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Cooper Union, one of the last free colleges in America, will begin charging undergrads

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cooper union (official)
cooper union (official)

Cooper Union is one of the last schools in the US to offer a university education tuition-free, but that will change next year. On Tuesday, the board of trustees announced that beginning in the fall of 2014, the school will begin charging students fees on a sliding scale, reports The New York Times. The decision ends a 100-year legacy established by industrialist Peter Cooper, who envisioned CU, located in Manhattan's East Village, as a way to provide the benefits of a higher education to the working classes.

Many students will still pay nothing

According to the new plan, financial need still won’t factor into the admission process, but students that are found able to pay will be charged around $20,000. That's roughly half of the $38,500 that the school currently "charges" for tuition before it applies a 100 percent scholarship. A steeply sliding scale will ensure that many undergraduate students will still pay nothing. Last April, the school announced that it would start charging graduate students tuition, but the group is a small minority of the student population.

Cooper Union, short for The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, currently operates at a $12 million annual deficit, says its president Jamshed Bharucha. He points to rising expenses and a growing administration as factors, but the biggest influence comes from the $10 million a year that the school is making in payments on a 2006 loan. According to its website, those payments are scheduled to increase by $5.5 million beginning in 2019 when the interest-only period ends. And while revenues from Cooper Union’s ownership of the land under the Chrysler building is scheduled to increase in 2018, it reportedly still won’t be enough to make up the shortfall.