I went to college at Cooper Union in New York City. One of the long-standing policies of the school is that everyone who is admitted for a bachelor’s or master’s degree has a full-tuition scholarship. I paid $300/year as a ‘student fee,’ bought my books, and that was it. As an alumnus, I’m encouraged to (and do) contribute to the school, but there is no requirement to do so.
But in recent years, expenses have gone up while revenues (Cooper owns the land the Chrysler Building sits on, as well as other properties and investments) have not, and they’re having problems. That’s understandable: times are tough for everyone.
But one of the solutions they’re contemplating leaves me cold:
The social responsibility of students, alumni, and parents who have benefited from the full-tuition scholarship policy needs to be addressed.
- For current students, a modified version of the plan being explored by the University of California, Riverside, should be considered. For example, graduates would agree to a lifetime pledge of 2% of after tax adjusted gross income.
- For alumni, a reciprocal pledge should be requested, as well as a catch-up and bequest program to include Cooper in their estate planning.
- For parents of current students and of alumni, the same reciprocal pledge should be requested, as well as a catch-up and bequest program to include Cooper in their estate planning.
Until now, the theory was that, in contributing to Cooper, one was not paying for one’s own education, but for making that education available for future students. There was never a sense of having to donate as much as one’s tuition might have been. It was not a ‘social responsibility,’ it was a free decision to ‘pay it forward’ for future generations.
If I had had to pay tuition, I’m sure I would have paid it off by now. At that point, any ‘social responsibility’ I might have had would be over.
For my part, now, I resent having a social responsibility dropped on me, 29 years after graduation. And if I were going to school now, I would resent the idea of the school holding a mortgage on my achievements for the rest of my life. It’s worse than a student loan: the loan is finite, and when it’s paid off, that’s the end.
At least my parents are dead, so the school can’t hit them up for money.