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Cash-Strapped Cooper Union to Add Tuition-Based Grad Programs; Students Stage Walkout

Among the perks of attending the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art are the myriad opportunities to fondle the walls of the academic building designed by Thom Mayne, courses such as Architectonics Lab with Professor Lebbeus Woods, and, oh yes, it’s free. But not for long. Sans tuition since 1859, when it was established by bearded industrialist and gelatin magnate Peter Cooper, Cooper Union is now turning to fee-based graduate programs to shore up its shaky finances. “Our preliminary financial analysis shows starkly that new, reliable, and scalable streams of revenue are imperative—over and beyond what an ambitious fundraising strategy may be relied upon to yield, and sooner than a set of options with long term promise can deliver,” wrote Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha in a statement issued yesterday. “Weighing all the alternatives, I am convinced that some fee-based programs are necessary for Cooper Union’s solvency, and that this framework gives us the most optimistic way forward.”

Undergrads are safe for now: all will continue to receive full-tuition scholarships, a commitment that Bharucha promised would extend at least through the class entering in the fall of 2013. However, the addition of any tuition-based programs at Cooper Union is not sitting well with some students, and a walkout is set to begin later today. “Charging tuition at the Cooper Union will require altering the original mission statement of the school which states that the Cooper Union ‘…awards full scholarships to all enrolled students,’” wrote Rachel Appel, a Cooper Union art student and an organizer of Friends of Cooper Union, in an e-mail sent this morning. Bharuca’s announcement came just days before a “community summit” at which the Friends of Cooper Union plans to present various non-tuition based solutions to the school’s fiscal crisis. That meeting will proceed tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. in the Great Hall at Cooper Union.

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