The plan hopes to raise the average annual scholarship level of 76% to 100% by the 2029 fiscal year.
On January 15, 2018, the Free Education Committee of the Cooper Union, or FEC, released a comprehensive plan that proposed a method to return the Cooper Union to a full-tuition scholarship model by 2029. The plan estimates a much closer deadline than the previous estimate of 2039 from the January 2017 Progress Report. The plan is described as “multi-pronged,” requiring a focus on fundraising and expense management. Through small increments over the next ten years, the plan hopes to raise the average annual scholarship level of 76% to 100% by the 2029 fiscal year.
An overview of the Board of Trustees Meeting from June 21, 2017 describes an initiative of President Laura Sparks to improve diversity at the Cooper Union. The “Diversity Task Force” is fully endorsed by the Board of Trustees and is expected to launch soon. According to the minutes from this meeting, “the committee will look to external resources to employ best practices and break new ground in this area at Cooper”. Cooper Union has always held diversity in its highest regard, allowing women to enroll in courses in an era when that was uncommon, allowing even those of limited means to benefit from the school’s resources.
Fred Fontaine is Professor and Jesse Sherman Chair of Electrical Engineering at The Cooper Union. In addition to being a faculty member since 1987, Fontaine is also an alumnus of the Albert Nerken School of Engineering. Fontaine spoke with The Pioneer on the subject of tuition and how it fits into the school’s ongoing narrative.
“If everything else had happened, except they actually never put in tuition, we would have issues. It’s part of a symptom; it’s part of a larger problem.”
For a school that had been tuition-free for over 150 years, charging tuition was a historically significant event. Cooper Union is now a bit more like every other higher education institution in the US. Perhaps, something characteristic to Cooper has been lost, beyond being “as free as air and water.”
On April 29, 1859, Peter Cooper and his wife, Sarah Cooper, bestowed upon The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art both the property and land that currently houses the Foundation Building. The Deed of Trust was followed by a personal letter that Peter Cooper wrote to the trustees of the institution. It was not until 97 years later, in 1956, that the letter was published in a pamphlet, to remind its readers of Peter Cooper’s vision for the institution.
By Evan Bubniak (ME ‘21) and Matthew Grattan (ChE ‘19)\
Since the announcement in 2013, The Cooper Union has admitted four tuition-paying classes. That is to say: Barring fifth-year architecture students, every undergraduate at Cooper pays tuition, and the first-ever class of tuition-payers in Cooper’s century-and-a-half history will graduate in the spring.
Cooper is not—and never has been—the typical American college experience. Yet, is it possible that tuition has changed our institution? Have we lost something beyond the full-tuition scholarship? Or conversely, have we gained anything?