Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science & Art


Type: College
Size:  Very Small (1,000)
Style: Hands On/Engaged
Affiliations:  N/A
Honors College: N/A
Student Body: Undergraduate: 950; Graduate: 50
Testing: SAT:1460-2360/ACT: 28-35
Admissions:  30 in Architecture, 65 in Art and 125-145 in Engineering
Students of Color: 45.7%  (His.: 12%; AA: 6.4%; AS:23.6%)
Male-Female: 66%-34%
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
Freshman Retention Rate: 97.0%
Freshman Graduating After 4 Years: 68%; 6 Years: 81%
Attend a Graduate School within 10 Years: 75%
Travel Cost/Time/Airport: NYC Area Airports (JFK, La Guardia (LGA), Newark, MacArthur (Long Island); $89-$330 one way; $12-$40 to/from airport (More for MacArthur); 3.25 hrs non-stop; 4-6 hours one stop.
Location: Manhattan (East Greenwich Village), NYC
Best For: Engineering, Architecture, Fine Art

Cooper Union
for the Advancement
of Science & Art

Once one of the most prestigious engineering, fine arts and architecture schools in the country, and the only one that used to offer a full free ride to all of its students, the 2009 Great Recession, and their new engineering building, collided, along with some bad investments, in a way that has changed Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (Cooper), and not for the better, in our opinion.

If you have a passion for parts and widgets, the engineering trees rather than the forest, or architecture is your passion, then the school offers one of the best placement/graduate school rates in the nation. If you’re looking for mechanical engineering or electrical engineering in cutting edge tech, like aeronautics, astronautics, robotics, advanced fuels, etc., they have professors with some interest in these areas, but not much in their core engineering courses.  For higher math and physics, though, they have some excellent offerings.

When students come to Cooper, they stay. Currently they hold a 98% freshmen retention rate, which says that students who decide to come here decide to stay. 40% of their students immediately go on to a higher degree, and a whopping 97% of their students who seek employment find it with a starting salary of $68,000/year or better, many working for sponsors like utility ConEd, Ford, or General Motors in their more nuts-and-bolts departments like drive trains.  64% of their students go on to graduate in four years, 82% within six years. That means that 16% of their students wash out or have to withdraw for financial reasons somewhere along the way. That’s well within the norms of a top-flight higher educational institution.

Universities, are generalist. Cooper is very much about specialization. Engineering. The fine arts. Architecture. The largest discipline is Engineering, which is broken down into Mechanical, Electrical, and Civil. Electrical and Civil have a couple of sub-tracks, Mechanical has sprouted a biomed sub-track, and there is a developing program to let engineers and architects experience each other’s side of the street, so Cooper is slowly moving to a greater awareness of the greying of the lines in the different engineering disciplines.  They offer some excellent work in higher math and physics. Their chemistry is competitive with other top science schools, but their facilities directly don’t offer anything particularly cutting-edge.

The freshmen and sophomores spend more of their first two years in learning theoretical work and the last two years in hands-on pursuits. More sub-major tracks, and more hands-on for underclassmen would be in line with other institutions of the same or similar caliber.

Student Body Size

While their 950 undergrads still makes them tiny, that is up from 876 a couple of years ago, an 11% increase. That might not seem like a big deal, but in a school with very limited space and equipment resources, particularly in engineering, that puts more stress on a system that already is a bit technologically antiquated. The school used to be free, but with students paying up to $25,000 for tuition,


Located in New York City in the East Village, the urban campus is composed of a handful of buildings just East of Broadway on Cooper Square, including their historic brownstone building in the center of the square.  Two blocks from New York University (NYU), and in one of the top neighborhoods of Manhattan for college students, the location and small size of this focused, urban school is ideal.


Housing is not guaranteed to anyone, but Cooper has not exactly turned down anyone either, and they give priority to Freshmen. They have their own dorms, and they have also leased additional space from neighboring schools when necessary.  Many of their students live off campus. Housing in the greater NYC area is not cheap, although there are deals to be found here and there. If considering Cooper and living off campus, research the cost of transportation (Metro pass for mass transit, Uber, taxis, etc.) to see if there is some value there for you.  There is no meal plan at Cooper. Dorms have kitchens, but there is not even a dining hall, so meals are either restaurant or self-made.


Diversity remains a problem for Cooper.  It is male dominant 64%;  38.5% White, 23.6% Asian, 12% Hispanic and 6.4% African-American. 15.5% of their students come from 22 other countries.  The good news for Asian students is that Cooper accepts at almost double the national rate.  The bad news if you’re female or African-American is that Cooper’s numbers indicate there are still hurdles.  Likewise, their faculty remains underrepresented in women and minorities in Engineering.  Art is more balanced.


Cooper is one of the most academically rigorous schools in the nation in its architecture and engineering divisions. Students will be stretch their knowledge of higher math to levels that they did not see in high school. APs are welcome as a point of placement, but they do not earn one any days off of the core curriculum in the first two years.  Cooper students are some of the top candidates for graduate schools around the world.  This is not due to their cutting edge work, but to their foundational work. They generate very prepared students in the ground-level of the engineering game: Math, physics, physical sciences.  People who are looking for that strong foundation will find Cooper amply prepares them for both higher degrees and for the work world in their field of choice.

We feel that their tracks, particularly in Engineering, are geared more to appease their sponsors like ConEd, than to educate students in the increasingly spectral fields of electrical and mechanical engineering, with lip service paid to bio, nano, green, battery, solar, web, cloud systems IT, and other rising cutting-edge technologies.

The foundational approach is excellent in the long-haul, but very dry learning. Upper class, particularly seniors, should have at least got their feet wet in more advanced tech than we see here.   For a school that should be at the cutting edge of technology, their PC and Mac computer labs are both ancient and neither seem to be getting much love from high-tech patrons.


Cooper used to be free. Yes. Free. The Great Recession and some seriously poor management of their endowment ended that tradition, although alumni continue to vow to bring it back. Currently a full ride at Cooper is still “merited” down from $40,800 to $20,400. 72% of applying freshmen received merit aid of $39,600. So students who qualify under their FAFSA profile can expect to pay almost nothing for tuition, and then have only room and board and books to contend with, about $15,000-$18,000 a year, putting the total bill, probably, at about $21,000 including travel, which is approximately the same as in-state school tuition/room/board less books. We say probably because Cooper does not have a student meal plan, which actually may be a good thing, as they seldom price those things in favor of the students/families, and there is a ton of food and grocery around the school.  The good thing is that 100% of students who have financial aid are given financial aid.

Quality of Life

If you are looking for Engineering, Architecture or Art within the range of subjects that Cooper teaches, and you want a more urban experience, this is one of the top schools in the world for quality of life. Manhattan is all around you, one of the world’s great culture capitals. You can experience everything from world-class art and entertainment to nightlife, 24 hour a day food experiences, and the amazing melting pot of most of the cultures on the planet.

Alumni Network

Cooper union has a sizable and powerful alumni network, including many notables.  Cooper alumni are one of the reason that the school has such a high placement rate after graduation in Engineering and Architecture. Apprenticeships and work in advertising and marketing in the Fine Arts come from the alumni.


Music is not an element of Cooper’s curriculum, although there are people who play, and, adjacent to Steinhardt and New School, those seeking to gig with other musicians in their peer group shouldn’t have too much trouble finding that.


Cooper is highly competitive, but, with a much smaller applicant pool, they will admit roughly 10-11% of those who apply.  They had approximately 3,200 applicants in 2015: 675 for Architecture; 1,300-1,400 for Art; and 1,250 for Engineering. They admitted approximately 300-325 students (35 in Architecture (5%), 80 in Art (5.5%); and 225 in Engineering (18%).  The latter number is the most interesting. Fewer students apply to Cooper, known for its engineering prowess, and they accept more. It’s a highly selective school, but if you meet the profile and have two of SAT Subject Tests that they require for your major, you have a good chance of getting in with a 4.0HPA  or better, ACT range of 28-35, or an SAT of 1460-2360. The scattergrams on their admissions show that the distribution in that range is wide, and not all clustered to the top of the scale, which demonstrates a reasonable opportunity for acceptance.


We award Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art 3-1/2 diamonds out of a possible 5:  One diamond for quality of life because the campus, while small, is located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and is part of a thriving college scene on top of the cultural advantages of going to school in New York City.   We award a 1/2 diamond for education for high student satisfaction, losing a notch for the state of their facilities and their educational pathways being a bit less than state-of-the-art.  They lose a diamond for their diversity issues.  They receive a diamond for their high placement rate at top businesses, and their powerful alumni network.  We drop a diamond for their antiquated track structure and housing that exposes the student to a higher cost of living than students at comparable colleges.  The track structure is improving.  While we don’t have a category for it, one other note of concern was that the students that we met with are anecdotally, not nearly as impressive as the students of other similar top engineering/architecture/tech schools.