Cooper Union college plans to bring back free tuition 

Personal Finance

When it comes to college, rising costs are more reliable than a degree.

However, some schools are bucking the trend, slashing tuition in hopes of attracting more students and families struggling with the
weight of a college tab

Most recently, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science, in the heart of New York City, announced a return to full-tuition scholarships for all undergraduate students.

Cooper Union, founded in 1859, had long been tuition-free but dialed back its commitment that education be “as free as air and water” and began offering students only half-tuition scholarships in 2014.

“The model wasn’t sustainable at the time,” Cooper Union President Laura Sparks said. “The board made a decision that it felt was necessary to the future viability of the school.”

Since then, students received scholarships to cover, on average, about 76 percent of the tuition cost; according to the school. (For the coming year, tuition is near $44,000 before the scholarships are applied.)

The move, however, was met with outcry from students, teachers, alumni and community members. It was also followed by an initial drop in applicants.

Under a new plan, which was adopted by the board this spring, Cooper Union must come up with $250 million (either by cost-cutting or fundraising, or both) over the next decade to afford full-tuition scholarships for every undergraduate student.

“We have ambitious financial targets to meet in each of the next 10 years to realize our goal of returning to free,” Sparks said. “If we exceed the financial targets in any given year, we may be able to accelerate the plan; if we don’t meet the targets for any number of reasons, such as an economic downturn, we have built-in guardrails that allow us to slow the plan if necessary.”

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