No one believes in free education more than those who’ve experienced it. At Cooper Union, one of the the last tuition-free colleges in America, the issue has been especially poignant, since in April board members announced that students will begin paying tuition for the first time in the school’s 150-year history. Next year, admitted students will be charged on a need-based sliding scale for that would cap at 50 percent (about $20,000 a year) of the total tuition, but the declaration set off a firestorm of protests and building occupations nonetheless.
For commencement, Cooper Union this year mounted two exhibitons: the official, annual show of student work, Show Up, and a response called Step Down, organized in by Free Cooper Union, a student group protesting the tuition situation. Show Up included end-of-year exhibitions from students in Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, the School of Art, and the