NEW YORK (AP / CBSNewYork) – Cooper Union is considering charging undergraduate students tuition for the first time since its founding in 1859.

WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman On The Story

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The prestigious art, architecture and engineering school in the East Village is facing serious financial problems.

According to The New York Times, Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha said altering its scholarship policy would be a last resort but had to be one of the options.

Industrialist and social reformer Peter Cooper founded the school with the mission of making it tuition-free for all.

“Brilliant kids who had no money could find a home at Cooper,” famed graphic desginer Milton Glaser told WCBS 880 reporter Alex Silverman. He studied there in the 1940s.

“What a sadness,” he said.

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“Cooper is, like, about being a free school. Like, we’re all here on scholarship and that’s how it’s been for a hundred and fifty years and that’s how it should say,” said one student, among many who are distraught by this news.

“Our ideology is tied to that scholarship. It’s not just about the money. It’s about the spirit and the philosophy and the soul of this institution,” said another.

The Wall Street Journal says the school’s $16.5 million budget deficit this year has been growing for decades.

Bharucha said that lower-income and many middle-income students would continue to attend free. He said none of the current 900 undergraduates would be charged.

“Governments, nonprofits and institutions of higher education throughout the world have not been immune to the current economic stress. Cooper Union is no exception.  It faces a substantial and severe structural budget deficit, one that has grown over the past couple of decades, and was significantly accelerated by the crash of 2008,” the school said in a statement. “The possibility of adjusting the scholarship policy is not a foregone conclusion, but it is a last resort and will be on the table. There should be no doubt that under any circumstance Cooper Union is irrevocably committed to Peter Cooper’s crucial vision of providing access to those who can least afford it.”

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