to Cooper Union no matter how small.

Nov. 23 2011 11:18 AM

The potential loss of Cooper as a free institution is symptomatic of a loss of values, a loss of belief in a common good - in progress not defined by profit.

We should fight intellectual innovation being subsumed into proprietary 'intellectual property'.

Peter Cooper believed a better world was possible, not just for NYC - his was a global vision, for communication and cultural/scientific invention.
Ahead of his time- apparently we still haven't caught up.
(PS -CU includes a school of Engineering)

Marina Gutierrez, CU alum, Director of CU Saturday Program

Nov. 23 2011 11:17 AM
Alfred from manhattan

The show never mentioned enginering!
The question should not be "How can Cooper remain free?" but rather "Why doesn't the richest society in the world provide free education to our best students?" The critics of OWS insist they favor equality of opportunity but then vote to end Pell grants, support for public (and private) colleges, etc. Why shouldn't we have public support for our strongest students?

Nov. 23 2011 11:17 AM
Alan from NYC

Will someone provide a synopsis of what just happened? I am not able to listen at the moment...thanks!

Nov. 23 2011 11:16 AM
Barry Drogin from NY, NY

Henry and Karina,

50 comments in 15 minutes - I've downloaded it all.

Everyone please STOP!

Show up on December 5 in The Great Hall.

Nov. 23 2011 11:16 AM

Sign the petition to send a message to the President and the Board of Trustees that we are committed to finding a better solution.

Nov. 23 2011 11:10 AM
Karina Tipton

As an alumni and a member of the alumni association council, these are the items I wish WNYC and NYTimes had reported on.

* Alumni give 38% of ALL donations over the last 10 years, higher than any other group of donors - this is clearly unsustainable with an alumni body of only 12,000. (The donor book is freely available on with this information.)
** sidebar and why are alumni asked to take the blame for this situation? we have been told for years that the financial situation was just fine!

* what other options are being considered? everyone is in arms about tuition, yet there are many other things that can be considered. Richard Perez hasn't heard the alternatives because he hasn't been asking the right people.

* is a tuition model even feasible? at other universities the ratio of paying student to tuition student is 2:1 or 3:1. There are only 1,000 students at Cooper Union at any given time.

WNYC, Richard Perez, and NYTimes: I challenge you to do some on-the-ground reporting, and not to just listen to what the Board of Trustees and the President (who I truly respect) are saying. They are steering this discussion in a way that is unfair to alumni and students. This is a nuanced situation that has been reduced by the distraction of the tuition fight.

Nov. 23 2011 11:10 AM
Kerry Carnahan from Brooklyn, NY

Brian, I think you owe Cooper Union and your listeners the following clarifications:

+The majority of Cooper graduates come from the Engineering School (you neglected to mention we have one).

+Alumni are the single largest donor group voluntarily contributing to the school - at rates between 22-38.4% depending on the year. Cooper Alumni donate at high rates - 4x the average of all graduates of higher education - and that rate has skyrocketed since last month's announcement.

Richard Perez-Pena, with regards to your statement that you have yet to see Alumni generate a viable solution, I invite you to simply reach out to the government of the Cooper Union Alumni Association and listen to the myriad alternatives that are "on the table," so to speak.

Richard and Brian, thank you for covering this story. I hope in the future you will take a minute to fact-check the numbers and narratives you choose to report, and also I hope you will provide your readership and listening public with voices and perspectives that are more representative of the larger Cooper community of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends.

Kerry Carnahan
Civil Engineering 2000

Nov. 23 2011 11:09 AM
Karina Tipton

As an alumni and a member of the alumni association council, these are the items I wish WNYC and NYTimes had reported on.

* Alumni give 38% of ALL donations over the last 10 years, higher than any other group of donors - this is clearly unsustainable with an alumni body of only 12,000. (The donor book is freely available on with this information.)
** sidebar and why are alumni asked to take the blame for this situation? we have been told for years that the financial situation was just fine!

* what other options are being considered? everyone is in arms about tuition, yet there are many other things that can be considered. Richard Perez hasn't heard the alternatives because he hasn't been asking the right people.

* is a tuition model even feasible? at other universities the ratio of paying student to tuition student is 2:1 or 3:1. There are only 1,000 students at Cooper Union at any given time.

WNYC, Richard Perez, and NYTimes: I challenge you to do some on-the-ground reporting, and not to just listen to what the Board of Trustees and the President (who I truly respect) are saying. They are steering this discussion in a way that is unfair to alumni and students. This is a nuanced situation that has been reduced by the distraction of the tuition fight.

Nov. 23 2011 11:09 AM
Julia from Manhattan

As an alumni of Cooper Union, I recently attended a gathering where the board of trustees addressed the Cooper Community. Members of the alumni were offering to spearhead new fundraising efforts if the board would give them numbers to shoot for. They were laughed at, though some ballpark figures were eventually given.

I think it is irresponsible for the board of trustees to blame this situation on alumni when this statement of wishing to charge tuition is the first notice any of us have gotten that there is a serious financial crisis at the school. What many of us are angry about is that, in fact, we've been led to believe the school has been financially successful by the publication of recent articles lauding the former President's financial achievements for the school.

There is so much more to this discussion. It is a bad situation for everyone. Thank you to WNYC for spending some time on the issue.

Nov. 23 2011 11:09 AM

How can the NY Times go on air reiterating the Trustees accusation that alumni are to blame for the crisis at Cooper? The education reporter displayed no understanding of what the meritocracy is or why it should be defended.

Nov. 23 2011 11:09 AM
Elizabeth Timberman from New York CIty

A possible solution: Why don't you have the artists and engineers create a small business, from which the profits could help to support Cooper Union. Like the Westinghouse challenge. It could be used to sell things to support the school, or if it is really something unique it could be sold to a business. Models are institutions such as the MET Museum or MOMA that have gift shops, or Universities That have relationships between research depts and drug companies. How about Cooper Union with a museum, or GE or an internet company for example?

Nov. 23 2011 11:04 AM

Richard Perez-Pena just reiterated the administration position, and then was followed up with the president's voice. This was too short, and not representative of what is happening at Cooper Union right now-- it is completely insufficient to dismiss, as Richard Perez-Pena did, advocacy for tuition-free no matter what as naive and demand an "alternative." What's completely missing is a discussion over whether tuition itself is even a solution, and what has happened to lead us to this point.

Nov. 23 2011 11:04 AM
Lorraine from Jersey City

So sad that this format that is divided into 15 mins segments does not allow for a much fuller discussion of many topics. Just as the discussion gets interesting, it is time to move on to another. Really what is the point for such rigidity. Some times 15 mins. are just not enough.

Nov. 23 2011 11:04 AM
Barry Drogin

I cannot believe they played over and over this "blame the alumni" canard. If by alumni they mean the richest alumni, I might believe it. Brian Lehrer gets it - people are graduating into professions where most are not big money earners. Our alumni giving and participation is spectacular, and the alumni without much money will not be able to raise the $16 million Cooper needs. They barely touched upon the rising college costs, which are NOT rising faculty costs.

Nov. 23 2011 11:02 AM

The segment is too short for this big story!

Nov. 23 2011 11:00 AM
janet from manhattan

I'm an alum. One of the fund-raising problems is that the art and architecture school alums never make a lot of money as opposed to the engineering grads, so fundraising from alums is difficult. More funds have to come from board members and foundations who need to recognize the value of the grads who have incredible talent and have contributed so much to society.

Nov. 23 2011 10:57 AM
Phil from Park Slope

I went to Tisch, around the corner, and the counterexample: There were always a certain number of admissions that were purely based on wealth or connections to the entertainment industry, and less on merit. Over the years, NYU (along with most other arts education institutions everywhere) has started offering more and more ways to simply pay for a diploma or a certificate without any rigerous admissions process, ultimately devaluing whatever reputation the institution once had.

Nov. 23 2011 10:56 AM
nick10025 from nyc

free education=free thinkers. i think that is a great point. and it would apply to both during and after school mindset. I know the quality of my experience in a design school (not Cooper Union) changed when the financial stress forced me to get a job during college. not to mention looking at a job that after graduation that would offset the accumulated debt.

Nov. 23 2011 10:55 AM
jen w from new york

I am alumni, faculty, and staff. I've taught at several other colleges with varying tuition models, and have talked with many other people who have attended a myriad of schools. While the meritocracy tuition-free model of Cooper Union does make it special, I think the learning environment that is able to thrive within the school due to these facts is what makes it truly outstanding. Someone just calling in used the word "culture", and I think this is really the crucial point. At Cooper, the faculty and the staff work hard to create a truly diverse and vibrant educational atmosphere that is all about the students and their needs. The tuition model often turns the learning environment into one of (the administration looking at the) numbers and popularity contests - funding becomes contingent on how "popular" particular instructors/departments can become. Its a viscous cycle that can detrimentally effect the classroom learning experience.

Nov. 23 2011 10:55 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Would it help any if Cooper Union became more accommodating to older/working students? I looked into going there a few years ago, but I was told it wasn't set up for people who couldn't attend on a full-time schedule. Maybe if it were, it could attract more students. (OK, I don't know how much of an issue that is in the 1st place.)

Nov. 23 2011 10:55 AM
Joe Corrao

Cooper Union free...good for you...all colleges free...cannot be done unless you want second rate education.

Nov. 23 2011 10:54 AM
Robert from NYC

So how is they can build the monstrous building that ground is being prepared for now across from Cooper Union main building? Where did THAT money come from?
Also the CU school of Architecture that I was told occupied that building which is being deconstructed for the new structure is probably one of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen EVER! THAT was School of Architecture? I only hope the school didn't design it.

Nov. 23 2011 10:54 AM
Bob from Westchester

Brian introduced Cooper Union as an art and architecture school. What about engineering? (Thomas Friedman will not be happy with this omission.)

Nov. 23 2011 10:52 AM
Paula Heisen

Please talk about how much administrators at Cooper Union are making, and about the severance pay package the departing president (who created this mess) received when he left.

Nov. 23 2011 10:51 AM

Trying to get through but lines full... someone who gets through should make the point that this is not strictly a financial issue. Richard Perez-Pena is basically reiterating what the school is saying: "times are hard." Well, we need to have a perspective on what is at stake.

Nov. 23 2011 10:50 AM
Brad from Brooklyn

Solution: leave New York, stay free! Any city in America would be glad to have you.

Nov. 23 2011 10:49 AM
Phoebe from Bushwick

I went to a school with blind admissions (if accepted they would find you the money to go). When they abolished this policy, the makeup of the student body totally changed. It became far less diverse and truly lost something of great value from that fact.

Nov. 23 2011 10:48 AM

Can Perez-Pena say something about Cooper Union's plan to jack up the rent of the St, Mark's Bookshop and how it relates to this?

Nov. 23 2011 10:46 AM
Harry from Brooklyn

As a student at a university nearby Cooper Union, a quite expensive one, at that, I'm curious about what students actually pay at CU, and how the school pays its bills. Thanks!

Nov. 23 2011 10:45 AM
Andrew from Middletown, NY

Doesnt Cooper own the land that the Chrysler building sits on???

Nov. 23 2011 10:43 AM
Arch Student from Cooper Union

Its not just that cooper is in a financial crises, but that this crises was kept from the communities knowledge until recently, where we were presented with an ultimatum, implement tuition, or school closure. Although it has been repeated by the administration that “everything is on the table”, these two options are clearly all that they care to share. The presentation of this information was poor, students were told before alumni and many full-time faculty members, causing a great confusion and disruption to classes.

This comes in tandem with the recently inaugurated president new vision of globalization and expansion for the school. An idea that has clearly been set up by the previous administration, with the hubristic New Academic building we couldn’t pay for, and the flashy new corporate logo, both designed purely to draw attention as ‘global icons’. With the new president, we also notice our schools motto, “Education should be free as air and water”, a motto we have had for over a century, was erased with no announcement. When asked about this, the administrations said we were fixing a clerical error. There has been a clear attempt to erase the schools identity over the last few years, for ends we can only speculate.

The past administration, and the board of trustees caused the financial crisis. There needs to be accountability before anything can be solved!

The Cooper Union was a gift to the City of New York, all New Yorkers should take interest in its fate.

Nov. 23 2011 10:43 AM
RJ from prospect hts

How sad to say that this is the last bastion of tuition-free higher education. My first year at Brooklyn College was also the first year CUNY charged tuition--the venue that was supposed to be an equalizer for those who couldn't afford private college but still wanted to continue learning, contributing to their intellectual development and society at large. And was supposed to be something my taxes paid for, like low (if any) transit fares. What are taxes for again?

Nov. 23 2011 10:43 AM
Barry Drogin from NY, NY

To all,

The Alumni Pioneer is at

Nov. 23 2011 10:40 AM

As a current and soon to be graduating student of The Cooper Union, I know I speak for all of my classmates when I say that being a part of this school is a huge honor. Upon acceptance, our full-tuition scholarship is granted to ALL students on merit ALONE. This is a unique community, a brilliant, creative and challenging community. One that does not have any barriers based on class. Full tuition to all means that we are on a level playing field, we are truly peers. Each incoming class is put together as a group of individuals, we are hand selected! How will that be able to remain the system, if we are looking to raise money with tuition? It is not and cannot be the solution.
Preservation of The Cooper Union's full tuition scholarships to all students is incredibly important. A merit-based full tuition model for an institution of higher education means so much to our school, NYC and the country. When the cost of education is rising rapidly, and people all over the country are outraged by student-loan debt Cooper Union remains a beacon of hope. We need to save Cooper Union without tuition!

Nov. 23 2011 10:39 AM

I'm really curious how many Cooper Union students are actually working class. I remember when a Cooper Union student was shot in Israel by the IDF I was curious about her background and it turned out she came from a very wealthy enclave outside D.C. and attended private schools. I have a feeling she's not the only one. Also Cooper Union doesn't charge tuition but you still have to pay for housing in NYC and this is very expensive for working class people so going to Cooper Union is hardly "free". I'm not hating on Cooper Union but let's not exaggerate it as some great resource serving the American working class or whatever. It's pretty elite.

Nov. 23 2011 10:39 AM
Education is a Human Right from cooper union

It is not that The Cooper Union holds up free education but that free education holds up The Cooper Union. We are now confronted with a crisis that threatens to collapse this structural principle.
As we struggle to address this crisis, I propose that everything we need has been said in this Great Hall over the last 150 years—from Lincoln’s ‘Right Makes Might’ to Frederick Douglas and Red Cloud to the founding of the Red Cross and NAACP. This space contains monumental moments, each grown from the urgent demands of a given period that threatened the fundamental principles of human rights. Each of these moments galvanized the meaning of the principles themselves and led to movements that revolutionized the historic trajectory. I believe the crisis we face today contains just such a potential.
We must resist the confusion that the crisis we face is so grave that it demands abandoning our principles in order to survive. History is littered with disasters born in the missteps of suspending principles in the face of crisis.
Peter Cooper was a visionary and a practical one. The principle of inclusion, of no barriers to education, not only righted a wrong, but it created one of the most intellectually and creatively vital places in the world. This is no accident of history. Peter Cooper understood that the barriers to education not only were unjust to those that they excluded, but that those barriers impoverished the internal life of an institution. Barring any segment of the population creates a diminished human geography within the educational community.
In creating The Cooper Union, Peter Cooper invested in the profound idea that removing the barriers to education creates a dynamic crucible of free thought; a space where the widest spectrum of who we are can ask the questions of our time and create the works that bring us forward. The evidence of a return on this investment is abundant.
Like each of the movements galvanized in this room, the internal crisis we face is a symptom of the broader crisis of our time.
We have the opportunity to clarify and galvanize the fact that free education is a fundamental right to all people, to clarify our social contract and push forward a movement that recognizes the transformative powers of education as a human right.
If Peter Cooper did anything, surely it was to plant the seeds of this movement. Now we have the opportunity to bring them to fruition.
The stakes for what happens are enormous—how we comprehend and act in this moment reaches far beyond the institution itself.
The Cooper Union currently faces an internal crisis that warrants The Cooper Union’s Great Hall as the location for its founding movement.
As we all know, “Right Makes Might”.

David Gersten
November 2, 2011
The Great Hall of The Cooper Union

Nov. 23 2011 10:39 AM
Active Cooper Alum from Brooklyn, NY

Jamshed Bharucha did not throw his name into the search for Cooper Union's next president. He was approached during the time other prospective candidates where in their final interviews and phone by a member of the board of trustees while he (Dr. Bharucha) was at a Starbucks in New Hamshire. He was flown to New York the following day and that night and appointed president of the Cooper Union within a 48 hour window. Why this man was so seriously sought after to serve as the 12th President of Cooper is the question. Jamshed Bharucha and the board of trustees have plans to expand our campus globally and it hopes to do this with India -evidence of this is easily accessible online. It leads me to my next question. If Jamshed hopes to expand our curricula oversees tell me how he plans do this without charging tuition?

In my view Jamshed's statements that charging tuition is a last resort is a lie when we understand that his ambitions to change the school are his first resort. The urgency of this financial crisis is being used as a vehicle to drive the Indo-American expansion of Cooper Union.

Watch this video.

Read his own writing.

Jamshed Bharucha is currently on the National Advisory Board of the Indo-Global Education Summit in affiliation with the Indus Foundation. He has his own agendas and hopes to change Cooper Union drastically in order to achieve his goals.

Nov. 23 2011 10:38 AM

what's happening at CU is part of a general erosion of academic freedom: let's look at CUNY, UC, etc; (BL, there's an entire series here, by the way). education is a right, not a brand. Peter Cooper saw higher education as a public good, not a commodity. any narrative that includes "tuition as last resort" needs to be changed into something more productive and insightful, which should include a thorough examination into a lack of transparency and a course of mismanagement that has allowed CU to find itself in this position.

tuition-less education is a moral imperative at cooper union. though it's not part of the official mission of the school, it has come to be understood this way. using "the writings of peter cooper" as a crutch to initiate a dialogue towards a profoundly damaging structural change is nothing more than a convenient way to manipulate history for another purpose.

let's look at ways of achieving fiscal sustainability that don't undermine what cooper union has come to stand for. anyone who's lived in this city for more than 5 minutes knows that a 16-30 million annual goal is nothing short of attainable- without having to change the undergraduate model at Cooper Union. lets be real. or is this a calculated series of moves to get first the students, then the alumni in a state of hysteria, as has been the introduction to this topic at CU?

what's not being accounted for in these early discussions are the critical practice and critical mass that the Cooper Union students alumni, staff faculty and community at large are capable of.

Nov. 23 2011 10:36 AM

As an alumni, I second Day Gleeson's comment that what is at stake is a meritocracy, inseparable from the american dream. As Professor Sohnya Sayres recently said, every student knows that they are there for one reason only, not because of what is in their bank account or in their parents bank account. Can we defend this meritocracy? Are the administration and the Trustees committed to defending this meritocracy, and do they understand its importance?

For those interested in sending your voice to the administration and the Trustees:

Nov. 23 2011 10:32 AM

The Cooper Union educational experience extends much further than traditional academia. The student population of the richest young knowledge and thought in the country is matched by none because of the 150+ year long founding principle of the institution: that a higher education would be provided free of charge, based soley on merit. This is absolutely unique and provides Cooper Union with its backbone as an education unlike any other. The future of this unbelievable atmosphere of thought and learning is in danger of its extinction. A tuition charging cooper union will not hold or promote any of the qualities it does today or has for over a century and a half. It will no longer be The Cooper Union.

Nov. 23 2011 10:30 AM
Laura from UWS

Free education, especially for the working class, was Peter Cooper's passion.

There must be better solutions than charging tuition!

I hope WNYC will stay on top of this story.

Nov. 23 2011 10:27 AM
day Gleeson

I am a long time faculty member at the Cooper Union School of Art and I have chaired the admissions committee for almost 20 years. My dedication to the Cooper Union is based in supporting Peter Cooper's commitment to doing good works as touchstone to evaluate ones life. At this moment when this country is focusing on the conversation of our natural resources it seems as if we have forgotten the the richest and most precious of these resources is the unlimited potential of the young. Higher education has failed in elevating this potential in creative and visionary ways. The the thrust of education has become the commodification of skills. Cooper Union students are not seen as consumers but as young people who represent the sole hope for the future and the seed of that vision. The faculty at Cooper accepts students solely upon merit. This model of meritocracy is essential to the American Dream. Cooper Union can be sustained by collecting people of good hearts and minds to preserve this institution in the way Peter Cooper envisioned it as a UNION of classes that will enrich NYC and the world with its example.

Nov. 23 2011 10:27 AM
Alan from NYC

Now is a time for cautious suspicion and constructive opposition. We, the cooper community - students, faculty, staff, alumni, administration, and trustees-- must challenge each-other to be better. Passivity will only lead to further blurring of the facts. Participate!

If "on the table" is not simply euphemistic for "the only option," then we demand to see a buffet of options! Otherwise we've been duped.

Nov. 23 2011 10:23 AM
Save Cooper Now from New York, NY

The students of The Cooper Union are seeking your help to communicate to the board of trustees and the president of The Cooper Union that we adamantly want to preserve the current mission of the school which we value so highly. In our efforts to preserve this mission we have composed a declaration:

1) The Cooper Union community stands in staunch opposition to the tuition-based model.

2) The tuition based-model is a complete contradiction to the school’s current vision of providing educations that is “as free as air and water”.

3) To charge to tuition at The Cooper Union is to simultaneously destroy the essence of the institution.

4) The school’s essence is formed by the dedicated, passionate, and close-knit community, which cannot exist under a policy of expansion.

5) The survival of the community and the institution is dependent on its small scale through the intimate relationship amongst students, faculty, professionals, and with the city of New York

6) This intimate relationship allows for the multifaceted cultivation of discourse and ideas towards the advancement of science and art

7) Students that are granted The Cooper Union’s full merit scholarship are empowered with a unique singular educational experience which provides its students allows for their talents, ideas, voices, and passions to thrive free of economic and political constraints.

8) Our efforts are not in articulating full-tuition, merit-based scholarship as an entitled privilege but rather as a necessity of The Cooper Union to “foster rigorous humanistic learning”.

9) This declaration foremost is about preserving the mission, spirit, and passion of The Cooper Union which is created from the students being granted and honored with the most unique educational experience of a lifetime. The Cooper Union creates an invaluable social contract and responsibility between students and their education that is unparalleled by any other educational institution. We want to ultimately save and preserve the integrity of this relationship and its existence.

10) Without the continuance of the full-merit scholarship for all students at The Cooper Union, the school’s administration will fail to uphold their responsibility to honor and serve the past, present, and future members of the Cooper community.

With this declaration, the students of The Cooper Union urge you to stand with us in opposition to these financial models of expansion and tuition in order to show resistance to the board of trustees and the president.

The current administration needs to begin to understand the vital necessity of preserving our current mission, in order to completely disregard the financial models which threaten the full-tuition, merit-based scholarship, which is the heart of The Cooper Union. The administration must find alternative solutions.

Help us become the inspiration towards the alternative solution.

“For the object of life is to do good”- Peter Cooper

Nov. 23 2011 10:21 AM
Kerry Carnahan from Brooklyn, NY

Sorry for typos - alumni are responsible for 38.4% of all voluntary contributions, just ahead of 36.6% from "other individuals" and 14.5% from foundations. Hardly a "failed investment," as the present trustee chairman called an auditoriumful of concerned alumni.

On a more philosophical plane: please, anyone who wants to see an America where merit trumps priviledge, talent is valued over wealth, and lack of money is no obstacle to education - please support the Cooper community right now in demanding our voices be heard and our concerns addressed.

Thank you.

Nov. 23 2011 10:21 AM
Cooper Student from Cooper Union, NYC

A student run website compiling as much information about the situation as we have been able to gather.

* Regarding Kerry Carnahan from Brooklyn's comment. A link to the Mark Epstein Video,

Nov. 23 2011 10:18 AM
henry chapman from New York

The distance between the administration and trustees, and the community of alumni, faculty and students, is the argument that free is a "cherished" but ultimately expendable part of the legacy. I hope that Richard Perez-Pena will help put in perspective what is at stake. Cooper is the physical embodiment of an ideal- without the ideal, this is simply another institution trying to expand.

Nov. 23 2011 10:17 AM
Joe Riley from New York, new York

As a student of the Cooper Union I am extremely distraught at the administration's proposed implementation of a tuition-based model. For over 100 years the institution has operated under the mission of providing education 'as free as air and water"; providing an invaluable social good for students from all backgrounds and places around the world. The students, alumni, and faculty of the Cooper Union stand together in staunch opposition to the imposition of tuition at the school. For us, it's far more than a question of finance - "getting a free education", it's an issue of community, ideology, and social integrity.

Cooper Union is one of the few educational institutions left in this country, in the world, that is not run like a business. As a result, students at the school receive an unparalleled education - one that allows our talents, ideas, voices, and passions to thrive free of economic and political constraints. The Cooper Union, unlike most institution of higher-learning, is not run like a big business. The school is a charity, and what it gives to students, members of the Cooper community, and the entire city of New York is more valuable than any financial donation. Cooper gives education - one that is priceless, and one that is not for sale.

Members of the Cooper community care about the past, present, and future of the school. We want to give back to the school in the future, we want to ensure that the school we give back to is providing full-tuition, merit-based education to ALL students. Please join us in preventing the dissolution of the school as a result of tuition and expansion at The Cooper Union!

Nov. 23 2011 10:13 AM
FreeCooperUnion from New York, NY

A very important thing that most people don't know is that this new president is a heavy hitter in the globalization of education arena specifically in regard to bridging Indian and American education.

He is also on record talking about his desire to expand the school while belittling the free tuition model as a "cherished aspect" of the school but not the most important.

The interview in which he says this can be found on youtube if you search Jamshed Bharucha and Education Update. In Part 1 you hear him talking about globalization and posing the question of how to leverage the mission of the school while also bringing it into the modern context of globalization and expanded curricula.

In many interviews he is talking about the crisis in India and how if we don't act fast to help them, the consequences will be dire.

It seems the plan to expand was definitely there before he posed to the Cooper Community that we needed to act fast on this deficit issue in order to preserve the free tuition model. What we are really dealing with is losing the progressive model that is the essence of Cooper Union in favor of a new globalized/corporate influenced one that is absolutely contrary to the mission and values of the Cooper community.

I think a large part of this crisis at Cooper Union, is precisely a lack of transparency seeing that the president isn't being transparent about his interests in creating a global exchange with India while information about it is plastered all over the internet. The question is: Does Jamshed Bharucha think it's possible to preserve free tuition under his expansion agenda or did he pull the wool over everyone's eyes by claiming that this whole question of moving toward tuition had to do with a financial issue alone.

Nov. 23 2011 10:08 AM
Kerry Carnahan from Brooklyn, NY

I would like to address trustee chairman Mark Epstein's citation, in Mr. Perez-Pena's November 8 article, of Cooper's low rate of alumni donations being a significant part of the problem. The fact is, according to the school's phown decennial report, alumni donations comprise 38.4% of all voluntary contributions, just ahead of 36.6% from other individuals 1014.5% from foundations. Cooper alumni are giving at 4 times the average rate, and have been quietly carrying the school for many years Please believe alumni are more engaged than ever, and are working tirelessly to find a constructive solution to this problem that preserves the of the core principles of Cooper Union: to provide an extraordinary education to brilliant, talented, committed students regardless of their ability to pay.

Nov. 23 2011 10:04 AM
Dan from Brooklyn

Cooper Union was created during the Gilded age by a wealthy industrialist, in a radical instance of the "1%" truly promoting the betterment and upward mobility of the the remaining "99". To state that Cooper's current finances are the result of mismanagement is sensationalizing and incorrect; the trustees are merely finance-industry functionaries lacking the vision and insistence that such a place needs to exist against all odds.

Nov. 23 2011 09:55 AM

What has been unfolding at cooper for the past 20 years is perhaps not a financial malfeasance that has brought about this financial crisis, but a malfeasance in principles.
The research results and presented information on behalf of the board of trustees, their financial adviser, and the new president, regarding our deficit and for the implementation of the tuition-based model as the final--- but also shockingly the only solution "on the table" right now (although since march the board has hired one of the most expensive advising firms in boston in order to arrive at such numbers that indicate our current financial crisis)--- is currently leading many of The Cooper Community to be incredibly skeptical, and anxiety ridden.
To proceed in this situation with utmost caution is to remind oneself that all research results can be somehow distorted to meet an agenda.
I believe that this agenda is trying to fit Cooper UNNECESSARILY into the same consumerist model as other universities and colleges that the board of trustees, and the new president, Jamshed Bharucha, have clearly felt The Cooper Union has been "competing with".
This is simply not the case you see, there is no competition. The Cooper Union exists in an entirely different league of Undergraduate education. It is the most unparalleled Undergraduate education that can possibly exist in America, and in the world, as its mission, free education holds up the school. The mission, free education, empowers the students. This is the only educational institution where the spirit and the power of the school itself is run by the students.

All of this has been heartbreaking, in regards to the fact that our current board and president has either

1. given up in the ideals of the full-tuition merit-based scholarship granted to ALL students independent of their race, religion, sex, wealth, social status, and financial status


2. never believed in such ideologies in the first place.

The Cooper Community is STILL asking for a declaration from both The Board of Trustees and the new President.

We look for an answer during the alumni orchestrated COOPER COMMUNITY WIDE/ NEW YORK CITY WIDE meeting



Nov. 23 2011 09:44 AM
Scott Nobles from Brooklyn

I'm an alumni & current Faculty.
Cooper Union is a small, private college with the grand public mission to provide a free education to deserving students. As many have pointed out, what Cooper Union is facing is the same economic challenge that many small, private colleges and universities are facing. This is a critical point. Tuition is being touted as an infallible economic educational model, when there is clear and vast evidence that the tuition model is failing students & their families by putting them into incredible debt. Despite these extraordinary tuitions, most small schools are having to deeply cut budgets and run the same debt their students are incurring. It is a failed system.
A series of visionary acts brought Cooper Union to the people of New York City & beyond, and it now requires another visionary act to sustain it. The tuition model is a failing system that would undermine the founding mission of the college, leaving Cooper Union exposed to the tuition problems other schools face in an increasingly watered-down field.
Cooper Union to this day continues to be an extraordinary exception to the rule. The constant challenge in being such an exception is that in these moments of uncertainty, it must look inside itself for a solution that preserves that uniqueness and mission.

Nov. 23 2011 09:43 AM
Barry Drogin from NY, NY

Mr. Perez-Pena's original story on this topic contains some financial errors. The Cooper Union endowment was valued at $577 million in 2010 - but that INCLUDES the paper value of its assets, including the land under the Chrysler Building. The value of the non-real estate endowment and quasi-endowment is down to only $120 million. Mr. Perez-Pena then uses, in the next paragraph, the word "also" to refer to Cooper's real estate, and writes "the value of those properties has also been dropping." This makes for a nice story, but the Form 990s that Cooper files with the Attorney General of the State of New York show that the paper value of the Chrysler Building has been steadily rising year-after-year.

This is an education story but also a financial story, and so these facts, crucial to the story, must be checked by The Times. I hope The Times continues to pursue the story and does not merely accept statements from the Cooper administration that can be printed quickly and fit the narrative, but aren't actually accurate.

Nov. 23 2011 09:26 AM
Brenda from New York City

I will be listening to this interview very closely. The Cooper Union is experiencing the same financial squeeze of many higher education institutions. However, if we, as a society, value education we must consider a more sustainable financial fix than skyrocketing tuition. Many families see four-year tuition as completely out of their grasp. Too many people are forgoing an education or incurring absurd amounts of debt. I natter more here about ways to achieve a more affordable degree :
But it's time to address this issue on a national level.

Nov. 23 2011 07:47 AM
Barry Drogin from NY, NY

Instead of implementing real austerity measures, the Cooper administration is devoted to a path of growth. To counter the spin, some alumni have created a virtual newspaper, The Alumni Pioneer (parallel to the student newspaper, The Cooper Pioneer). The Alumni Association was supposed to publicize an Alumni Council sponsored event in The Great Hall on December 5 but suppressed the info. It is a shame that alumni leaders require the support of the main stream media in order to reach the alumni and expose false claims of transparency. Please help.

Nov. 23 2011 05:50 AM

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