The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is one of the United States’ boldest experiments in higher education, a highly influential, highly respected model of what education can do. Founded in 1859 by industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper, Cooper Union was originally based on the radical model of the French polytechnic institute, and combined Cooper’s interest in adult education with the most current scientific and engineering education. Originally, Cooper’s vision was a free school that accepted any worthy candidate regardless of age, gender, and background, an exceptionally progressive concept. Although Cooper Union has not been tuition-free since 2014, they are committed to getting back to full tuition sustainable scholarships and are working towards that aim. Currently, all students receive a half tuition scholarship and the average institutional grant in 2014 was $33,566 for the year.
Cooper Union is one of the most selective schools in the nation, traditionally accepting less than 10% of its many applicants, and is therefore recognized as one of the most elite and desirable American schools. With its roots in the polytechnic education model, Cooper Union is still primarily known for the Nerken School of Engineering, an extraordinarily influential program that is particularly notable for its experiential learning, with undergraduate students working alongside faculty in its cutting-edge research. The School of Art is also one of the most selective and coveted, leveraging its East Village location to produce some of the most esteemed artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Unlike other colleges, Cooper Union’s foundational liberal arts curriculum is not divided by discipline, instead providing students with an inspiring interdisciplinary experience that feeds into their majors. This unique curriculum allows students to make complex, intellectually engaging connections between their core courses and their ultimate goals, and avoiding the tedium often associated with “required” courses at other colleges. Cooper Union’s approach ensures that every course has a purpose and builds on each other, creating a unified and productive curriculum.
Cooper Union is located in New York City, in the East Village, the cultural heart of Manhattan. Just as Cooper Union contributed to the cultural, artistic, and intellectual growth of New York and the East Village throughout the 20th century – with artists, actors, musicians, and filmmakers all taking part in the cultural ferment of the area – so does Cooper Union continue to inspire and motivate the East Village, and vice-versa. Student life at Cooper Union is not circumscribed by the campus, but spills out into the creative landscape around it.
With their generous financial aid, Cooper Union is able to attract the very best students possible – even though students do not get full tuition paid, each accepted student is automatically given a half scholarship, and many other opportunities provide further aid. Because of their policies, Cooper Union’s student body is not only highly diverse, but highly accomplished, with Fulbright Scholars, National Science Foundation fellows, and Royal Society of Arts award winners represented. Cooper Union is dedicated to excellence, provides the support to achieve it, and send graduates out into the highest realms of culture and art.