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News Cooper Union Protests

  1. May 16, 2013 #1


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    So I have some friends that attend Cooper Union and they recently informed me about a protest going on there regarding the sudden change to cut the free tuition label. I then saw this yahoo article on the topic: http://news.yahoo.com/nycs-cooper-union-charge-tuition-students-protesting-184300550.html [Broken]

    How many people do you know personally (including yourself) actually identify with the popular theme of the comments in the comment section (scroll to the bottom of the page and the comments will show up)? The popular theme seems to be that these students are selfish, lazy, and self-entitled.

    I go to Cornell University and my parents pay give or take 30 grand a year for a physics degree that will most likely get me a job at Walmart and nothing more so I would love to have free tuition like the kids at Cooper or at the very least have the extremely low tuition offered at various European and Canadian universities. It just blows my mind how ignorant and imbecilic the people are who write negatively about the protesting students. I wonder if they even know how much we are cheated out of our money as US college students vs college students in the aforementioned places. So coming back to the original question, do you actually know a majority of people who share this mentality? I personally have never encountered such people but that is largely due to where I grew up and where I went to secondary school.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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  3. May 16, 2013 #2
    I have no sympathy for students wanting a free education. They make more, on average, than people with no degree. And they expect the people with no degree to subsidize them so they can make more? I dont think so. They can take out a loan and pay for their own degree.

    In my experience students are lazy. Many of them dont even bother to try working and paying their own way. But then I come from a poorer family where I got no support and actually had to help support my parents while I was in college... Rich kids lack perspective.
  4. May 16, 2013 #3
    Apparently, the tuition goes from 0$ to 40000$. I would be protesting too (and I did protest against these kind of things in the past). At the very least, they could have made the change gradually.

    I'm a big believer in free or cheap education. But I do wonder how viable it is in our current economy. It seems almost impossible to pull off without significant government support. And if the government is in financial troubles, then yeah...
  5. May 16, 2013 #4
    We already do have nearly free or cheap education. Pell grants cover all tuition costs for even lower middle class students. Full, in-state tuition is also highly subsidized. My undergrad in state tuition was only 1/3 of the actual cost, the rest was paid for by tax payers. Then there are subsidized student loans, roughly half of which are not being paid on the standard 10 year plan and the recent student loan bailout (income contingent repayment) which allows you to only pay a fraction of your debt if you are middle class or lower.

    You can give, give, give and they will still want more, more, more.
  6. May 16, 2013 #5


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    Ok then take my example: why should I have to pay 120 grand over 4 years for a measly physics bachelors from Cornell? Why is it that in the US the education is so expensive yet in, for example, micromass' university it is orders of magnitude cheaper? Am I expected to pay off 120 grand in debt with a degree that has little chance in garnering the appropriate wages necessary to pay it off and still lead a comfortable life? This is a perfect example of the ignorance. What makes you think everyone can work AND successfully finish their degree? You think just because you worked while in college everyone else should have to undergo the same inconvenience so that unreasonable tuition prices can be justified? Compared to the base tuition price for Cornell (~60 grand), what I pay is not even comparable. You do realize that government loans are pretty much useless in paying such a tuition right?
  7. May 16, 2013 #6
    Sorry, but 40000$ a year is not cheap. It's true that many people get grants to make things cheaper, but not everybody. Some people actually have to pay the tuition and will be in a lot of debt once they leave college.
  8. May 16, 2013 #7
    You dont have too. Most people dont. You can get a B.S. for around 30k and you can work and earn it yourself if you want. You dont even have to get a BS. You can get a job instead.

    Your family is rich enough to pay for a rich school. Its not needed, its a luxury.
  9. May 16, 2013 #8


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    Not to mention, grants aren't even helpful 100% of the time. UChicago offered 0 in grants even though my parents are in the middle income bracket so they wanted me to pay around 63 grand a year.
  10. May 16, 2013 #9
    The age-old cutthroat social Darwinist mentality. Similar attitudes exist in the places you mention, even in places where tuition rarely exceeds 1000 Euros (1250$ ish) a year and there exist a variety of scholarship programs for those that come from low income brackets and meet some academic performance criteria (I never paid tuition and got a stipend to live on, and I'm only in the 2nd lowest income bracket).

    But in most other countries, it is not so extreme. In most of Europe even the most staunch conservative wings will meet demands for some basic social services like healthcare and (comparatively) cheap education (except the UK, where the tuition tripled in price not long ago).

    Prices for health services and higher education in the US are inflated like hell. I once got a 400$ receipt for a blood test, seriously? The only reason I can think middle class people have put up with it for so long is because of the relatively high wages, relatively low unemployment, and the easy access to lines of credit which inflate people's sense of acquisitive power.
  11. May 16, 2013 #10
    I went to an average in state school for $24k total.
  12. May 16, 2013 #11


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    So basically, because of the ridiculous college cost to do physics, something that I have a passion for, at a reasonably prestigious university I have to give it up and instead pick up a job I don't want to do just to get by? I'm only using my case as a general example. My parents can afford the 30 grand price tag just fine so it isn't a problem strictly for me personally. I'm just using it as a way to talk about students who might not be able to afford it e.g. some students at Cooper Union.
  13. May 16, 2013 #12

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    You don't know what your parents are shelling out, do you? $30K/year is low for a private school. Cornell is not cheap. Cornell's tuition is $45K/year for Arts & Sciences (physics) and also for Engineering (applied & engineering physics). You're in one of those two programs if you are majoring in physics.

    $20K/year is extremely low for a private school. However, even charging that small of a tuition will drastically change the demographics of the school. They will be making the school unavailable to some, particularly lower middle class. They're not poor enough to rate a scholarship (they are going to have a scholarship program, aren't they?), but not near wealthy enough to be able to shell out $20K/year + a boatload of other expenses that add up. The school won't be able to be as selective as it now is. It will lose reputation.

    What did they do with their huge endowment? Invest it with Bernie Madoff?

    OMG. That's very close to what they did. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/11/b...ailed-in-its-mission.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.
    Last edited: May 16, 2013
  14. May 16, 2013 #13
    No, you can do whatever you want. If your family is rich you can have a rich lifestyle.

    The superstar from my undergrad got the Marshall Scholarship for grad school. He did some classes at community college and then finished up at the state university. It cost him less than 30k total.
  15. May 16, 2013 #14
    Cornell is a little more than "reasonably prestigious" ;)

    Is there not a very good public in state school that would have been a lot cheaper?
  16. May 16, 2013 #15


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    And from what I've seen with regards to your undergraduate education at your Spanish university, it is measurably more rigorous than anything I've seen at the undergraduate level at Cornell so honestly why am I paying so much?
  17. May 16, 2013 #16


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    Well I'm from NYC so the only state schools are the SUNY ones (and relatively cheap as they are about 12 grand a year for in-state) but my parents wanted me to attend Cornell. It isn't a problem for me personally (I was just using Cornell as an example), but going back to Cooper Union, I have at least one friend there whose parents make zilch. The school is hard enough to get into because of the free tuition and she went partly because it would be free so her parents wouldn't be burdened with a tuition they couldn't afford. She got into some other places like Carnegie Mellon but they made her pay far more than she could even begin to afford. Her home state is Michigan and UMich isn't cheap even for in-state students (not nowadays anyways).
  18. May 16, 2013 #17
    Honestly, you are not - your parents are. Its easy to spend and waste other peoples money. If you were sweeping floors at night to pay your own way you would probably find a cheaper way to do it.
  19. May 16, 2013 #18
    Why do you think he is wasting the money?
  20. May 16, 2013 #19


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    I think, before we jump on the students, that a few things need consideration.

    The free tuition at CU was a result of an endowment left by the founder. AFAIK, no one without a college degree was asked or forced to subsidize their education. The protesters are complaining that the endowment has been mismanaged over the years, thus leading to a decline in the amount of revenue which is used to run the institution. Given Wall Street's recent history, this claim may not be wholly unjustified.

    It's also not clear that the students come from rich families. A lot of kids come from families who cannot afford Ivy League tuition and attend schools like CU.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I went to a school, which like CU, had free tuition. However, although the tuition was free, room and board were not, and all students were required to live on campus during the semester. The free tuition was a benefit which derived in part from the founder's endowment. My school years took place in the late 1970s, when inflation and increasing prices for energy greatly eroded the purchasing power of the endowment's funds.

    There were fewer than 100 students at my school, and while some could be considered "rich", there were no millionaires as I recall. Most of the students came from middle class families. I suspect most of the families might have been able to afford a state school, like the SUNY system, but I doubt that a school like Columbia or Yale could have been afforded without a scholarship or student loan.

    In contrast to CU, an institution like Harvard, which has an endowment which is currently estimated to exceed $30 billion, could probably afford to award all of its undergraduates a scholarship for their tuition, yet they do not.
  21. May 16, 2013 #20
    Uhh... you're a first year undergrad with a way better handle on DG and GR than me, a 4th year student. :P (yeah I know you self-studied this material, but I think it would be crazy to compare a heavyweight-hitter like Cornell to my university). And the effort in teaching given by American lecturers is far greater, as is the availability to serious lab equipment and research opportunities for undergrads.

    On purely academic grounds, I do agree with what you're saying. I get a whole lot more bang for buck as far as course content goes, but I'll never lay hands on a TEM or do any real research at my university because the facilities are small and reserved for grad students, profs and post-docs. This costs a lot more money than using Cohen-Tannoudji instead of Griffith's for introductory quantum mechanics.

    30-40k for a whole education is probably the real cost of a university degree, given that my country's government subsidizes about 8k for every student from the get-go (and the student pays only 1k or a bit more in tuition).

    College degrees in the sciences and arts shouldn't cost much more than that.
  22. May 16, 2013 #21
    Because he himself said that he will do little more than Walmart after the degree (though Im sure that is hyperbole). And considering most people do it for about 1/4 the amount he is paying coupled with his own expressed doubts it does seem like a waste. 120k for a physics BS? Yea, thats ridiculous.
  23. May 16, 2013 #22
    Hold on- these students chose Cooper Union specifically because it was free (as Cooper intended!), and its a very selective school. These are students who most likely passed on Ivies and other prestigious schools (with a larger selection of classes and amenities) specifically to attend a unique free school focusing on a solid liberal arts education. And now they are being told, part-way through their education "sorry! This is now going to cost you quite a lot!" They have every right to be upset.

    Admittedly- the big problem is that the school's idiot board, and the president already made massively bad decisions and squandered a ton of money, so there may be no way out for the school. But the students and alumni have every right to protest- the current board and president have ruined a once unique institution.

    Thats not true. The max pell-grant is something like $5k (and lower middle class students won't get the maximum pell grant!) a year, and in-state tuition at a state school is 4k-8k a semester (so 8-16k a year, depending on the state school). That can be quite a shortfall.
  24. May 16, 2013 #23
    They can take out a loan or transfer to another school. Welcome to the real world. I'm not crying for them. I understand they are upset, but I reserve my sympathy for people who are actually suffering and struggling.
  25. May 16, 2013 #24


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    I just find it quite unjust that people who are not financially well off cannot claim their acceptances from the "really prestigious" universities because of a lack of funds to pay off the monumental tuition. Cooper Union was one of the last remaining, very prestigious engineering universities that offered free tuition in the US. Why can't people have some empathy for those who are not well off? Why is that so hard? This reminds me of an episode from this old TV show I used to watch as a kid called Family Matters, where a girl gets into Harvard but her father can't afford it and the loans he is offered would not suffice nor would the accumulated interest be of reasonable caliber. It is quite depressing really.
  26. May 16, 2013 #25
    The point of that comment is that he'll probably find no job in the current climate. It's not that he's unwilling to get a job which uses his degree. I'm sure he'll find a good job though, but being insecure in this economy is not irrational.
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