Students occupy college to keep tuition free
Students at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art are protesting a new tuition plan.
May 14th, 2013
09:22 PM ET

Students occupy college to keep tuition free

Editor's note: This story was updated May 16, 2013, to reflect new information about the student protest.

By Dantel Hood, CNN

(CNN) - For more than a century, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York provided free education to all admitted students. But the school isn’t immune to the money crunch forcing tuition increases at colleges across the country.

In April, Cooper Union announced that it will start charging tuition for undergraduate students matriculating in fall 2014. Citing a $12 million annual budget deficit, the Cooper Union Board of Trustees will scale back the full scholarship it has traditionally awarded.

Students believe the administration’s decision casts a shadow on future students’ education.

At least 50 of Cooper Union's nearly 1,000 students have been occupying President Jamshed Bharucha's office on the seventh floor of the school's Foundation Building. The students organized a sit-in to protest the decision to charge future undergraduate students half the cost of tuition, up to $19,000 a year.

This week, they painted the office’s lobby black as a symbol of their protest. Cooper Union junior Troy Kreiner said it was an extension of a demonstration by architecture students, who painted another lobby black to protest tuition.

“Painting the lobby is a nonviolent action that visually transforms a space by the students. It is also a way to mobilize students in direct action through communal effort,” Kreiner said.
Bharucha met with the students, who have occupied his office for more than a week, although no resolution has been reached, according to Claire McCarthy, Cooper Union's director of public affairs.

Cooper Union has provided free education to its students since 1859. Various investments, such as real estate in the Chrysler Building and elsewhere in Manhattan, have provided the funding in the past. Those investments, however, have since fallen short of covering the school’s long-term costs.

“The Board thoroughly analyzed a wide range of options, mindful of how the full tuition scholarships have been central to our identity,” said an April 23 statement from the Board of Trustees. “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.”

Senator wants deep discounts on student loans

Although tuition increases won’t affect current students, protesters say they're motivated by a lack of transparency in the administration and their hopes for future students. They insist that the change in cost undermines a tradition of meritocracy that sets Cooper Union apart from other private institutions.

Saar Shemesh, a 21-year-old transfer student, said from inside Bharucha’s office, “The way I see it, these students that will be coming in 2014 … they don’t have a voice yet. They’re still 16-year-olds in high school right now, and if we don’t fight for them, nobody will. … We’re already here. We don’t have to fight to be here, but we need to fight for the people that aren’t here yet and that have dreamt of coming to this school for their entire lives, like we had.”

While students initially entered the building to present a letter to the president citing a vote of “no confidence” on behalf of the School of Art, Bharucha exited the building before being confronted by the protesters. Upon arriving at the empty office, students changed course and organized a sit-in, stating that they would remain until receiving a response from the administration. The response they got was not what they were looking for: a threat of expulsion for all students involved in the protest. This threat is currently being reassessed.

“First and foremost, we want him to resign,” Shemesh said of the issues with Bharucha and the administration. “We don’t feel that he’s fit to run the school. We want tuition to be revoked. We want more transparency with the Board of Trustees, potentially a new Board of Trustees. We want mostly transparency and fairness. We want representation of student voices in administrative policies and processes for decision-making. We want a more open institution.”

Accepted to college? Time to negotiate financial aid

Kerry Carnahan, a spokeswoman for the advocacy group Friends of Cooper Union, shared a statement announcing the group’s solidarity with student protesters: “We have come to realize that the President and board have their own financial, ideological priorities that don’t add up with what the majority of us understand Cooper Union to be – ideas that don’t align with the ideals the school was founded on.”

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Filed under: College • Economy • Financial aid • School administration • Students
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  1. fin de semana relax en toledo

    Magnificent points altogether, you simply received a new reader. What could you suggest in regards to your submit that you simply made a few days ago? Any sure?

    May 25, 2013 at 3:16 am |
  2. Charlie

    Tuition is never free; all these students are saying is they don't want to be the ones paying. In this article I see a lot of talk about how charging tuition would go against the "culture" of this university, as well as their symbolic "non-violent" paint protest and a good old fashioned sit-in, but I see nothing where these enraged students explain where they think the money to cover the yearly budget shortfalls should come from. They want a free education, but they don't say how it should be paid for. Who should foot the bill? Somebody. Who should manage the budget? Someone else. Who should pay the faculty and staff? Other people. The first thing these kids need is an economics lesson.

    May 21, 2013 at 6:31 am |
    • Gary Boldwater

      The first thing you need to do is read the article before making comments like this one. Not one of the protesters are going to have to pay a dime. They're not worried about "paying for it" themselves. And they are well aware of basic economics. In fact, they have been asking for more transparency from the Administration for the last two years, and have gotten none. And most students and faculty (past and present) believe that Cooper is not Cooper if you charge tuition. You might as well close the school and sell the school to NYU. I guess if you were in their postion, you'd just roll over and lose the whole mission statement of the school? I'm so glad there are more people like them and less people like you at CU.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  3. Michael Ruzicho

    If you have nothing, poor, have kids, low wage job, or even around people you cannot stand go to college. Education, money, and employment awaits for you.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
  4. Jessica Duers

    I was unaware that a tuition-free education exixsted at all in NYC. I am glad to see that the students are protesting in nonviolent ways. I hope the administration and students can find some peaceful way to resolve this issue.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
  5. bert f.

    Instead of organizing sit-ins, the students should instead be harvesting the money (that they believe) grows on trees to help out the college.

    May 19, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • Gary Boldwater

      I think that's part of the idea of the sit in (to attract attention to the cause). Not that you deserve an earnest response.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  6. Just curious

    What does free tuition actually mean? For example, in Mass the top 25% in each district on the state tests gets free tuition to any state school (as do kid of state employees). Pretty sweet deal until you see that Mass schools, even UMass which is actually the cheapest "tuition" to try to lower demand, are under $800/year for instate tuition with $10k+ in fees.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  7. E

    And what plan do the students have to cover costs?

    May 19, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  8. mickinmd

    Keep those who can't afford big bucks out of college! That way there will be more potential members of the Tea Party!

    May 19, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  9. Don from Dallas

    This is one more example of how the "baby boomer" generation has managed to raise the middle finger in the direction of future generations. This has become far too common. Evidently the "baby boomers" have this idea of "I got mine and screw anyone else trying to get theirs!"

    May 18, 2013 at 3:34 am |
    • are122

      Baby boomers I know worked for everything they got and had nothing given to them. When I was a kid there were three classifications of teens; working teens, student working teens and lazy good-for-nothings. If you didn't work for it, you didn't get it, plain and simple. Something seems to have been lost over the years.

      May 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
      • El Flaco

        I'm a baby-boomer. I worked my way through college by working the night shift at convenience stores. Of course, that would be impossible today.

        May 19, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  10. Solex

    Isn't "Free Tuition" an oxymoron?

    May 17, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
  11. MVA

    I am an alumna. Perhaps use of the word 'free' is misleading. a Cooper education was paid for by Peter Cooper and OFFERED to future generations in exchange for demonstrated ability and hard work. His vision was upheld by generations of stewards through many economic ups and downs,including the world wars and the great depression. And now, the school has hired and paid PROFESSIONAL development consultants, investors, and trustees who have managed, through bad decisions, to undo in five years what worked and thrived for 150 years before. They DID NOT DO THEIR JOB and should be held accountable, and frankly, relieved of their positions IMMEDIATELY. You do not get to stick around (and collect a handsome salary, in the case of the current president) after you've run the ship aground. These students are demanding that someone with regard for the mission of the school step in and at least try to turn this all around. And I fully support them. Those of us who HAVE given back to CU after receiving 'free' educations feel just as cheated by these clowns as these students do. Unfortunately, we have other demands on our time and can't go camp out with them in the President's office. I wish I could!!

    May 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Jessica

      As an alumna, do you donate to keep the scholarships alive?

      May 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
      • MVA

        I gave what I could, but reading the accounting of the bad financial decisions made by the trustees makes me sorry I did.

        May 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  12. Bill

    Looking at Cooper Union's CollegeData College Profile, you're going to have a hard time convincing me that the students attending couldn't have gotten a boat load of scholarships elsewhere and been able to fund the majority of their tuition at an in-state school. More than 75% of freshman were in the top 10% at their high school and scored very well on the SAT I and ACT. 12% were national merit scholars. 11% were valedictorians. And according to CollegeData, financial need is not a consideration in the admissions process

    To me, this is not a school that caters to those that cannot afford college and would not be able to succeed anywhere else. This is a good school that provides an education free of charge to those who earned it based on college scores. There may be other options than cutting off the full tuition scholarship, but you're not going to make me feel bad about a student having to pay for their schooling when they can go to a number of schools for pretty much free anyway based on test scores. I could have attended Michigan State and left with probably less than $10K in debt after college but I chose to attend a private college and left with around $40K in debt. My choice, my responsibility.

    May 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • tabbi

      way to make the article all about you? this is about these students,future students, their school, and the foundation the school was built on....

      May 18, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • nvb

      i had no help from family when i applied to college. i chose what i thought were the three "best" schools and applied. i got into cooper. if i had gone to the other schools i would have taken out nearly $100,000 for tuition costs. not all 17-18 year olds, regardless of how well they are doing in school, have the knowledge to make smart financial decisions. and when they get out they are saddled with enormous debt.

      May 20, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
  13. Gwen

    How is it unfair and freeloading? How is EARNING a full tuition scholarship to Cooper Union any different than getting a sports or academic scholarship to go to college anywhere? No nothing is free, it must be earned, but there are different ways of earning things.

    May 17, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • rh

      Exactly. It's like an honors college with no regular college. I teach at a state college, and they have an honors college, and if you get in, you get 100% free tuition. If they aren't funded, they should start a program to get funded by getting donations.

      May 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  14. History Bear

    Why do these students think they are above everyone else. Free tuition is a pipe dream. These kids will go out and earn very nice salaries, so pony up and pay your share. NOTHING IS FREE

    May 17, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Gary Boldwater

      So sick of these ignorant grumbling Friedman-esque diatribes about hard work and free lunches. How is full tuition a "pipe dream" if it has been in place for over 150 years? What has changed about our society that would make this idea so impossible? I would submit that the illusion of its impossibility is a direct result of the spread of neoliberal thought, like you subscribe to.

      The occupiers are standing against mentalities like yours, and I couldn't agree with them more.

      May 17, 2013 at 11:06 am |
      • pjusa

        Gary, The answer is simple. Their endowment ran out of money and their alumni and other backers can no longer afford to keep it afloat. In our ever increasing "progressive" state philanthropy is dying. Taxes go up, giving goes down. Didn't they teach you that in your flaming liberal arts econ class?

        May 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
      • Gary Boldwater

        pjusa,

        Nope, the endowment didn't "run out of money". It was irresponsibly invested exclusively in risky hedge fund schemes, and was a victim of casino capitalism. The well didn't dry up. The money was lost as s result of greed and casino capitalism.

        And last time I checked, we were in an ever expanding corporatist plutocracy, not the strawman "progressive state" you speak of. Nice try, though.

        May 17, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • tabbi

      their tuition will continue to be free, they are fighting for the future students who do not yet have a voice, or did you not read the article?

      May 18, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • E

      It is hard to get into Cooper union, students there earned their way in.

      May 19, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  15. Crystal

    If they want the tuition to continue to be free, why aren't they suggesting actual alternatives instead of holding a useless protest? A deficit that big means that even if the school continues to be free it won't be open any longer to educate people.

    May 16, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • A guy

      Actually if watched the livestream you would see they named a lot of alternatives. In 5 years the rent on the Chrysler building goes up and will be more than enough to cover the deficit (for some time at least). The problem is the students need an administration that will uphold their view of the school and help them out, because, after all, they are only students.

      May 16, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
  16. Cooper Alum

    Cooper Alum
    The narrative of idealistic students complaining about having to actually pay for something is just lazy. If you actually want to know the facts on how things got the way they are, read these:

    http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/04/24/its-time-to-air-cooper-unions-dirty-laundry/

    http://nplusonemag.com/save-cooper-union

    May 16, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
  17. CT

    Call me a freeloader. Cooper was the only chance I had to go to college, and it changed my life. Maybe if I hadn't, I would be living off public assistance or who knows, maybe I would be in jail, using your tax money.

    May 16, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  18. Cooper Alum

    Cooper Union was founded under the ideal of a free education for all. That the President and the Board to spit on this ideal without truly trying to preserve it is why students and alumni are all upset. Keep in mind, that the students protesting are guaranteed a free education. They have nothing to gain by protesting since the new tuition policy only affects future entering students.

    The administration claims to have explored every avenue to avoid charging tuition. Oh really? Why haven't they made any significant budget costs? Operating costs for the school of 1,000 students has gone from $28 million to $68 million per year from 1995 – 2010. To put that figure into context, only $5 million goes to running the engineering school, which makes up half of the students.

    So that means all the money is going to non-academic staff, the people making the decision to charge tuition. I don't know how much this school president makes, but the former president of the school was among the 10 highest paid in 2009. For running a school with 1,000 students?! That's ridiculous.

    It's quite clear that the people making the decisions at the school are more concerned with preserving their own well being than preserving Peter Cooper's amazing legacy. That is why people are so upset.

    Cooper Union was a beacon of hope for those seeking a quality education in a world of skyrocketing tuition – skyrocketing tuition driven largely by higher and higher administrative budgets at every school. It's a damn shame to just let that go away without really trying.

    May 16, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Robert

      Nice dream, but you need to stop smoking dope and come back to reality. How do you propose to pay for everything? Thought so.

      May 17, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
      • Gary Boldwater

        So glad we have clear headed realists like you to contribute to the conversation. Thanks for bringing us back down to reality, gramps!

        May 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
      • Pleeeez

        Robert, were you born old? We need our young people to make their demands or we'd still be living in caves. Give it a rest.

        May 17, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
  19. OO

    People in this country are living in different realities. Some believe that what Cooper provided, a quality free education based solely on merit, was never possible. These are people who are doubling down on their cynicism, probably because they are so bought into to the system the idea of anyone escaping makes them bitter. Cooper was never about that. I hope we continue to do what we do – find like minded people to imagine a better world that many are too afraid to even hope for.

    May 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  20. Coopersense

    Y'all Cooper haters: listen up. Cooper is not "free" in the sense of the legendary free lunch. The Cooper Union pays for its students' education with the clear social contract imbued in the model of doing good for society, which is what Cooper grads do – every day of the year, for over 154 years now – NOT to do well for themselves in terms of income. Y'all may as well complain about the "free" education "given" by the military academies. I seriously doubt that any of you nay-sayers would last a term at Cooper – it is, yes, THAT HARD A PLACE. Geeze – it's so sad to read some of this self-pitying bilge. The point of the occupation is this: to demand accountability in the administration of the school. No more, no less. With accountability will come the preservation of Peter Cooper's mission and legacy. While y'all may not LIKE it – that's the history, that's the truth, and that's what they – the Occupying Presidents – are fighting for.

    May 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • sv

      Thank you for this. -SV (BSE'03)

      May 16, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • DB

      Coopersense for the win! Thank you!

      May 16, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  21. JD

    They claim to want a meritocracy, yet think that this means that no one should have to earn what they get.

    You know what? That school SHOULD be free, because clearly the "students" aren't learning anything!

    May 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • As free as the air

      this is a true tragedy. the mission of the school is to provide free education, which is why it's so selective. the free cooper should be a model for all higher education, but the whole damn system is busted. saddling teenagers (who don't even know how to do their own laundry) with tens of thousands of dollars of debt is not an answer...

      May 16, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • felix

      Cooper students get a free education because the creating founder said so. He left a nice endowment for talented unprivileged people. What has happened in the recent future is the privileged have highjacked the school from the student body to the administration

      May 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • Cooper Alum

        The narrative of idealistic students complaining about having to actually pay for something is just lazy. If you actually want to know the facts on how things got the way they are, read these:

        http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/04/24/its-time-to-air-cooper-unions-dirty-laundry/

        http://nplusonemag.com/save-cooper-union

        May 16, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
      • A guy

        In response to Cooper Alum: none of the students fighting right now actually face any possibility of paying tuition, they are fighting for future generations to come

        May 16, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • Juanita

      Students earn their scholarship by working very hard. Just to apply to the art school for example students must submit a home test that takes a full month to complete and then if they are accepted they must work to keep their scholarship. The gift that is received is not taken for granted and it instils a sense of responsibility and accountability for one's work.

      May 16, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
  22. Jim P.

    "We want tuition to be revoked..." The joyous carefree life of the freeloader to whom money falls out of the sky on demand.

    Welcome to reality When this was a rich country we could do stuff like this but as we decay into something resembling the countries we used to give billions of dollars to, we just can't afford to subsidize your undergrad degree.

    You'll appreciate it more if you actually have to pay for some of it yourself I'd have to say.

    May 16, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • MrVicciV

      If I can take 10 years out of my life to pay off my college loans, they can too.

      May 16, 2013 at 2:03 am |
      • Gary Boldwater

        They're fighting for future students, not themselves, since they're already guaranteed full scholarships. And they were smart enough to get full scholarships. Obviously you weren't. I'm sorry for your debt, but that doesn't mean everyone should suffer the same burdens as you.

        May 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
      • felix

        If you had talent for art, architecture and engineering, and you applied to cooper you could have been awarded a full scholarship at cooper union. Free education was the idea of Peter Cooper because he saw education as freedom from the lower east side slums. Just because your life sucks does not mean your children's lives should suck too. That's backward ignorant thinking.

        May 16, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
      • Pleeeez

        I bet you had to walk five miles to class everyday in the snow , too. Gawd, what are you lkie 100 years old.

        May 17, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Allen

      Lots of people on this forum can't read. The student's aren't protesting to get something free. They are protesting to keep it free for future students. They aren't selfish. In fact, they've been threatened with expulsion, etc. so it is selfless what they are doing. How would you feel if your church shut down because someone mismanaged the funds? How would you feel if your city shut its facilities because they blew money on administrators' salaries. That is the emotion these students are channeling now.

      May 16, 2013 at 8:04 am |
      • Tom

        They are idiots if they don't know what a multimillion deficit is

        May 16, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • felix

      This is still a super rich country, the only difference is the richer are getting richer and the poorer are getting poorer.

      May 16, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • Juanita

      Would you then say that no one should receive full scholarship? Talented, hard working students earn full scholarships at nearly every school. What sets Cooper apart is that the kid working extra hard to keep the scholarship they earned is sitting next to another student who is working just as hard for theirs and not next to someone who can just afford to fail and pay for an extra semester. This makes everyone accountable, every student works harder so the standards are higher. If you believe people should earn what they have you should support a system that denies buying your way out of failing a class. Teaching strong work ethics while giving people the opportunity to learn is a great way to help students become productive members of society.

      May 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  23. Keith B Rosenberg

    Will these students expect paychecks for no work? Maybe so.

    May 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • As free as the air

      the students at cooper union work very, very hard for their full tuition scholarships

      May 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • felix

      what is sad is they might end up working a lot more for less pay if hedge funds continue stealing non-profit endowments

      May 16, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Pleeeez

      It's called unemployment income which is to say we are wasting the precious resource called our children.

      May 17, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
  24. Paul Williamson

    These students are ingrates... if they put their money where their mouth is. and pledged to pay the college back $10,000 a year for the first 20 years after they graduate (about the value of their "free" education), with money to be used to provide free tuition to incoming students, someone might listen to them...

    May 15, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Gary Boldwater

      Yeah, blame 20 year olds for the failings of wealthy board members who have been making bad decisions for decades. What are you even talking about?

      If the school was better at communicating with alumni, or even instilling a sense that giving is needed in the undergraduate program (like a Confucian moral system), there would be a much better "return" from former students.

      May 17, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  25. Benjamin Campbell

    Let me guess, most of these students consider themselves to be Democrats. Surprise, surprise.......

    May 15, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • Gary Boldwater

      What's sad is how clueless you "conservative" critics are. You are arguing against your own supposed ideals!

      Cooper Union is a true meritocracy, where student EARN full tuition merit based scholarships by hard work and intellect. These scholarships are awarded to those who EARN them, regardless of whether they're rich or poor. For 150 years, this scholarship money has come from a private endowment. Not a dime from tax dollars.

      If they impose tuition, they've already said that there will be a sliding scale for low income students, many of whom will still get full scholarships. So the rich kids would have to pay, regardless. These occupiers are fighting for all the students, rich and poor.

      May 16, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • Pleeeez

      Geezus, what's wrong with you? How did you get so hateful?

      May 17, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  26. eduardcao

    excuse me

    my grandfather was a staff officer of Guomin party shanghai branch before year of 1949. (this year that guomin party lose the civil war retreated to taiwan.)
    grandfather was sent to jail in several years later, and died in the jail said reason of drunk. grandmother was die in a unnecessary surgical operation. Dr named wang xinsheng shanghai the 4th people's hospital. she hadn't a deadly disease. dr had acknowledged what he done.

    the family controlled by government. mother actually worked for police( apparently she was a worker in a factory) and married father to control him and the family. i 'm watched 24 hours as well. and have poisoned diet, (actually poisoned environment). until 1 year ago, i realized it. they could poison everything, even water and air, clothing( clothing poison would be absorbed by skin.)

    I was lived in a big trap in past 40years. when i realized my mother and brother were being controlled me, I was almost broken. and I understand reason of the illness, disease, and pains, weakness, skinny, problems on my body. I was a healthy boy, in age of 8, I remember I jumping rope 108 times per minute, in my class was number 2, and table tennis game, classmates were afraid of me.
    then they said me has mental problem need medicine. in china, a lot of people are sent to mental disease hospital for only reason that be against government. they are washing people. 

    I was a boy that has refractory nature. that's the reason mother dislike me. and be choosen to be under controlled. and they believe the children of grandfather like mine had the DNA against government. it said dragon give birth to dragon, phoenix give birth to phoenix, mouse's son are able to drill a hole for sure.

    May 15, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • Eileen

      What the F*7k does this have to do with the college?

      May 15, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • sdfghjkl

      And so enters Random Man......

      May 16, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • cthullu

      cool story bro.

      May 16, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  27. Robin Jones

    Cooper apparently does not have an Economics Department capable of teaching students the most basic concepts such as "you cannot spend money you do not have". Students are obviously confusing Cooper with the federal government, which puts itself above such rules.

    May 15, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • sv

      The students are not so clueless. They are protesting the financial mismanagement which has led to this point. Can you speak about any of that? Have you read any of the articles in various outlets (Reuters e.g.) about how this came to pass? Over-investment in hedge funds, mismanagement of property, the building of a huge fancy new building at a time of budget deficits, and most importantly, obfuscation of the same by the Board of Trustees, who did not provide transparency and did not see the errors in their mismanagement until too late (if at all). Charging tuition also endangers a major revenue stream in the PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) that the college receives directly from the owners of the Chrysler Building (the school owns the land underneath) in an unusual arrangement with NYC which hinges upon the college's provision of a service – the education of some of its best and brightest regardless of means – to the community.

      Please learn the background of the situation before commenting.

      -an alumnus

      May 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • felix

      the idea of cooper does not fit in a small libertarian mind.

      May 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  28. dotheflippin'math

    Free tuition? Must have been nice. Welcome to the real world where NOTHING is free. OTOH, if our country provided a free college education to students who can prove their worthiness, and maintain a decent GPA, not only would it motivate students to work their hardest (and maybe get their parents more involved, which is a big problem, even in wealthy homes), maybe we could catch up to other countries who graduate far more engineers, doctors, and scientists. This is what is known as an INVESTMENT. In the long run, it could make a huge difference in our country's future. Of course, the rich GOP'ers are preaching how our kids don't need a college education...it makes it easier to enslave them later. Funny how all the guys quoting that line, not only have college degrees, but are very successful. Take Mitt Romney. He made $45mil in 2 years and only paid 14% towards taxes. Sure, he's slimy and a crook, but he wouldn't be where he is if he couldn't do the math. Ron Paul spouts the same BS. He wouldn't be a wealthy doctor/senator if it weren't for med school. Don't believe a thing these guys say. A college education is crucial for being successful. Sure, some people get lucky and work their way up, but w/o college, Ron and Mitt won't be inviting you to join their country clubs. It's a big game of "king of the hill" to them, and we are just peons in their eyes.

    May 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • smitvict

      Actually, in Obamaland, lots is for free. Health care, phones, food stamps. After all, we'll just get "the rich" to pay for everything. They are evil for being successful anyway and must be punished.

      May 15, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
      • Paul Williamson

        No, not all of the rich are evil , nor are they being punished. When Willy Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, his answer was "Because that's where the money is".In the US, the wealthy and super-wealthy are where the money is, you cannot get it from the poor or even the lower-middle class without putting/keeping them in poverty, homelessness, poor health and starvation.It is true, Hitler did it with the Jews, Poles and gypsies, but that is not much to aspire to (although I know a few plutocrats that would not mind a bit, they would say, like Hitler, the poor caused it all themselves. .

        May 15, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
      • Gary Boldwater

        Hey genius,

        Hate to interrupt you from your anti-Obama rant, but Peter Cooper's primary mission was to give ALL students who worked hard and earned it, a free education, regardless of their income bracket. If tuition is imposed, it will be the rich students who pay it (the poor students will be charged on a sliding scale). So you are essentially arguing against your own ideals.

        May 16, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
      • felix

        History lesson: Most rich are successful at getting richer by disfranchising the poor of the little bit they have. It seems like history wants to repeat with Cooper if the community does not fight.

        May 16, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  29. msp

    Maybe the other option is to accept fewer students and scale back the programs and the school to a size they can afford. But I am sure some one else will protest that as well.

    May 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • A guy

      actually some of the suggestions of the students have been to decrease in size until the rent on the chrysler building goes up

      May 16, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
  30. TK

    The article omits that the students are proposing an alternative. They want to end the Board of Trustees' expansion policy instead of charging tuition.

    May 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  31. wrm

    How dare they expect to have students pay for other people's services. It's just crazy.

    May 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  32. S.A. Wolf

    Yeah, you so changed everything. The boomers are a bunch of obese, luxury seeking buffoons, whose HC costs are bankrupting America.

    May 15, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • A True Conservative

      So what do you suggest? That we just allow the boomers to die? And what are the youth of today?

      May 16, 2013 at 9:44 am |
      • Pleeeez

        Trust me on this, ALL of the Boomers ARE going to die whether we let them or not.

        May 17, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  33. lct1

    I'm from the older generation, and back in my college days, we had the chutzpah to protest EVERYTHING: the war in Viet Nam, equal rights for the races and genders, the environment, zero population growth, etc. Today's generation is too lazy and apathetic to protest anything in their own interest unless, of course, "there's an ap. for that". Every student in every public and private university should take a page from these kids and DEMAND a reduction in tuition and other fees that are causing all graduates to go into thousands of dollars in debt. Of course, the best way to protest is to just stay away from school BOYCOTT en masse until school bureaucrats are forced to lower prices...or go out of business. Works in other industries, why not education? It's the law of supply and demand, folks. Shop with your wallets. POWER TO THE PEOPLE, to take a quote from my day!

    May 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • andres

      I too was of that generation. But instead of protesting everything. I got to work. Now for this zero poplulation growth thing even I thought was a good idea. We were id iots about that. We not only went to zero population growth we and several wealthy countries went to negative population growth and we will suffer mightily for it.

      May 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • Owl96

      You are looking at the wrong data. Tuition rates are not what you should be looking at. Apply to a college, apply for finaincial aid. Only then will you find out what your non-loan financial aid is. Subtract that from your tuition and room and board and that is what you pay. Many colleges are raising their tuition while raising their non-loan financial aid even more, decreasing the out-of-pocket expenses. There are some examples (although rare) where some students can go to a university that costs $50,000 per year for less than their local state school becuase they get great financial aid. The only way you can find out is to apply.

      May 16, 2013 at 8:47 am |
  34. Lou M

    Seems to me that the protesting students are way off base here. They have so many demands, and yet the are getting a quality education and paying nothing for it. Maybe they should be grateful, and accept whatever the school board decides .

    May 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • tom

      Wrong. The students are not naive, they understand the economics of the situation. Still, they understand that tuition is not necessary but convenient to solve the types of challenges Cooper faced in the past without resorting to tuition- the great depression, the 70's, etc. But the entire character of the school is based on merit scholarship, it would no longere be Cooper.

      What this article didn't mention was that the board completely misrepresented the finances, made risky investments, made plans to expand the school, hired a new president to charge tuition, even though in several years new revenue streams kick in from real estate to cover the deficit. Then the board blamed the alumni for not giving enough to cover the gap. The rest of the crisis is based on slow economic growth projections decades in. The NYTimes article covered this pretty well.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
      • andres

        and yet no matter the reason the money is not there.

        May 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
      • Gary Boldwater

        Actually, Andres, that's not entirely true. Members of the board have let it slip that they could afford to keep paying full scholarships for the next few years, after which the lease on the Chrysler Building land goes way up. Its not sustainable long term, but it would give the community the time to raise funds and hopefully start erasing the deficit.

        May 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  35. Sherri

    It is nice that they were able to do this, for free, for so many years, but if you have no income, or if it has dropped drastically, you have to find a way to pay the bills. How do the students think the staff will be paid? The utilities paid? Money has to come in from somewhere. I've been a university student and a university employee so I've seen both sides. There are staff to be paid, from professors to secretaries, janitors, grounds crew, food service etc. Light and heat bills. Repair bills. You can't run any business without an income (or any home either). These students will find out the hard way when they are on their own.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • tom

      The students are not naive, they understand the economics of the situation. Still, they understand that tuition is not necessary but convenient to solve the types of challenges Cooper faced in the past without resorting to tuition- the great depression, the 70's, etc. But the entire character of the school is based on merit scholarship, it would no longere be Cooper.

      What this article didn't mention was that the board completely misrepresented the finances, made risky investments, made plans to expand the school, hired a new president to charge tuition, even though in several years new revenue streams kick in from real estate to cover the deficit. Then the board blamed the alumni for not giving enough to cover the gap. The rest of the crisis is based on slow economic growth projections decades in. The NYTimes article covered this pretty well.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
      • Sharon

        I only know what I've read in this brief article, which I am sure is not the whole story. But in the end it doesn't really matter right now how the finances ended up in the shape they are in. If they have no money they have no money & a sit in will not change that. Nothing is really free, an education costs money whether someone else covers it or students do. If they don't have other ways to raise the money to keep operating the school without cost to the students something else has to be done. The obvious thing is to charge some amount of tuition.

        May 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • Ellen

      Time for all alumni to chip in, donate a small percentage of their current income, which they have been able to earn because of the education they received for free. Make sure that others receive the same opportunity that they had.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • sv

      To add to Tom's response, tuition is not only against the very founding values of this college, it also endangers another major revenue stream, the PILOT program associated with the land on which the Chrysler building is built. Felix Salmon of Reuters has written about this. The college has an unusual arrangement with NYC whereby the money that would be paid in property taxes on that land (currently $18M I believe) instead goes directly to the college, in recognition of the community service it provides in granting a free, high-quality education to some of the area's most talented students, regardless of means. If I were a city council member, I'd question why that should be continued if it becomes that much less distinguishable from other for-profit colleges. We alumni are doing our part in donating funds and looking for alternative solutions to this fiscal crisis. The solution is not obvious at this point.

      May 16, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  36. Christopher Moore

    In my opinon, school is the only way to realease negative energy. Most hate it but its the truth. I plan on going not only for a career but for relationships an growth. I love to read and write. Literature is what the world is based on.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  37. OnTheRoad

    Nothing is 'Free'! If you are going to college you should be smart enough to understand that!!! If you can't then you need to have a guardian!

    May 15, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Ellen

      The entire college was based on merit scholarship. Admit the best of the best, educate them for free, send them out into the world. This isn't a free lunch like so many people receive when they get a Federal Pell grant and then get a 2.5 GPA while drinking beer, and feel like it is their right. These are accomplished, high quality students, carefully chosen to receive a free education based on their MERIT. It is impressive that these students were even selected to receive this award of a free college education, entirely due to their academic accomplishments. If you want to rag on freeloaders, do that about the people who are using taxpayer funded grants and subsidized loans, you are paying that grant money, and paying their interest throughout their college years. Taxpayers pay that. This is a private school, and they have so far been able to give bright students their college for free. It's impressive.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  38. Mr J

    Grow Up – we all used to get 15% pay increases, lifetime care after retirement and a huge retirement package.

    May 15, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  39. Ordinary Average American

    This college must have been getting money from somewhere in order to offer free tuition! I've never heard of such a thing! And to go from "free" to $19,000 a year? Seems like a huge leap . . . something isn't right here, including students protesting for their right to a free college education!

    May 15, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • mkjp

      I know of one other school, also in NY I believe although I don't recall the name, that is free to those accepted. But they only accept about 25 people each year. I was surprised at how large the school in this article is to be free.

      It is a large jump which makes me wonder why they didn't start ramping up charges maybe a few thousand dollars at a time some years ago if their investments weren't covering costs.

      May 15, 2013 at 10:43 am |
      • jgumbrechtcnnCNN

        Here's a list of some of the schools that provide a "free" education, usually by offering a full scholarship to all admitted students: http://money.cnn.com/101/college-101/free-college.moneymag/index.htm. I added a link to the story, as well. Thanks for reading!

        May 15, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • jeff

      some unknown liberal arts college, sounds more like a community college to me

      May 15, 2013 at 11:50 am |
      • BK

        Cooper is hardly some unknown liberal arts college. It's an extremely well known art, architecture, and engineering school that is consistently ranked at or near the top in all of the respective fields of study offered and as recently as 2011 was more selective than schools like Princeton, Yale, and MIT. Just like your local community college I'm sure.

        May 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
      • Doug

        Cooper Union was the top ranked regions college in the Northeast according to the latest US News rankings. If you haven't heard of it, that says more about you than about Cooper Union.

        May 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm |