Cooper Union, the school that asks questions like "A clock or device which redefines the concept of time" on its application and has been entirely tuition-free since 1902, may be forced to start charging students to combat the harsh economy.

New president Jamshed Bharucha told the Times this week that "Altering our scholarship policy will be only as a last resort, but in order to create a sustainable model, it has to be one of the options on the table." A representative at the school, Jolene Travis, gave us the following statement:

"[Cooper Union] faces a substantial and severe structural budget deficit, one that has grown over the past couple of decades, and was significantly accelerated by the crash of 2008. Cooper Union as a community must face this urgent challenge now. President Jamshed Bharucha, who took office July 2011, will be implementing a bold plan of reinvention based on the founding vision and principles of Peter Cooper...The possibility of adjusting the scholarship policy is not a foregone conclusion, but it is a last resort and will be on the table."

Bharucha told the Times that lower-income students and many middle-income ones would continue to attend free, and that none of the 900 current undergraduates would be charged the as-of-yet unknown tuition fee.

He also stressed that no decision has been officially made yet, though that didn't stop people from getting all worked up: “It’s a contradiction to everything we’ve learned about Cooper,” famous alum Milton Glaser said. “It’s the last opportunity for free education on that level in the entire country.” And in an neat little twist from the "Save the St. Mark's Bookshop from Cooper Union" petition that was delivered to Bharucha last month, a new petition, "Save Cooper Union Without Tuition," is making the rounds today.