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Over the past 10 years, Cooper has relied on an outmoded financial model that both exposed the school to the broader economic downturn and did little to curb its escalating costs. Then, in late October, Bharucha announced that the school was considering charging tuition for the first time in roughly a century because many of the same methods administrators used to keep the institution afloat didn’t seem to be working as well anymore.
The 20-person group, called the Revenue Task Force, is made up of school administrators like TC Westcott — Cooper’s vice president for finance and administration — faculty, several students and notable alumni, including Eric Hirschhorn of Bank of America, and Milton Glaser, who designed the “I ♥ NY” ad campaign and co-founded New York magazine.
“The task force is eminently qualified to balance the community’s needs with what makes this school great,” Bharucha said.
Along with the Revenue Task Force, Bharucha said he planned to organize another group to similarly investigate Cooper’s costs. Both initiatives are still in preliminary stages and slated to finish their work sometime in March, so that administrators can revise the school’s financial model by the end of the spring semester. This revision could include possibly charging tuition to garner more revenue.
The president’s speech was the most docile of recent public events at Cooper Union, including the Nov. 17 forum with board of trustees chairperson Mark Epstein, at which the audience heckled Epstein. At one point during that event, Epstein characterized alumni as “failed investments” because alumni donations to the school had declined in recent years. The audience responded by erupting in boos and hisses.
However, as part of his address on Tuesday, Bharucha said that donations were up across the board, even from alumni, who gave 2 percent more this fiscal year.
Other donations included $100,000 from Consolidated Edison, hundreds of thousands of dollars from various foundations, and an anonymous donor who gave the school $1 million.
Tuesday’s event concluded with a brief question-and-answer session that saw Bharucha reaffirm his commitment to fixing Cooper’s financial problems but decline to go into specifics about how.
“The magnitude of the challenge before our institution is large,” Bharucha said. “It will be the quiet, thoughtful effort that will lead us through this.”