New York City’s prestigious Cooper Union college, which has been tuition-free for undergraduates for well over a century, intends to begin charging new students annual tuition of more than $19,000 in the fall of 2014.

This is likely the largest one-year tuition increase imposed by any educational institution on earth, ever.

The decision was announced by CU board of trustees chair Mark Epstein at a hastily-arranged lunchtime meeting today. According to tweets from meeting attendees with the Cooper Union Task Force and Free Cooper Union, the tuition charge will replace the college’s longstanding automatic 100% scholarships for all students with a new 50% scholarship. Since the college’s  official tuition rate is $19,275 a semester for 2012-13, new students can expect to be charged at least that much beginning next year.

The New York Times reported this afternoon that a consulting firm hired by Cooper Union last year advised against cutting the scholarships by more than 25%, concluding that a tuition rate above $10,000 a year would drive away desired applicants and raise students’ expectations regarding amenities. The  board rejected this advice, which mirrors arguments I made last fall, on the grounds that a 75% scholarship rate would not produce sufficient revenue to balance Cooper Union’s books.

At today’s meeting Epstein said that Cooper Union admissions would remain need-blind, and that about a quarter of 2014 admittees would receive full scholarships. As much as half of the entering class, however, could find themselves paying the full $19,000 rate. He declined to reveal the vote tally for the tuition decision, though he did admit that it was not unanimous.

Students and faculty grew increasingly vocal during the course of the meeting, as Epstein cherry-picked from questions submitted in writing, refusing to answer — or even read aloud — those he characterized as “offensive” or “inflammatory.” He ended the meeting after less than an hour,

Epstein says 25% of students will receive free tuition via financial aid. As many as half could wind up paying full $19,000 rate.

We may lose some students but we have a cushion of other students to rely on.”

12:50 | The public meeting has ended, less than an hour after it began.

Note | This post has been revised and updated over the course of the day as new information became available.