Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, as the school is officially called, is a small college in New York City’s artsy East Village with only three programs of study: art, architecture, and engineering. It is among the nation’s most selective schools with a low acceptance rate that rivals that of the Ivy League.
Getting in pays off after getting out: Cooper Union alumni often thrive in the competitive art and architecture world. Notable graduates include Daniel Libeskind, who designed New York City’s new Freedom Tower, and installation artist Whitfield Lovell, whose intricately crafted tableaux of early twentieth century African Americans won him a MacArthur “genius” award in 2007. On average, the school’s recent grads report earning about $61,000 a year, or 13% more than expected given the school’s mix of majors.
One reason for Cooper Union’s past popularity, and its high placement on many “value college” lists, was its free tuition policy. But for the first time since it was founded in 1859, the school started charging tuition ($19,800) this year. Even so, CU remains one of the lowest-cost private elite colleges around, with an estimated average net price of a degree that is not that much higher than costs for in-state students at many top public schools.