NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – For the first time in more than a century, students at prestigious Cooper Union will have to pay tuition, the Board of Trustees announced.

In a letter posted on Cooper Union’s website, the board said it voted last week to only offer a 50 percent scholarship for undergraduate students beginning with the class entering in the fall of 2014. The school currently offers all students a full scholarship.

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“Under the new policy, The Cooper Union will continue to adhere to the vision of Peter Cooper, who founded the institution specifically to provide a quality education to those who might otherwise not be able to afford it. Consequently, we will provide additional scholarship funding for those with need, including full-tuition scholarships to students with the greatest need. We intend to keep admissions need-blind. Current undergraduates, as well as those undergraduates entering in the fall of 2013 will continue to receive the full-tuition scholarship for the duration of their undergraduate education,” the board wrote.

Full tuition is estimated to be $38,500 a year.

The board noted that the decision to charge students tuition came after 18 months of debate on the issue. The decision to reduce the scholarship was done to ensure the school will be able to survive and thrive in the future, according to the board.

“In arriving at our decision, the Board thoroughly analyzed a wide range of options, mindful of how the full tuition scholarships have been central to our identity. Being mostly alumni ourselves, we share your sense of the loss of this extraordinary tradition. 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 statement read.

LINK: Read The Board’s Letter

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“We cannot rely on the rent income from the Chrysler Building to solve our long-term problems. Even though our rent income from the Chrysler lease is scheduled to increase dramatically in 2018-19, deficits are forecast to grow forever thereafter. This is because the rent income remains flat for a decade, followed by a smaller increase, which then again remains flat for a decade. From 2019 until the next rent increase, the annual compound growth rate of our Chrysler income (rent plus tax equivalency payments) is 1.4 percent, well below projected inflation,” the statement said.

The board added other options such as downsizing the school or cutting the budget would have more negative impacts than reducing the scholarship offered.

“At the same time, maintaining the highest standards of excellence means that we must constantly aim to improve through investment. We must engage in a continuous process of strengthening our academic programs, our faculty, and the clarity of our academic reputation. The institution will invest in our programs and our faculty to ensure that we always are, and are regarded as, equal to the best,” the board’s statement said.

There were student protests in December over reports that the school was planning to charge tuition. Eleven students then barricaded themselves in the Cooper Union clock tower and said they would not come out until the school agreed to scrap the earlier plan just to charge tuition for graduate students.

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art was founded with an endowment by Peter Cooper in 1859. The New York Times has reported that in the early years of the school, some students did pay tuition.

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