April 25, 2012
Cooper Union, a prestigious New York college that has provided higher education free of charge for over a century, will begin charging tuition for some of its graduate programs this fall. The tuition-free policy will remain in place for undergraduates for the time being.
In a letter to the school released yesterday, President Jamshed Bharucha said that the college would start new fee-based master's and other professional programs, online programs, continuing education, partnerships and interdisciplinary programs. He added that "many other entrepreneurial ideas are being discussed by members of our community, which hold the promise of both academic and financial benefit."
Bharucha also announced that undergraduates who begin the college in Fall 2013 will not pay tuition. However, that policy may change for students who follow.
In October, Bharucha announced that because of a growing deficit, Cooper Union had no choice but to consider charging tuition. Students, alumni and faculty objected to the proposal, and argued that charging tuition would alter the college's identity and social mission.
The plan announced yesterday was seen by many as a compromise because it stopped short of charging tuition to all students. "This hybrid model is exciting because it give us a chance to do new things and not just hunker down," explained Bharucha in an interview with The New York Times. But he also cautioned that the strategy has risks, "and there are those who worry if it will work."
Some were quick to criticize the plan. Friends of Cooper Union, a group that is against charging tuition, said it would hold a forum on Thursday to explore alternatives.
"There are a lot of good ideas that haven't had their audience," said Henry Chapman, a 2010 graduate and one of the group's organizers, who was quoted by The New York Times. "What they've proposed goes against the school's identity. It's risky, and the fear is, in two or three years, they'll say, 'We tried this, it didn't work, and now we have to charge undergraduates.'"
But others praised the plan. As reported by Inside Higher Ed, a letter to alumni written by Peter Cafiero, president of the college's alumni association and a member of the revenue task force that devised the plan, expressed support for the plan.
"Decisions required to achieve these long-term goals will undoubtedly be criticized, either for going too far or not going far enough," he wrote. "I do believe strongly that this plan is the best hope for preserving what many of us feel is important about The Cooper Union, and even improving it."
Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman
"Cooper Union Will Charge Tuition for Graduate Students," nytimes.com, April 24, 2012, Richard Perez-Pena
"Engineering a Compromise," insidehighered.com, April 25, 2012, Kevin Kiley
"Update from President Bharucha: A Framework for Action," cooper.edu, April 24, 2012