Dear President Bharucha,
The average college graduate is in debt for $17,6000 - $23,000.* If I owed that much money when I graduated in 2007, I know I wouldn’t be doing the work I’m doing now. Instead, I would be working wherever I could to make enough money to pay off my debt. I simply wouldn’t have enough time to volunteer 20+ hours a week for projects that focus on mutual aid, social justice, cooperation, and environmental sustainability.
In 2009, Cooper alumni Rich Watts, Louise Ma, and I started a self-organized, alternative school in NYC because we wanted more people to get a taste of the rigor and generosity that we experienced in a merit-based educational system like Cooper Union. We were proud to tell the press that we were inspired by Cooper Union, and it will shake my sense of what’s possible if this inspiration becomes a dream from the past.**
How many creative leaps will alumni take when saddled with 5-figure debt? How much pride will we feel for a place that “used to be free”?
Cooper Union has been tuition-free for 150 years. I’ll be proud to see my children and grandchildren get in and go for free as well.
*Please read Anya Kamenetz’s book, Generation Debt. In it, she writes:
“Over the last generation, there’s been a sharp drop-off in the quality of opportunities offered to young people, caused by a huge divestment in K-16 education, and the devolution of the job market to a low-wage, service-sector deal on the non-BA side, and part-time, unpaid-intern, temporary, contract, and freelance work on the college-grad side. A college degree is now a crucial pass for entry into the middle class, and yet young people are no more likely to have one than our parents-only 28 percent get one. And for those who do graduate, two-thirds are borrowing student loans, graduating with between $17,600 and $23,000 in debt. Because they can’t make ends meet, people under 35 are running up an average of $4000 in credit card debt. We’ve never sent out any generation into the world with that kind of mini-mortgage on their backs. And the irony is, this withdrawal of support for young people is occurring when the US desperately needs a super-sharp, highly skilled workforce to compete with what’s happening in China and India, and to support the retirement of the Baby Boomers.”
**Lots of Class, No Cash
The Giving Economy: Caroline Woolard of OurGoods.org