Since 1902, Cooper Union has been free. Students don’t pay tuition. The “free as air and water” ethos has been integral to the school’s culture, but it could be changing. Faced with mounting debt, the school is considering a shift from free to…being like every other university in the country and charging kids to go there.
New Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha told the Times that “Altering our scholarship policy will be only as a last resort, but in order to create a sustainable model, it has to be one of the options on the table.”
He added that the policy, were it to come to pass, wouldn’t affect the current students or future low-income students.
One significant challenge is placing Cooper Union on the path to a sustainable financial model. A sustainable model is one in which the budget is balanced with only as much investment income as dictated by the endowment spending policy. As of this year, we have an annual structural deficit of close to $16.5 million. With expenditures of $59.7 million, this represents a deficit of approximately 28%. This is a structurally unsustainable financial model, and we must act immediately to put our institution on the path to a sustainable future.
Students at Cooper aren’t pleased about the specter of tuition on the horizon. Ryan Revell, a senior, told us that “Cooper wouldn’t even be Cooper anymore.”
“It would be like every other college,” he said. “If Cooper starts charging tuition, that would be as radical as Harvard saying that everyone who gets in gets a full scholarship.”
According to Revell, students have been writing letters and emails and are “trying to be very vocal.” There’s now a petition and students are also staging a “Walk-Work-Act out” from 2 to 6 p.m tomorrow.
President Bharucha told the Times that no decision has been made and no real decisions will be made until spring.