Facing serious financial trouble in a weak economy, Cooper Union, the New York City college founded in 1859 to provide free education for the working class, may begin charging undergraduate tuition for the first time in more than a century, its president said Monday.
“Altering our scholarship policy will be only as a last resort, but in order to create a sustainable model, it has to be one of the options on the table,” Jamshed Bharucha, who took over as president in July, said in an interview.
Such a change would be a cultural shift for an institution whose tuition-free education and esteemed programs in engineering, architecture and art have made it one of the nation’s most selective schools, admitting 5 percent to 10 percent of applicants annually, depending on the department.
Peter Cooper, a self-taught industrialist, inventor and social reformer, founded the college with the mission of making higher education available to all; it was among the first to admit blacks, women, students of any religion and those who could not pay, making it need-blind long before the term existed.
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