Lifestyle & Belief

Cooper Union to break with tradition and have grad students pay tuition


Cooper Union’s Foundation Building in New York City in 2005.


Mario Tama

NEW YORK—Manhattan-based university Cooper Union, known for offering all its students full scholarships so that it costs nothing to attend the prestigious school, announced today that it will start charging graduate students tuition, the New York Times reported.

According to the New York Times:

The school was founded in 1859 by Peter Cooper, a wealthy industrialist, primarily to provide a free education to working-class students, and school officials say it has not charged any students in degree programs since 1902, a policy made possible by large gifts left by Cooper and others.

Grad students who start at Cooper Union in 2013 will pay tuition, but it has not yet been decided how much, school officials said, according to the New York Times. Undergraduate students who start in Sept. 2013 will still get a free ride for four years, but the university cannot guarantee that later classes will not be charged tuition, college president Jamshed Bharucha said.

Last fall, the university shocked students and alumni when it raised the possibility that it might start charging tuition, Inside Higher Ed reported. Post-recession, income from Cooper Union’s half-billion-dollar endowment and the New York properties it rents out is not keeping pace with the cost of providing a high-quality education, school officials told Inside Higher Ed.

“The bottom line is that you have to have some reliable source of revenue other than tuition or an endowment that’s large enough to generate sustainable returns to keep up with higher education inflation,” Bharucha told Inside Higher Education in November.

In addition to charging tuition, the college, which offers programs in art, architecture and engineering, will also launch new master’s and online programs as soon as 2013 to capture more paying students, the New York Times reported.

The United States has only a handful of tuition-free colleges – mostly small colleges where students work in exchange for education, the US service academies and some online universities – according to Inside Higher Ed.

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