A coalition of Cooper Union students, faculty and alumni rallied in front of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan Friday during a court hearing on the school's decision to begin charging tuition to incoming students this fall. They wielded large red, black and white signs with messages like "Free Education to All," "Save Cooper Union," and "Broken Trustees."
Alumnus Adrian Jovanovic, a co-founder of the Committee to Save Cooper Union, said financial mismanagement and lavish spending are to blame for the school's decision.
"The Cooper Union has been living beyond its means, and as a result has lost trust among alumni, students and faculty," he said. "We need to investigate these poor financial decisions and uncontrolled spending, and demand accountability."
Ben Degen, who studied and taught art at Cooper Union, said the decision would change the school's reputation as a "true meritocracy," where students have equal opportunity regardless of socioeconomic class.
"We're here to claim our right as a community, a right to our asset, to our free Cooper Union," he said. "It belongs to all of us and it belongs to our future generations."
Justin Harmon, a spokesman for Cooper Union, disputes the group's claims. He said "sustained structural deficit" has left the school with no other choice but to begin charging tuition. Incoming freshman will pay up to $19,800 in tuition per year, starting next month. But officials said the average student with financial aid will pay closer to $13,000 per year. Harmon said the number of incoming students eligible for Pell Grant has also jumped considerably this year.