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Breaking Tradition, Cooper Union Will Charge Undergrads Tuition

Citing financial strain, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art announced that beginning in the fall of 2014, it would begin charging its undergraduate students tuition.

The college is one of the few institutions that doesn't charge students tuition.

In a press release, the board of trustees said the decision comes after "18 months of intense analysis and vigorous debate." The trustees said that undergraduates who can afford it, will be charged 50 percent of full tuition, or about $20,000.

"Being mostly alumni ourselves, we share your sense of the loss of this extraordinary tradition," the trustees said. "In the final analysis, however, we found no viable solutions that would enable us to maintain the excellence of our programs without an alteration of our scholarship policy."

The New York Times tells us a bit about the school's history:

"Cooper Union opened in 1859 with an endowment from the industrialist Peter Cooper and a mission of educating working-class New Yorkers at no cost to them. Some students, school historians believe, did pay to attend at first, but no undergraduates have paid for more than 100 years.

"The absence of a tuition bill and the high quality of its instruction have over time changed the school's identity; today it is one of the most selective colleges in the country, enrolling art, architecture and engineering students from every location and every station of life. But a budget crisis lately forced the school to wrestle with changes that would once have been inconceivable."

The school currently operates with a $12 million annual shortfall.

Curbing the scholarship program, the school said, puts it on path "to survive and thrive well into the future."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.