NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Museum of Art is partially abandoning its “pay-what-you-wish” admissions policy that has made it an egalitarian destination for generations of art lovers, even those who could barely afford a bus ticket into town.

Starting March 1, the museum will charge a mandatory $25 entrance fee to most adult visitors who don’t live in New York state, the Met’s president and CEO, Daniel Weiss, announced Thursday. Admission will still be pay-what-you-wish for New Yorkers.

He said the extra money – an estimated $6 million to $11 million per year – will help bring long-term fiscal stability to the institution. The Met, which has a $305 million operating budget, registered a shortfall of about $10 million in its most recently completed fiscal year. People from all over the world have been able to come to the museum for nearly nothing since its founding in 1870, but the number of people willing to pay a suggested donation of $25 has dropped off substantially in recent years.

“The goal of the policy is to find a better balance for the institution,” Weiss told The Associated Press. “The current policy has failed.”

Entrance will remain free for all children under 12 and pay-what-you-wish for students up to graduate school in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Students living outside the tri-state area will be charged $12 and seniors $17.

The fee change will affect about 30 percent of the museum’s visitors. The rest are either state residents, Met members, or they come in as part of a tour group or via a multi-attraction pass.


Weiss said the $25 fee will allow visitors to enter the Met over three consecutive days, instead of just one.

Two cousins visiting the Met from Italy on Thursday chose to pay $15 each and said that was plenty.

“But $25 is a lot, it’s absolutely too much,” said Francesca Betocchi, an attorney from Bologna celebrating her 35th birthday. “We think art education should be a free, open door for everybody, not only for those who have more money,” said her cousin, Paola Borri, 51, an accountant, also from Bologna.

The formal change follows years of debate and litigation over the Met’s admissions policies. As part of the late 19th-century legislation that allowed the museum to open in Central Park, admission was initially required to be free most days of the week.

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