Cooper Union

From Academic Kids

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, established in 1859, is a privately funded college in the Lower Manhattan district of New York City. Specifically, Cooper Union is located in the East Village, around Cooper Square and Astor Place (3rd Avenue & 6th-9th Streets). It is notable for being one of the few institutions of higher learning in the United States to offer a full-tuition scholarship to all of its students. The Cooper Union offers degree programs in architecture, fine arts, and engineering to nearly 900 students. In addition to the degree programs, Cooper Union offers continuing education courses to the public for a fee.

The Cooper Union is one of the most selective colleges in the United States, with an acceptance rate of 10-12%. With nearly 70% of accepted students coming to attend, it is also one of the most desired schools in the country. Cooper Union is currently conducting a comprehensive revision to its curricula and has proposed plans to change the usage of its real estate assets, so that it may continue to offer full-tuition scholarships to all accepted students.


Founding and early history

The Cooper Union was founded in by Peter Cooper, an inventor and entrepreneur from a humble background, to provide educational opportunity to poor people in the neighborhood. Cooper is said to have wanted to offer "education that was as free as the air we breathe and the water we drink." In the beginning, Cooper Union offered adult education in night classes on the subjects of applied sciences and architectural drawing, as well as day classes for women on the subjects of photography, telegraphy, typewriting and shorthand.

Early board members included Horace Greeley and William Cullen Bryant.

Important Speech

During the Presidential election year of 1860, the college was the site of a notable address by an attorney from Illinois, then an undeclared candidate for the Republican Party's nomination. Abraham Lincoln's dramatic speech against slavery galvanized support for Lincoln in New York State, and contributed to his gaining the Party's nomination for the Presidency.

Modern changes

The Cooper Union evolved over time into the current form of a college with three schools in architecture, art, and engineering. Regardless of the changes, the tradition of tuition-free education is still thriving.

The School of Engineering

The Albert Nerken School of Engineering has about 550 students. The school offers ABET accredited Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) programs in Chemical Engineering (ChE), Civil Engineering (CE), Electrical Engineering (EE), and Mechanical Engineering (ME); a Middle States accredited Bachelor of Science (B.S.) program in engineering (BSE); and a Master of Engineering (M.E.) program.

Up to the class of 2006, students choose to major in the one of the four traditional disciplines (ChE, CE, EE, and ME), or customize their education by opting for the BSE degree that has fewer requisite courses and greater opportunity for elective courses.

New curricula take effect beginning with the class of 2007. Under the currently published Course Catalog, students can still choose to pursue the traditional ChE, CE, EE, and ME degree programs, but greater flexibility in course selection is being planned for the four degree programs. In addition, there are proposals to offer students choices of "concentrations" (possibilities include Nanotechnology and Bio-engineering) that will offer groups of courses in more specific fields than the four traditional disciplines. The details of the new curricula are work in progress and therefore subject to change.

The Master of Engineering program offers a opportunity for The Cooper Union undergraduate students to obtain a master's degree with one additional year of study after completion of the bachelor's degree.


The curriculum before the class of 2007 requires 135 credits for graduation and has the following breakdown of credits:

Required Courses:

  • Math: 20 credits
  • Chemistry: 7.5 credits
  • Physics: 13.5 credits
  • Engineering, Interdisciplinary: 8 credits
  • Electrical Engineering: 51.5 credits
  • Humanities/Social Sciences: 12 credits

Elective Courses:

  • Engineering/Science: 10.5 credits
  • Humanities/Social Sciences: 12 credits

There is a strong emphasis on basic math and science courses, as well as an emphasis on developing students' expressive skills by the unusually high number of credits required by humanities/social sciences courses.

In the required undergraduate electrical engineering courses, electrical engineering students learn about the fundamental concepts of digital logic, circuit theory, electronics, digital signal processing, computer architecture, control systems, communication theory, electromagnetics, integrated circuits, and electromechanical energy conversion. Juniors are guided through a series of lab experiments and assigned projects. Seniors propose their own projects and many of them participate in inter-collegial contests.

In the new tentative curriculum proposed for the class of 2007 and beyond, three tracks of specialization are offered: Computer Engineering, Signal Processing & Communications, and Electronic Systems & Materials Engineering. The tracks offer different selections of advanced courses for specialization, while sharing the same "foundation courses".

Curriculum development was supported by a planning grant from the National Science Foundation, under the Principal Investigator, Dean Simon Ben-Avi. The New multi-disciplinary B.E. degree has a freshman and sophomore class already. (2004-2005). First graduation is expected in 2007.


  • Micro Lab (μLab): equipment for Computer Architecture, such as programmers for microcontrollers and programmable logic devices
  • Integrated Circuit Engineering Lab (ICE Lab): workstations and software (HSPICE, Cadence, Verilog, ADS) for designing integrated circuits and microwave circuits
  • Junior Lab: equipment and workbenches with oscilloscopes, multimeters, power sources, etc.
  • Senior Lab: workbenches with uncertain collections of equipment used by the senior projects that are in progress
  • Multimedia and Microprocessor Lab:
  • Wireless Communications Lab
  • Imaging Systems Lab
  • Electronic Materials Lab
  • The Forrest Wade Rapid Prototyping Laboratory

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