The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art has changed extensively over the past few years, and this morning the school announced that after 150 years of offering a free education, it is planning to charge a tuition. The prestigious school is known mainly for two things – turning out industry giants like Daniel Libeskind, Milton Glaser and Alex Katz and being one of the last tuition-free colleges in the United States. But after two years of financial struggles and intense debate, the Union has decided to implement a “sliding scale” tuition starting in 2014.

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Cooper Union opened its doors in 1859 thanks to a large endowment from wealthy industrialist Peter Cooper, with the belief that an education “equal to the best” should be available to all, regardless of financial standing. The undergraduate and graduate school operated from 1859 until this year at a completely tuition-free model, admitting only 1,000 very lucky, very special, students per year into its arts, design, and engineering programs.

But yesterday, board chairman Mark Epstein broke the news to students and staff that due to a severe deficit that includes a $175 million loan and other financial constraints, students enrolling in the fall of 2014 will have to begin paying tuition. He went on to say that they school will continue Cooper’s vision by offering free tuition to those in severe need.

Many students and staff walked out in protest in response to the new, while others stayed on to ask questions. Aside from the obvious cost of tuition, the issue on most supporters’ minds is, will the impending tuition change Cooper Union’s character and mission, and enter it into the big business of college like most other universities in the United States? Only time will tell whether the new policy will alter the course of Cooper Union’s mission.

Via The NY Times

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