The human race requires an evolving culture. The evolution of our collective mind is the only thing that can protect us from extinction. Each age presents new problems and new opportunities. It is our evolving culture- our new ideas in the arts and sciences- that allow us to embrace the opportunities and address the difficulties of our time. An active evolving culture is fueled by artists, architects and engineers who are willing to experiment and work outside of the prevailing orthodoxy to develop new science, new art, and new aesthetic and philosophical concepts.
When Peter Cooper founded The Cooper Union the world was going through an industrial revolution. This was the context that made the need for education and free-thinking in the sciences and arts so important. We now exist in a post-industrial/digital revolution age. The need for free-thinking in the sciences and arts is stronger now than ever before.
Why does a tuition free institution engender more free-thinking in its students and in society at large? It is important for Architects, Artists and Engineers to be able to experiment; to take time to test new ideas and work through concepts that may not be immediately financially profitable. Cooper Union attracts the best and brightest students from a diverse pool of applicants. At school they are encouraged to work together to learn. After they graduate they are able to work together- unburdened by the debt that they would have incurred at other prestigious institutions. This freedom from debt is freedom to pursue their own ideas and work experimentally to form new ideas; to work within the avant garde rather than the establishment; to make the discoveries that benefit our society as a whole.
In a perfect world all institutions of higher learning would be tuition free. In reality Cooper Union is very unique. This makes it all the more important that The Cooper Union stay tuition free for all students.