Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that the New York attorney general’s office has sent letters to the trustees of a prestigious college of arts and engineering, warning them that it is investigating the school’s finances.
The school, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, has offered free tuition to all students since its founding in the 19th century, but last year the Union’s president announced that because of budget constraints, tuition of $20,000 per year would be instituted starting in 2015.
Reaction from students, alumni, and others has been hostile. The Cooper Union owns the ground under the iconic Chrysler Building, for which it receives $27 million per year in payments — an amount scheduled to rise to $32.5 million in 2018. But a new engineering building, designed by a star architect, has strained the institution’s budget, and fundraising for the new building has not met goals, according to an analysis by the Times of the Union’s endowment and finances.
The attorney general’s interest is unusual in that it seems to be a pre-emptive action; the Cooper Union is not in danger of closing. The attorney general told the Times in April, “I consider it my responsibility to promote and protect the nonprofit sector” — not only by prosecuting fraud, he added, but by preventing mismanagement “before it starts.”
Apparently in reaction to the investigation, the board voted 13 to 6 not to renew the president’s contract when it comes up for renewal in 2016, and subsequently, five trustees and the president announced their immediate resignation.
For more information, see a report in Inside Higher Ed.