Shake Up In Higher Education

By Michael V. Agins of The New York Times

I live in the heart of Manhattan, right near Astor Place, Greenwich Village, the East Village, and the Bowery. Right outside of my apartment and favorite pizza place on St. Mark’s, Ray’s, stands an epic juxtaposition in higher education:

On the north side of 9th St and 3rd Ave stands one of the largest New York University dorms, Alumni Hall. On the south side of 9th St stands the main dorm for Cooper Union. It represents the crux of the higher education dilemma today.

NYU on the north side, is a top tier school that charges upwards of 200k in total tuition. On the south side, Cooper Union, a world renown engineering school that has prided itself on a free education to all students since it’s founding. Finally you have me, a recipient of the Thiel Fellowship that stands to offer an alternative to both great institutions.

It’s an interesting mix of educational experiments and opportunities. The old, the new, the free, the costly. I’m not sure if there’s necessarily a “right” path; to me it’s about what you do with the opportunities you earn for yourself.

But you can not ignore the cost of education, said most prominently by twelve Cooper Union students today who barricaded themselves inside the school’s clock-tower today. It’s an immensely bold move by the students who aim to draw national attention in support of their cause: Keep Cooper Union tuition-free.

Tonight students added signs outside of the building with the following text: “This is not a business.”, “Stay Free or Die”, and “It’s not free… it’s priceless.”.

Schools around the country like NYU race to maintain their justification for high tuition, and Cooper Union struggles to keep the cost of their high quality education as “free as air and water”.

I have nothing but praise for these students who are at the core of the fight against student debt and corporatization of colleges in this country.

Follow and support #FreeCooperUnion on twitter:

Photo by Michael V. Agins of The New York Times

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John Marbach

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12 2012