Today, I posted my take about free public college in New York State. I am also posting my profile of The Cooper Union, a small, extremely selective, private college, that until recently charged no tuition. I had the privilege to visit Cooper Union in December, to receive a very complete tour and conduct some interviews as well as collect photos to make a Pinterest page.

Today, every Cooper Union student receives a “half-scholarship” equal to $21,000 this year. Total costs, considering housing, supplies and location should be less than $45,000, before need-based aid is considered. Those who had to take out loans owed, on average, just over $20,000, including the architecture graduates who must go five years to complete their degree. The Cooper Union is still the best value for the money for students who have a calling for engineering, architecture or the visual arts.

The Cooper Union is a very small school (around 900 undergraduates and fewer than 100 graduate students) with a huge bang for the buck—for those who are fortunate to get in. Most recently, only 13 percent did; the acceptance rates for architecture and art were even lower. There are four major reasons to consider The Cooper Union: the location, the rigor of a more personalized education, the connections you can make and the costs.

The Cooper Union was founded in 1859 by inventer/industrialist/political activist Peter Cooper. One year later, presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln spoke in the Great Hall of the school’s Foundation Building, and emerged on the national stage. The Great Hall was also an important national venue for the Women’s Suffrage movement and the Civil Rights movement. The Foundation Building was also one of the tallest buildings in Manhattan during the eras of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The Cooper Union has stayed true to an educational mission to educate architects, artists and engineers. This is not a school where you can transfer into a liberal arts or business major. Nor is a college with a campus or many student-centered amenities. While Cooper Union will offer apartment-style housing to incoming freshman, continuing students must find their own places to live. They must either befriend classmates or upper-class students who are moving to make the search easier, and hopefully less costly. However, this school is located in the East Village, not far from Greenwich Village and NYU. There’s plenty of distractions from study in the neighborhood and subways are a short walk away.

There are two kinds of education that you get at The Cooper Union: the one that you get in the classroom and the one that you get from living in New York. Both are equally rigorous. But by the time you have graduated you will seriously appreciate the learning experience—as long as you are mature and have a calling for the academics. It not only helps to be bright to succeed at Cooper Union; it also helps to be helpful and humble with your classmates.

Report Card: The Cooper Union
Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A/A
Freshman Retention: A
Costs: A
Curriculum: A
Community: B+
Comforts: C+
Connections: A

Check out my Profile of The Cooper Union!

Check out The Cooper Union Pinterest page!

If you want to get more of my take on this, and other schools, feel free to comment or contact me at stuart@educatedquest.com

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