The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the prestigious art, architecture and engineering college, will end its long history of free tuition, starting with the 2014 freshman class, the Manhattan-based school said on April 26.

To keep the college from closing one or more of its three schools, incoming students will cover 50% of tuition. Current students and those entering this fall will be exempt; last year, graduate students began paying tuition.

The college faces a $12-million annual deficit, even after leasing a former engineering-building site for a mixed-use tower, now nearly complete. Previously, scholarships covered tuition costs.

“The new programs proposed by the faculty are innovative, and the administration will work with the faculty to launch them as appropriate; our belief in the potential of these programs is one of the factors that has enabled us to offer the minimum 50% scholarship to all students. However, the competitive environment and reasonable caution lead us to estimate that these programs will only close about one-third of the deficit," said Mark Epstein, college boad chairman, in a statement.

The change comes four years after finishing a $111-million academic building that includes engineering. Officials of Cooper Union, founded in 1859, say the school will offer scholarships based on the need to cover some tuition costs.

Epstein emphasized that “under the new policy, The Cooper Union will continue to adhere to the vision of Peter Cooper, who founded the institution specifically to provide a quality education to those who might otherwise not be able to afford it."

"Consequently, we will provide additional scholarship funding for those with need, including full-tuition scholarships to all Pell Grant-eligible students," Epstein added.