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May 29, 2014 01:39 PM EDT

Cooper Union Hit With Lawsuit Over Free Tuition


A lawsuit was filed Tuesday against Cooper Union to keep the school tuition-free, Inside Higher Ed reported.

More than a year after the privately funded college announced its plan to charge tuition next fall, a group of professors, admitted students and alumni filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against the school's board of trustee to keep the school tuition-free, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The petitioners, members of the Committee to Save Cooper Union, accuse the school's administrative of squandering money and missing opportunities to avoid charging tuition.

"The Board's invocation of economic necessity as a defense for charging tuition is both misleading and, itself, a reflection of the Board's breach of its fiduciary duties to steward the finances of the school," the Committee to Save Cooper Union said in its lawsuit. "The defense of financial necessity is misleading because, as the Trustees have acknowledged, the school could have survived without charging tuition. But when presented with two different plans to solve the budget shortfall without imposing tuition, the Trustees rejected both of them."

The lawsuit, filed in state court, asks the court to prevent the college from charging tuition next fall and to appoint a special master to investigate how the school's board has managed Cooper Union's finances.

They said the Board of Trustees is responsible for permitting "the school to engage in numerous financial transactions that bear no reasonable relationship to the educational purposes of The Cooper Union."

Justin Harmon, a spokesman for Cooper Union, released a statement to the Wall Street Journal saying Cooper Union administrators are disappointed in the activists.

"The decision to charge tuition was tremendously difficult and every member of the Cooper community feels the profound effect it has had," he said. "We are disappointed that the Committee to Save Cooper Union would choose costly litigation over constructive conversation."

The lawsuit comes after more than a year of protests and other measures failed to stop the school's tuition plan.             

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