cooper union
Cooper Union, a New York City-based college that has famously offered full-ride scholarships to all of its students, has announced today that they will begin requiring all students to begin paying tuition, marking the end of a 110 period of free education.

The college’s Board of Trustees announced that the decision to end the school’s vaunted policy of free attendance was a necessary step to cover the $12 million annual budget shortfall. Beginning in fall of 2014, the college will begin offering a reduced financial aid award equal to 50 percent of the school’s $19,275 per semester tuition. Current students and students who will begin attendance during the 2013-2014 school year, whose financial aid has already been awarded, will not be affected.

“After eighteen months of intense analysis and vigorous debate about the future of Cooper Union, the time has come for us to set our institution on a path that will enable it to survive and thrive well into the future,” said the board in a statement released on Tuesday morning. “Consequently, the Board of Trustees voted last week to reduce the full-tuition scholarship to 50 percent for all undergraduates admitted to The Cooper Union beginning with the class entering in the fall of 2014.”

Board of Trustees chair Mark Epstein responded to questions from concerned and enraged students about the policy change on Tuesday afternoon. During the session, Epstein said that he did not expect that the decision would not affect alumni donation, or that students will be overly-troubled about how their tuition bill would compare to others.

Epstein highlighted that 25 percent of undergraduates will still be able to attend the college without paying tuition at all, while approximately half of new students will only be required to pay 50 percent of the total cost. But those students who will not meet the criteria for financial aid may end up paying roughly $19,000 more than a student currently enrolled at Cooper Union.

“These are what we feel will be the least damaging changes among all the other options,” Epstein said. “One option that was taken off the table right away was to do nothing, because that would’ve been a death sentence.”

The announcement to end the full-ride scholarship program for undergraduate students comes after the Board of Trustee’s previous decision to begin charging graduate students in April of 2012, which itself sparked a protest in which 11 students barricaded themselves in a classroom at the Cooper Union Foundation Building for a week.

This latest change has already sparked renewed protests and demonstrations by Cooper Union students against the decision, with a group hanging a banner outside the Cooper Union Foundation Building that reads “Free Education to All,” echoing the sentiments of Cooper Union’s founder Peter Cooper, who said in 1864 that the school was founded on the principle of education that is “open and free to all.”

When Epstein told the audience of angry students that the responsibility of the trustees’ was to “try to represent Peter Cooper,” the students responded with boos, while one reportedly shouted that the founder of Cooper Union was “rolling in his grave.”