Cooper Union Students Protest Possible Tuition Fees

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Twelve students at The Cooper Union continue to barricade themselves in a studio room in the school’s Foundation Building with three demands of their administration, including the resignation of the school’s president, Jamshed Bharucha, and that the school remain tuition free.

The institution, which has been tuition free for 110 years, announced last spring that it would have to implement tuition for its graduate students. Now, students are worried about the possibility of the school charging tuition for undergraduates, too.

On Monday an anonymous source released a detailed committee report to members of Students for a Free Cooper Union, which discussed the possibility of charging tuition to undergraduate students in the future. The report noted that within 10 years, students could end up paying between $40,000 and $80,000 in tuition fees.

Students say it’s not just tuition at The Cooper Union that is at issue, but the high cost of higher education in general. They argue that education should be accessible for all, not just those who can pay.

“Universal accessibility to free education is the only way that a democracy can function,” said fifth year architecture student and student protest organizer Jake Lee. “We’ve been shifting away into a more commodified version of what education is.”

The Cooper Union has said in a statement that the views of the students that barricaded themselves in the room beginning Monday afternoon “do not reflect the views of a student population of approximately 1,000 architects, artists and engineers.” 

Dilan Raycheavicci, a sophomore at the Cooper Union studying Art and Painting, noted there is a divide between arts students and engineering students on the issue. “Everyone in the art school is supporting this, I mean the engineers are not stricken so hard cause they're not having classes cut and these chances taken away from them,” he explained.

He’s against the idea of implementing tuition for its undergraduate students, saying the idea of accepting students solely based on merit encourages them to “do something with their knowledge, instead of having to constantly grind in an office to pay off a debt.”

In a statement, The Cooper Union said “the effort to develop and implement a financially sustainable plan is critical to the institution’s survival.” Proposals for The Cooper Union schools to meet that end will be reviewed by the Board of Trustees with a decision expected by early 2013.

Tuition at the tuition free school is currently valued at $38,550.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that The Cooper Union has been tuition free since its founding in 1859. It has been tuition free since 1902.