For more than a century, Cooper Union has been a one-of-a-kind meritocracy: Open to any student qualified to walk through its doors. For free, the Associated Press reports. Its founder envisioned higher education open to all — regardless of race, gender or class — an ideal that has remained the prestigious school’s most cherished principle since 1902. But a lot can change in 100 years. Cooper’s Board of Trustees is expected to vote later this month in favor of a proposal to charge its undergraduates something — anything — for their education. Angry alumni have penned letters. Students have protested, even occupying part of university building where Abraham Lincoln gave a famous anti-slavery speech. But they’ve all run up against a hard reality: Money woes caused by the economic collapse and rising costs mean Cooper can no longer afford the perk that has been held up as a sacrosanct part of the school’s identity…

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