Cooper Union Students Campaign to Keep Architecture Education Free

With the news earlier this year that The Cooper Union in New York will, for the first time in 155 years, begin charging tuition fees to students in 2014, the existing students at its Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture are taking steps to ensure that it stays true to the meritocratic principles on which it was founded. To achieve this, they have launched the One Year Fund, an attempt to crowdsource $600,000 in order to cover the tuition fees of the incoming students in 2014.

Read more about the One Year Fund, and how it fits into the students’ larger aims, after the break.

From their campaign, it is clear the students feel that not having to pay tuition is fundamental to the nature of , and gives an important aspect to their education as architects. “Charging tuition adds money to the equation and changes the relationships that are already in place”, says one student. In their press release, they state ”it is imperative to ensure that future students are educated under the same meritocratic conditions as they are today and have been for the past 155 years.”

Raising $600,000 in 40 days may be an ambitious goal, but it is a vital step in preserving what they see as a vital element of the education of future students. This first step is a temporary solution, simply aiming to provide “one full year to develop and put into action another financial model to preserve  and its fundamental principles.”

If the principle of a free, meritocratic education for architects is an idea you would like to support, you can donate on their fundraising page. you can also connect with the One Year Fund via Facebook and Twitter.

Cite: Stott, Rory. "Cooper Union Students Campaign to Keep Architecture Education Free" 02 Dec 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Self-Reliant

    Bunch of whiners. I paid for , and still pay for my architectural education. These are the same youth blinded by the liberals and feel they are entitled to this education. Take out a Loan, get your degree, and pay back the loan. Time to learn responsiblity!

    • noParties

      This isn’t a response to a liberal approach to education. I agree they should have to pay up just as much as everyone else, what makes them so special? It is the most prestigious school in the US. So prestigious graduates should pay the tuition of those after them as it has done largely in the past. The crowdfunding is most likely a easier way to promote and engage their alumni. Anyone who isn’t alumni and chips in is absurdly dumb, but not blinded, don’t pigeon hole us “liberals” in with every idea you find you don’t agree with. The whole institution is based upon “polytechnique” which is a French ideal, not a liberal one.

    • Well then.

      I’d demand a refund if I were you. Poor grammar, polarized politics and ageism do not an educated person make.

    • Joey

      If you are like most students, you probably paid for a sub-par education not nearly worth what came out of your pocket. The “whiners” who study at the Cooper Union are privileged enough to learn from some of the best thinkers in the world. You don’t need to pay for education in order for it to be among intellectuals. Perhaps if you stepped out of your limited/conservative point of view you would realize that education is priceless. And by the way, we are entitled to this education anyone who tells you otherwise is a slave to the capitalist system.

    • bro

      155 years begs for your attention.

    • bro

      155 years begs for your attention, as you beg for ours.

    • Analaise

      Did you read the article?

      This has nothing to do with self-reliance, political affiliation or responsibility. It seems to be CURRENT students doing the campaign. That implies that they don’t have to pay at all, and are standing for the principle. There’s a reason why the school is selective. The loan they avoided is a privilege they enjoy for being competitive enough to merit it. Just as the loan(s) you took out could be viewed as a penalty for your inability to secure a better deal.

    • Analaise

      Did you read the article? This has nothing to do with self-reliance, political affiliation or respo

  • Samuel AB

    Nobody gets truly free education, you have to work or pay for it somehow. At some point, you have to connect to real world economies whether it’s your own pocket or someone else’s.

    The Bauhaus attempted to gain autonomy from the state by selling some of their wares. Despite their failures, this may be an economically sustainable path for the future, but economic realities and work may scare of some of the more speculation oriented students.

  • student

    meanwhile, thousands of architecture students are paying thousands of dollars everywhere else in the US public universities, going into debt, without asking random people to pay for their private university costs.

    • Akash

      Education is not a material thing you pay for. Education is something more critical then something like buying an ipad. When you pay for education and treat it like a product you completely loose the criticality of the eduction you are receiving. That renders it useless, or at least less useful. I would say the criticality of the received education is definitely extremely important, especially in the field of architecture. Why do you think the current world is being filled with the most thoughtless forms and architectures ? – because of people who think learning how to pay for a loan is more important than actually learning.

  • maya

    keep it wild keep it free!

  • Chad

    Free? That’s just nuts. They should have to work, beg and sweat like the rest of us did. Damn the tradition and precedent- join the real world and quit being free loaders. I can guarantee it will make then respect the cost and value of an education when they start paying for it, and perhaps understand why the rest of us scream bloody murder as tuition and fees and expenses continue to be inflated annually.

  • Every other student

    They need to grow up and realize life is not free. Every other architecture school requires students to pay tuition. Now that they have to pay for school they want other people to pay for them while thousands of other students pay tuition at every other school and don’t make videos asking other people to give them money. I would have loved for someone to pay for my schooling but I’m paying for it myself through loans and working.

    Nothing is stopping them form taking out loans like the rest of the world.

  • shaun

    After paying $130k for undergrad I am applying to grad school to the tune of another $60k. I think more payed competitions/grant work would benefit architecture students as a whole a lot more than the 50 kids at CU.

  • marc

    free…free architectural education…why did i NOT know about this. i’m taking a year off right now from architectural education to work so i can pay for it. i’ll pay what i earned in a year if i get in this place and it stays free. what the heck. what have i been doing. free architectural education…

  • Lucas

    Well, here in Brazil, higher education is completely free and state-funded. Of course, the rest is not, but still it’s a solution for higher education: we pay taxes, you know. If the state can pay for high schools, why can’t it pay for higher education?

  • Antonio Guijarro


  • Dave

    Bunch of stuck up NYC’ers who have no concept of how the real world works outside of this false design realm these schools preach. I feel sorry for these students because they too will figure this out a few years after they graduate like I did…. needless to say I’m working towards my exit from architecture.

  • Amir

    What is this nonsense next to the historical building !!!!