Legal and Chosen Name Policy

The Cooper Union recognizes that students may choose to identify themselves by a name that differs from the name on their birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, US Social Security card, or other government issued ID (hereby referred to as a “Legal Name”). In order to accommodate these differences, The Cooper Union has instituted a system whereby a student can elect to declare a name for internal use, e.g., in class rosters, emails, on Cooper Union ID cards, and in Student Self-Service. This name is referred to as the “Chosen Name.”  Chosen Names are limited to First and Middle only.  Any changes made to a student’s Chosen Last Name are not considered valid and will be removed.  A last name may be changed only with a legal name change – see below.

The Cooper Union will strive to support the use of a student’s Chosen Name in as many instances as possible. However, there are some cases in which a student’s legal name must be used. These include but are not limited to:

  • National Student Clearinghouse
  • Financial Aid and scholarships
  • Student financial statements, records and refund checks
  • Federal and state reporting
  • International student documentation
  • Transcripts
  • Diplomas
  • Academic certifications (e.g. enrollment verifications and letters of graduation)
  • Formal mailings (containing checks, etc)

The Cooper Union reserves the right to refuse the use of a Chosen Name at any time if it is deemed to contain obscene language or references or is otherwise inappropriate.  Any attempt to use such language will result in the deletion of the Chosen Name from the system, in which case the name will revert to the student’s Legal Name. 

The purpose of the Chosen Name is to allow students to express their identities in a more accurate fashion within the Cooper Union community. Changing one’s Chosen Name is not the equivalent of the formal process of a legal name change and is not to be used as a form of misrepresentation, for attempted fraud, or with the intent of avoiding a legal obligation.

Legal Name Changes

For current students: A Legal Name change requires submission in person of the original legal document(s) to the Registrar office, which will make a copy and return the original to the student. To make a legal name change (such as legal sex, transcript name, diploma name, alumni name, or Social Security number) to official documents, students need to visit the Registrar’s Office with legal documentation; staff will provide instructions on how to complete the request.

For Alumni: If you have graduated from Cooper and also require a new diploma, you will be responsible for the usual diploma duplication fee of $100.  Alumni may initiate the process digitally by emailing:

Documents accepted for the purpose of a legal name change include, original, non-photo-copied versions of a:

  • Birth certificate
  • Court order legalizing the change
  • Valid Social Security card, driver's license, or passport
  • For international students: comparable paperwork verified/documented by their consulate

Finally, students can indicate a chosen name, preferred pronouns, and gender identity by updating the User Profile in Student Self Service. Click on your username (top right), then User Profile, then click on Edit Personal Identity.  Enter your identity details, then click Save. If you need assistance with this process in Self Service, IT staff can answer your questions.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.