Decision To End Free Tuition Came Last Month

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The decision to begin charging tuition for the first time in the history of Cooper Union prompted students to stage a sit-in at the school president’s office, according to a published report.

Students walked into the office of Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha around 10:50 a.m. on Wednesday and more than 60 people ended up joining the sit-in, according to a Gothamist report. The students have launched a call for Bharucha to resign, and also have spread a petition backing the school’s earlier stand to remain tuition free, the publication reported.

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In a letter posted on Cooper Union’s website last month, the school’s board of trustees 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.

“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.

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“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.

There were also 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.

Located in the East Village, 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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