The Cooper Union

12th President, 2011-2015

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Cooper Union is an extraordinary insitution founded in 1859 by Peter Cooper, a self-made entrepreneur, philanthropist and visionary. He mandated that working class students should attend tuition-free, and that the highest possible standards of excellence be maintained.

 

Within three months of assuming the Presidency of Cooper Union in 2011, Jamshed Bharucha uncovered a financial disaster, including an annual burn rate of 20%-30% of the budget continuously since 1991, with only three years remaining until insolvency. He confronted an impending catastrophe that had been ignored for a quarter century and that threatened closure.

 

Searching for answers in the institution's history, he learned - contrary to the widespread narrative - that Peter Cooper had charged tuition to those who could afford it, so that the working classes could attend free. He worked with the Board to put in place a Financial Sustainability Plan: 50%-discounted tuition for all undergraduates, making Cooper Union half as expensive as other private schools for middle and upper income families; free tuition and enhanced assistance for living expenses for students who are Pell-eligible (below the median income); and innovative new academic programs that would reduce the per-student cost and energize the institution during this transition. Insolvency was averted, academic excellence was maintained (engineering applications increased 66%!) and - true to Peter Cooper's commitment to the poor - the proportion of students from families below median income soared from 16% to 25%.