Facts About CU
Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers an unparalleled education in art, architecture and engineering, and gives every admitted student a full-tuition scholarship.
Believing that an education "equal to the best" should be accessible to those who qualify, independent of their race, religion, sex, wealth or social status, Peter Cooper, who himself had less than a year of formal schooling, established The Cooper Union to oﬀer a free education to working-class men and women without regard to gender, race, religion or economic status. A century and a half later, The Cooper Union is ranked among the ﬁnest American colleges. It remains a private institution with a public mission: To prepare gifted students to make enlightened contributions to the cultural and scientiﬁc life of our great urban centers.
The rigor of The Cooper Union’s academic programs has made it one of the top-ranked institutions of higher education in the nation in all categories.
- Ranked Best Baccalaureate College (north) in 2013 by U.S. News and World Report
- Ranked sixth in the nation among Undergraduate Engineering Colleges by U.S. News and World Report; ranked third in undergraduate colleges in mechanical engineering and second in electrical engineering
- Ranked third in research culture among architecture schools worldwide in a survey by the Key Centre for Architectural Sociology
- Listed among the Best Design Schools for Creative Talent by Business Week
- Listed among the Nation’s 25 Hottest Universities by the Newsweek-Kaplan College Guide
- Listed among the Most Selective Colleges by The New York Times
- Listed in “The Best American Colleges” and “The Best Value Colleges” by The Princeton Review as “…one of the best overall bargains—based on cost and ﬁnancial aid— among the most academically outstanding colleges in the nation.”
Student, Alumni and Faculty Achievement
With approximately 1,000 students, The Cooper Union wins a vastly disproportionate share of the nation’s most prestigious awards:
- 32 Fulbright scholars since 2001
- 13 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships since 2004
- At least one ﬁrst prize—and often more than one—in student competitions sponsored by professional societies every year for the past seven years
- 40 percent of graduates go to top-tier graduate programs
Among the prestigious awards recently won by our alumni:
- 12 Rome Prizes
- 21 Guggenheim Fellowships
- Three MacArthur Fellowships:
- Whitﬁeld Lovell (A’83)
- Elizabeth Diller (AR’79)
- Ricardo M. Scoﬁdio (AR’55)
- One Nobel Prize in Physics:
- Russell A. Hulse (Ph’70)
- Nine Chrysler Design Awards
- Three Thomas Jeﬀerson Awards for Public Architecture
- One inaugural Jane Jacobs Medal:
- Barry Benepe (A’54)
For the 2012-2013 academic school year, all Cooper Union students will receive the full-tuition scholarship valued at $38,550.
For the academic year 2010-2011:
- Seven percent admission rate
- Approximately 1,000 full-time undergraduate students: 51 percent in engineering; 33 percent in art; 16 percent in architecture
- 72 students in the Maurice Kanbar Graduate Institute working toward the Master of Engineering degree and Master of Architecture
- 65 percent male, 35 percent female
- 41 percent African-American, Asian-American, Latino, American Indian; 42 percent Caucasian; 15 percent foreign nationals
- 58 percent from New York City and State; 42 percent from 43 other states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands
- 8.5 to 1 student-faculty ratio
The Foundation Building
The Cooper Union’s Foundation Building, completed in 1858, was in its time the tallest building in New York City. A testament to his ingenuity, the Foundation Building was Peter Cooper's monumental gift to the city. It was constructed with a rolled iron I-beam infrastructure, which made it the forerunner of the city's skyscrapers—and with a shaft that anticipated the common use of elevators. The interior was renovated in the 1970s by then Dean John Hedjuk, of Cooper Union's Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. The exterior was meticulously restored and rededicated in 2002.
A registered National Historic Landmark and a designated New York City Landmark, the Foundation Building houses classrooms, studios, the library and the Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. Gallery and has played host to many of the momentous historic events that shaped America for almost a century and a half. It is an important cultural and intellectual destination, serving not just as home to Cooper Union's students, but to The Great Hall and the unique public arena it provides.
The Great Hall
Peter Cooper believed deeply that public engagement was crucial to a thriving democracy. He placed a Great Hall in his Foundation Building to bring the leading thinkers of their day—no matter what their politics or positions— directly to the people. Famous as the site of Abraham Lincoln’s “Right Makes Might” speech, the Great Hall welcomed abolitionist Frederick Douglass and women’s suﬀrage champions Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull; it hosted Samuel Gompers and the earliest workers rights campaigns, and was the birthplace of the American Red Cross and the NAACP. For 150 years, the Great Hall has provided a platform for presidents and political hopefuls including Grant, Taft, Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Clinton and Obama. It’s provided a forum for authors from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Salmon Rushdie, intellectuals from Bertrand Russell to Susan Sontag, scientists from Thomas Huxley to Brian Greene and musicians from Benny Carter to Billy Joel.
Since 1858, the people who’ve made history in America spoke in the Great Hall; and to this day, people speak in the Great Hall to make history.
41 Cooper Square
The Cooper Union’s new building—41 Cooper Square—is a technologically advanced academic facility, located on the east side of Third Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets. Designed by 2005 Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis, the ninestory, 175,000 square foot, full-block building replaced more than 40 percent of the academic space at the college with reconfigurable, stateof-the-art classrooms, laboratories, studios and public spaces. Built with stringent sustainability goals, it is likely to achieve LEED platinum. 41 Cooper Square will be the first LEED certified academic laboratory building in New York City. Building Team
The Cooper Union’s building team was comprised of Thom Mayne/Morphosis with Gruzen Samton LLP architects; Jonathan Rose Companies, the owner’s representative; and F.J. Sciame Construction Co, Inc.
- Groundbreaking: May 9, 2007
- Ribbon Cutting: September 15, 2009
- Total space: 175,000 gross sq. ft., (9 stories plus 2 below grade; height: 135 ft.)
- Laboratories: 39,000 sq. ft.
- Studios: 10,000 sq. ft.
- Classrooms: 15,400 sq. ft.
- Student Lounge areas: 5,080 sq. ft.
- Faculty Offices: 6,200 sq. ft.
- Public spaces: Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, Benjamin Menschel Board Room, Jacques and Natasha Gelman Exhibition Foyer, 41 Cooper Gallery
41 Cooper Square will be 40 percent more energy efficient than a standard building of its type due to exceptional use of green technologies:
- Radiant heating and cooling ceiling panels introduce innovative HVAC technology to the United States to significantly increase energy efficiency.
- An operable building skin made of perforated stainless steel panels offset from a glass and aluminum window wall reduces the impact of heat radiation during the summer and insulates interior spaces during the winter.
- A full-height atrium enables unique circulation for building occupants, improves the flow of air and provides increased interior day lighting.
- A green roof insulates the building, reduces city “heat island” effect, stormwater runoff and pollutants. It also harvests rainwater for reuse.
- A cogeneration plant provides additional power to the building, recovers waste heat and effectively cuts energy costs.
- Flexible state-of-the-art laboratories, studios and classrooms, designed with renewable, recycled and low emission materials, accommodate pedagogical objectives, as well as current and future research activities.
The construction of 41 Cooper Square and the renovation of the Foundation Building have been the linchpins of The Cooper Union’s strategic plan to assure academic excellence and financial security well into the 21st century. We owe a huge debt of gratitude and offer our heartfelt thanks to all of the generous individuals and organizations whose contributions have supported—and continue to support—this vital enterprise.
The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture oﬀers a ﬁve-year program leading to the Bachelor of Architecture degree and prepares students for a rich array of opportunities in the profession. It also oﬀers a new post-professional Master of Architecture II degree. Through close interaction with a faculty of internationally recognized practitioners and scholars, students graduate with the lasting ability to produce an architecture that is a meaningful synthesis of the social, the aesthetic and the technological.
The School of Art, oﬀering a four-year program leading to the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, is ﬁrmly committed to an integrated curriculum that encompasses all the fundamental disciplines and resources of the visual arts — painting, sculpture, drawing, ﬁlm and video, graphic design, photography and printmaking. The students in the program beneﬁt from a faculty drawn from New York City’s extraordinary pool of practicing professionals in the ﬁne arts and graphic design.
The Albert Nerken School of Engineering oﬀers both Bachelor and Master of Engineering degrees in chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, as well as an interdisciplinary engineering degree. The goal is to prepare students for leadership and entrepreneurial roles in a world that faces complex challenges politically, socially and environmentally. At the graduate level, the Nerken School encourages interdisciplinary studies in a number of areas, such as computer systems, robotics, biomedical engineering, environmental issues and materials.
The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences provides the academic thread that binds the three schools into a tightly integrated whole. All students in the ﬁrst two years take a core curriculum of required courses in the humanities and social sciences. Students in the School of Art take an additional three-semester sequence in art history. During the third and fourth years, students have considerable latitude to explore the humanities and social sciences through elective courses. The dynamic Center for Writing works with all students throughout their time at The Cooper Union.
The C.V. Starr Research Foundation at The Cooper Union is the umbrella under which several interdisciplinary research centers operate—where students work with faculty to seek technological solutions to real-life problems.
- The Maurice Kanbar Center for Biomedical Engineering
- The Center for Materials Design and Manufacturing Technology
- The Center for Signal Processing, Communication and Computer Engineering
- The Institute for Sustainable Design
- The Center for Urban Infrastructure and Systems