Policy Updates for Online Learning -- March 30

Dear Cooper Union Students:

We hope you have had an opportunity during your Independent Study Week to reflect, do some work, and rest. Thank you for your patience as we worked with your deans and the faculty to prepare for our unexpected shift to remote learning and to revise certain academic policies accordingly. We are grateful that so many of you have shared your thoughts over the past few weeks. While views have differed among your peers, the suggestions put forth were made with a spirit of goodwill and care for one another. We thank you for both your ideas and your approach. You will see many of these ideas reflected in the decisions below.

Your professors have been working hard to adapt their courses, your assignments, and their methods of assessment to an online format so that students can complete their coursework in the originally anticipated time frame. We recognize the difficulty of the current circumstances and that you are all now learning in very different conditions – in a format that is new, in different locations, with different access to technology and other resources, perhaps with new responsibilities to care for or share space with others.  Given this, our goal has been to maintain Cooper’s high standards while providing additional flexibility and options for you. We believe the changes outlined below will better support you as students in these new contexts.

As noted, some of the particulars are still to be resolved since the timeline for the spread of the Coronavirus is not yet known. We will continue to evolve our approach and resolve outstanding issues as the impact and timing of the pandemic becomes more clear. We appreciate your flexibility and understanding through this unexpected and unprecedented time. Please continue to reach out to your faculty and deans with your questions, concerns, and ideas so we can work to address them together.

Pass/No Credit Grading

As our academic life has changed, we feel our method of assessment must also change. Upon recommendation from each of the four faculties and with the approval of the deans and the president, all Cooper Union students will be graded on a Pass (P) / No Credit (NC) basis for the Spring 2020 semester. The move to this grading format does not reflect a lowering of expectations for our students, but rather, it recognizes the widely divergent learning and life circumstances students are now experiencing. Accounting for different time zones, technology access and skill, and living conditions, we believe that this is a more suitable approach in the current environment.

The P or NC will not be calculated into one’s GPA, therefore the spring 2020 semester will have no bearing on overall GPA, for better or for worse. Passing the course will indicate satisfactory completion of course requirements, and credit will be given; not passing indicates a failure to meet the minimum requirements of the course, and no credit will be earned.

According to each respective program’s policy, faculty may also designate an Incomplete in the case of a student who has had difficulty in fulfilling the requirements of the course by the end of the Spring 2020 semester.

Students who do not pass the course may retake that course on the A, B, C, D, or F scale without petition. Students receiving a P for a course may, in the 2020-21 academic year, petition the Dean’s Office with substantive rationale to retake that course for a traditional grade on the A, B, C, D, or F scale. The Deans will set forth criteria for allowing courses to be repeated under these circumstances. If a student seeks to retake an HSS course for a grade, they must receive permission from the Dean of HSS as well as their school advisor. Students should also contact the financial aid office in advance to determine whether retaking a course will affect their federal aid. If we receive an overwhelming number of petitions, we may have to reconsider this approach based on space and staffing capacity.

Students on academic probation in Spring 2020 will remain on academic probation for Fall 2020 without any benefit or penalty due to the additional semester of probation. Specifically, no one on academic probation will be dismissed as a result of this semester.

Student transcripts will be annotated to explain the nature of Spring 2020 grading system. We know that some of you are concerned about the implications of not having letter grades this semester for graduate school applications. We have been in touch with a number of institutions that have adopted this same policy to ensure grading equity during this time and have heard that graduate schools are aware and understanding of the decision that many undergraduate schools are making to adopt similar policies and plan to respond accordingly. They know this is an extraordinary set of circumstances. If graduate schools or employers require supplemental information, we will work with you to provide it.

Incompletes for Facilities-Based Courses in the School of Art

For specific art studio or other facilities-based courses identified by Dean Essl, students will have the option to take an ‘Incomplete’ on a course and complete it later when the facilities have reopened. The schools will work with students to complete the coursework once the buildings reopen, either through additional sections of the course or independent study. As the timing of COVID-19’s impact is still unknown, seniors who take this option will delay their graduation to the term in which they are able to complete the course. We advise seniors to speak with Financial Aid before pursuing this option.

Update 4/8/2020: International students should consult with their ISSO advisor before pursuing the incomplete option.

Course Withdrawal

We have extended the course withdrawal deadline to April 8 to accommodate the fact that the Independent Study Week replaced a week of active class time. Please keep in mind that withdrawing from a course does not result in a refund and does result in a ‘W’ on your transcript. If a withdrawal causes you to extend the time you need to complete your course of study at Cooper, please remember that, while you still may be eligible for federal financial aid, Cooper Union scholarship aid is provided for four years (five years for architecture). As noted above, you will be able to complete your courses this semester online, and for a School of Art studio course, you will also have the option of completing the course after the buildings reopen.


Course registration for the summer and fall semesters will be conducted fully online. To allow more time for the registrar’s office and your advisors to prepare for this transition, we will extend the registration period to April 21-May 1. Further instructions and information will be shared in the coming weeks.


As you will be able to complete your courses, either online this semester or with access to studios later, we will not be providing tuition refunds (beyond the withdrawal fee policy, the deadline for which was February 18). Your current tuition covers completion of your courses, whether you complete them online this semester or when the buildings reopen (i.e., you will not pay again to come back and use the shop). We are in the process of determining a prorated studio/lab fee refund for students who choose to continue taking these courses online if they will not be using the facilities for these courses later. Please note that these lab and studio fees do not cover the full cost of providing, maintaining, and staffing these facilities and the materials used, so the refund will not be prorated based strictly on time. 

In the coming weeks, any additional school-specific changes will be communicated to you by your deans. If you have any questions about the above changes or options, please reach out to your academic dean or advisor. We will compile a list of the most Frequently Asked Questions and post them on the website as an additional resource.

Together, we are committed to deliver on the promise of a Cooper Union education. Again, we thank you for your patience and your partnership in these challenging circumstances. We hope that these additional flexibilities address some of the issues presented with the move to remote and online learning.

The Office of Enrollment

  • 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.