Cooper Union

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In 1859, New York City inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper established an educational institute that was ahead of its time in many ways. Classes were free for the working classes, the school was open to women as well as to men, and students of all colors were accepted – all that was demanded for admission was an absolute commitment to academic excellence. Peter Cooper’s vision was of a school that would play a role in the civic and cultural life of his city and of the nation.
Today, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is ranked as the 2nd best regional college in the Northeast by the U.S. News and World Report, and is rated as one of the most desirable small colleges in the country based on its enrollment size and very low acceptance rate. The campus’s location in New York’s East Village provides ample opportunities for intellectual inspiration. The institute brings together a diverse student body of fewer than 1,000 undergraduates, “professionals-in-training” who are expected to use the fruits of their rigorous education toward solving problems in the city and across the globe.
The Cooper Union is made up of three schools: One of art, one of engineering, and one of architecture. Students from all three schools come together to take classes in the liberal arts from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture is the smallest of the three schools, and its mission is closely tied to the unique challenges and possibilities of NYC’s urban setting. The School of Architecture views architecture as a humanistic discipline, and its students learn the discipline in its societal, cultural, historical, natural and technological contexts. The stated goal of the school is the return of the study of architecture to an art than enhances life.

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art Accreditation Details

The National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAACB) is the sole organization authorized to accredit professional degree programs in architecture at U.S. institutions. As of 2016, the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of the Cooper Union is approved to confer an NAACB-accredited Bachelor of Architecture degree, requiring 160 credits.

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art Application Requirements

Cooper Union is one of the most selective colleges in the nation. In 2015, Cooper Union accepted just 13 percent of applicants. Getting in will be tough, so here’s what we can tell you to make the application process, at least, a little bit easier:

  • Cooper Union uses the Common Application, a standardized college application system that allows student candidates to apply to multiple colleges by filling out one application.
  • The regular decision deadline for fall semester applications is January 9th (as of the 2016-2017 academic year.)
  • As part of the admissions process, applicants to the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture will be sent a studio test that must be completed and returned within one month of receipt. The test comprises of several visual projects, each with its own set of instructions to be carefully followed.
  • In addition to the Common Application and studio test, prospective students should submit high school and/or college transcripts, SAT and/or ACT scores and at least one recommendation letter.
  • Candidates may be considered for transfer admission into the School of Architecture if they meet one of the following criteria: A year of completed study in an accredited college architecture program, a bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than architecture, or some college studies in a discipline related to architecture plus a portfolio of creative work.
  • international applicants whose native language is not English should submit their Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores.

Tuition and Financial Aid

For the 2015-2016 academic year, Cooper Union’s undergraduate tuition and fees amounted to $42,650. Since Fall 2014, each and every admitted student who enrolls at Cooper Union receives a half-tuition scholarship (currently worth $20,400 per year or $10,200 per semester.) This is because Cooper Union considers itself an “all honors college,” meaning that every admitted student has earned a scholarship on the merit of admission alone.
For years, Cooper Union was famously known for providing a full-tuition scholarship to every accepted student, but the institute’s recent financial difficulties have led to the 50 percent reduction of the scholarship’s value in 2014. Even so, the guaranteed half-tuition scholarship now granted to all matriculated students is still notably generous, and part of Cooper Union’s “strategic plan” for the future is to eventually reinstitute its tuition-free policy.
For now, students needing additional funds may file the FAFSA in order to be considered for further federal and college aid. The amount of additional aid awarded will be dependent upon the student’s demonstrated financial need. Cooper Union utilizes a need-blind admissions process, meaning that applicants are selected solely on the basis of merit. Whether or not a student will need additional aid, and how much aid they will require, does not factor into admissions decisions. A select number of students deemed “exceptional” may also qualify for additional merit scholarships. Eligible students may apply for work-study positions, requiring about 20 hours per week of on-campus employment, to help offset educational expenses.
Only about 20 percent of Cooper Union students live on campus, but those who do choose to stay in Cooper Union’s Student Residence pay approximately $11,600 per year for a double housing assignment (two students per bedroom) or approximately $12,600 if they wish to have a private, single room.

Architecture Degree Program at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of the Cooper Union, its faculty and its alumni have earned numerous and impressive accolades over the years. In 2014, Cooper Union students swept the Royal Society of Arts-Architecture Student Design Awards, taking all four of the awards bestowed that year. Recent alumni have won a Prizter Architecture Prize and several Thomas Jefferson Awards for Public Architecture. Cooper Union was also ranked third for best research culture among architecture schools in a survey by the Key Centre for Architectural Sociology.
The bachelor of architecture program at Cooper Union encompasses 160 credits and takes five years to complete. In the first year of study, students build a foundation on coursework in architectonics, free hand drawing, calculus and geometry, and the history of architecture. In the second and third years, courses in design, structure, building technologies, environmental technology and urban theory provide the framework of an architecture student’s studies. Fourth-year students find space in the curriculum to choose electives that will shape their architectural careers, while learning the principles of construction management. The fifth and final year is for the thesis project, with the first semester allotted for intensive research and the second semester dedicated to comprehensive design. The thesis project identifies and addresses a problem in contemporary life and architecture, considering issues of economic and environmental sustainability, urban signification, mobility and re-use. A class in professional practices puts the finishing touches like licensing and IDP participation onto the fifth-year student’s curriculum.
Architecture students at Cooper Union benefit from very small classes, with just about 30 freshmen enrolling in the School of Architecture each year. The architecture program is housed in the Foundation Building, a historic New York City landmark, where every student is given individual studio workspace. First through fourth-year students work side-by-side in the “Big Studio” while fifth-year students work on their thesis projects alongside master’s level students in a smaller adjacent studio. The set-up is designed to facilitate dialogue and interaction between fellow students and faculty. A computer studio fully-equipped with architectural software, the 1800 square foot Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. Gallery of art and architecture projects, and the library’s Architecture Study Collection – a non-circulating collection of rare architectural books and visual materials housed in a private study room – round out the many resources available to architecture students at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.