Just about everyone you've met at Brandeis is probably in some form of debt.

The amount varies from person to person, but student loans have become commonplace for college students. Especially in institutions tightening their budgets, the era of free rides and huge scholarships are in serious jeopardy.

While other schools have been increasing their tuition, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan's East Village has remained free for all accepted students.

Founded in 1859 on the ideal that higher education should not cost money, Cooper Union has maintained a system of meritocracy and low acceptance rates. Now, after over a century of providing free higher education, Cooper Union is considering charging tuition to deal with its debt.


Let's hope it doesn't.

While Cooper Union administators says that they're exploring all methods of brings in new revenue, charging tuition shouldn't be an option.

The college is a reminder that education shouldn't be something only available to the privileged. The government only provides us with public K-12 education, but that doesn't mean that higher education should be unattainable. Cooper Union is the American dream incarnated: working hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

Every other school seems to justify its increasing costs with the opportunities it provides; Cooper Union provides those opportunities only to those most deserving. By charging for their school, they will no longer represent any ideal; they simply become like every other college. Who would want Cooper Union to become another middle-of-the-road college?

I know the money could potentially make them an even better school, but there is a bigger issue at hand. Cooper Union challenges the status quo; it challenges the notion that higher education has to be expensive.

Far from a radical, far-fetched experiment, they are a respected institution that carries that mantra with them. Most schools cannot afford to simply let everyone attend for free, but the current culture of higher education has most undergraduates leaving with a heavy burden of debt.

Many college students understand this debt is unavoidable, but Cooper Union at the very least represents a system that rewards us solely for our work.

Closing the school is obviously the worst possible choice and isn't even on the table, but it's really in the hands of the donors to keep its dream alive.

I know the importance I place on that school may sound overly idealistic, but every year, a few hundred graduates leave the college debt-free and able to take on the next phase of their lives. To those who value education and contribution for the prosperity of future generations, their donations are best suited not only to keep a school like Cooper Union alive but to allow for its expansion and for the creation of new schools in the same model. While they may not be able to be completely free, schools can at least provide quality education at reasonable costs.

In many countries, higher education is provided by the state at exceptionally low costs. Yes, America has some of the most impressive colleges and universities in the world, but that's not to say that many people paying low rates at in other countries are getting a second-rate education.

They're simply getting educated while gathering less debt. As students, we don't expect most schools to have sudden changes of heart and simply cover all students' tuition, but universities filled with our country's brightest minds need to realize that students simply cannot afford the amount of debt now associated with getting an education.

The more educated people are, the more likely they are to contribute to their society and economy. You can ensure a country is built for future success by making sure that people receive higher education.

That assurance relies on the participation of an entire society, and excluding those who cannot afford to further educate themselves doesn't provide an equal opportunity for success.

Rather than just protect the future of Cooper Union, schools should take a page out of their book: education for all who deserve it.