04-24-12   A Message from CUAA President Peter Cafiero CE’83

Dear Fellow Alumni:

I’d like to share with all of you my thoughts regarding Cooper Union, and the letter sent out today by President Jamshed Bharucha.  A number of alumni, along with students, faculty and members of the administration, have been putting in a lot of time this year to develop strategies to close the college’s budget gap, and to ensure a vibrant, sustained future for The Cooper Union.  I have been participating on the Revenue Task Force, which President Bharucha charged with proposing new revenue streams to generate $20 million annually by 2018.  For progress reports from the Revenue and Expense Task Forces, visit http://taskforce.cooper.edu and click on “resources.”  I also have been participating in Board of Trustees meetings as president of the Alumni Association, as well as staying in close contact with President Bharucha throughout the spring.

One fact has become inescapably clear to all of us working on the task forces: no single idea (tuition, other sources of revenue, cost cutting, etc.) generates enough revenue by itself to answer all our financial challenges.  We will need a package of revenue-generating programs and expense reductions to close the gap.  But I and many others feel that, regardless of the school’s current financial situation, we must focus equally on a vision of the school that will ensure its long-term relevance and excellence.

A key idea proposed by the Revenue Task Force, outlined in the letter today from President Bharucha, is called the “hybrid model.”  The goal is to preserve full-tuition scholarships for our undergraduate programs in engineering, art and architecture, in part through the introduction of new tuition-based programs that both support and complement the core undergraduate schools.  These new programs could include professional master’s degrees in engineering, art and architecture, but also many other types of programs and even on-line programs as well. 

As important as the revenue from these programs will be to the future of the school, they must also create a stronger school by bringing together and enhancing the strengths of the existing schools. It has been inspiring to hear from faculty members on the Revenue Task Force about how the founding ideas of Peter Cooper and Cooper Union “of bringing science and art together” are in fact still the cutting edge around the world today. To remain relevant in the 21st century, I believe that the three schools of Cooper Union must work together, in ways they haven’t before. 

The risks in starting new high quality programs are significant.  Programs will take years to fully develop and produce revenues.  We will undoubtedly have to invest in marketing to attract potential students.  Most schools would only pursue one or two programs at a time, yet Cooper must explore scores of new programs simultaneously to hope to generate the revenue needed.  Continued and increased support, both moral and financial, by alumni will be even more crucial in the coming years, as Cooper Union launches these new programs.  Ideally, the hybrid framework, with the support of the faculty and alumni, will help us get the financial support we need to bridge the short term gap and more importantly, make The Cooper Union stronger, both financially and academically. 

Decisions required to achieve these long term goals will undoubtedly be criticized, either for going too far or not going far enough.  I do believe strongly that this plan is the best hope for preserving what many of us feel is important about The Cooper Union, and even improving it.  I fully support the hybrid framework, and hope that you will as well. 


Peter Cafiero CE’83
President, The Cooper Union Alumni Association