Cooper Union to Charge Grad Students Tuition

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A man scales up the 2-story monument to Peter Cooper carrying a sign that reads "No Tuition, It's Our Mission." (Brigid Bergin/WNYC)

For 110 years, Cooper Union has offered free education to all its students. That is going to change for the incoming class of graduate students next year when they will be charged tuition for the first time.

Undergraduate students will not have to foot a tuition bill, at least for now, to attend the prestigious arts, architecture and engineering school tuition-free.

How much graduate students will have to pay still remains to be decided.

Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha defended the decision, saying the school's more than $16 million deficit needed to be addressed. "You have to make sure first and foremost than an institution is on solid financial ground. Our founder, Peter Cooper, would have insisted on that," he said. "It is absolutely essential for us to maintain the academic strength and quality for generations in the future, and that means we need a stable financial model."

Senior Sarah Crowe may not be impacted by the tuition announcement, but she’s still troubled by the decision.

"I can afford to have a terrible job, pay rent and make art because I don't have student debt,” she explained. “I only applied to Cooper because the art world is pay to play. I think [tuition] is a really stupid decision because the rest of the U.S. is going to start recognizing we can't keep charging 18-year-old kids $120,000 and expect them to pay it back."

Some students rallied early Wednesday evening against the new "hybrid framework."

David Weir, a literature and writing teacher at Cooper Union for 25 years, was disappointed by the plan, but understood that it was a necessary step. "It's not that I think it's the right thing," he explained. "I think we're just running out of choices."

He said plans to institute more fee-based graduate programs was almost the reverse of the way other institutions do things. “If you go to NYU, the undergraduate programs pay for the graduate programs, not the other way around, so its kind of an iffy experiment," he said.

The East Village institution also plans expand its graduate and other programs to help increase revenue as it struggles to reach financial stability.

(Photo: Police have taped off the courtyard in front of the old Cooper Union building where students and protesters had gathered. Brigid Bergin/WNYC)

Kathleen Horan contributed reporting


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Comments [8]

pay attention from east village

In light of the EPIC crisis of student debt it is EMBARRASSING that Cooper Union seeks a solution to filling its deficit in proposing to charge graduate students tuition. Consider this.

Lincoln gave his Right Makes Might speech in the Great Hall of Cooper Union. Obama should be able to use Cooper Union as an example of an ethically minded educational model.

As a person or board in charge, you have to really not care about what's going on to have the balls to make a move like this, in the worst time possible for this larger issue.


Apr. 27 2012 02:13 PM
Michael Vahrenwald from Ridgewood, NY

We should be looking very closely at the last decade of the how the Cooper Union was managed and who was making the decisions.

For years an unelected board of trusted has pursued a self serving agenda with behind the scenes real estate deals (as the majority of the board are in the real estate and banking) including the selling off of assets, the construction of vanity buildings and multi million dollar construction deals handed out to family members.

The slow and steady destruction of one of the last institutions in our country who's mission statement flies in the face of our current plutocracy is as disgusting as it is telling.

For more than a century The Cooper Union has proved that the concept of free tuition is sustainable when the people in charge believe in it and that the concept of a MERIT based education should be policy nationwide.
Sadly, education is now becoming a luxury only for those who can afford it and a cash cow for those who'd rather exploit it.

Apr. 27 2012 09:51 AM
Olivia Ahn from The Cooper Union, New York City

Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union has granted full merit, full tuition scholarships to ALL OF ITS STUDENTS in art, architecture, and engineering.
People seek out places like The Cooper Union BECAUSE of its MISSION: FREE EDUCATION.
Furthermore, there exists broader implications within the school mission beyond giving equality and equal opportunity, that the free full tuition merit based scholarship provides. It is also about the principle of avoiding the situation where students become consumers to their own education. Students then have the right to be unsatisfied with what they are paying for.
Students come here because we are here to celebrate our disciplines and make the best work we can. We are here for the Advancement of Science and Art. To celebrate our work, our passions, and our minds in order to give back to the greater good. We come to this school because we are not consumers of our education, as we do not pay a price for school time, or class credits. We come to this school with our own values and ideals of education and learning. We then participate in an exchange of those ideas with our professors and peers with great dedication and passion. Our currency is through learning, teaching, and working, not through money. Our values lie in our words and ideas, not our economic backgrounds.

The students today at The Cooper Union fully recognize our full tuition scholarships as an incredible privilege and gift granted to us, especially at this time.
With the current student debt rising to 1 Trillion Dollars today, and reported at being 1/10 of Americas current National Debt, students at Cooper realize that the free tuition model of The Cooper Union should be valued and emulated NOW, more than ever. People for years have looked to The Cooper Union because of its mission to provide free education; higher education in America now should look to The Cooper Union as its model. This is our mission for no tuition, because education is a human right deserved by ALL.

Please join us in preserving The Cooper Union for future generations in granting full tuition merit based scholarships for all!

Apr. 27 2012 09:37 AM
Benjamin Degen from East Village, NY

Cooper Union's tuition free model has been in place and sustainable for over 100 years. This only changed recently when the administration abandoned Cooper's original mission of free education for all and enstated a radical expansionist agenda. This agenda included policies which sacrificed Cooper Union's heretofore prudently and conservatively managed endowment and incurred hundreds of millions of dollars in new debt so that they could speculate on the real estate and financial markets. The real estate and financial bubbles burst, leaving the school in a perilous financial position. Now this administration wants to further expand and speculate in the about-to-burst bubble of the for-profit education market? Not sustainable.
The Cooper Union community does not accept this. These are BAD and UNCREATIVE solutions from a recalcitrant and uncooperative board of trustees. It is important to remember that there is a POSSIBILITY that Cooper Union will have a new tuition policy next year, but it is just as likely that Cooper Union will have a new president and board of trustees next year. The anger and total opposition of the Cooper Union Community should not be underestimated.
For ACTUAL SOLUTIONS from the Cooper Community itself please visit:

Apr. 27 2012 09:15 AM

The man is Jesse Kreuzer. I'm not sure who James Cooper is but the photo clearly states that the monument is to Peter Cooper.

Apr. 26 2012 01:31 AM

This is an ideological issue. Think about this a little deeper, people!

Why are we so passive in our acceptance of this ridiculous business that America likes to call "education"???

People need to wake up and think for themselves for a minute - what is right and what is wrong here?

Education should be a right, not a privilege.

Apr. 25 2012 10:04 PM

Maybe people will just have to start going to cheaper schools. Sure, tuition is rising everywhere but if you can't afford 120,000 dollars then you're just going to have to go somewhere else. Working class people always have faced this but now I guess the bourgeois kids are feeling the heat too.

Apr. 25 2012 09:36 PM
Gabe from New Jersey

Considering that some Manhattan apartments cost the same amount, sure some great benefactor could wipe out their deficit? But I suppose that the working class no longer matters or counts among the powers that be. This is ultimately self-defeating. If America wants to become a third world country with no creative culture whatsoever (but with a first rate military) she just needs to stay the course.

Apr. 25 2012 08:36 PM

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