Keeping Educational Doors Open

by Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.
May 19, 2015 1:30 PM ET


The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states, “Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. Yet millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities, many as a result of poverty.”

Equal access to education was Thurgood Marshall’s life work.  Millions of Americans have walked through the doors that he opened, using education to lift themselves and their families out of poverty, thus securing their human rights.  As a student Marshall was rejected by the University of Maryland Law School solely due to his race.  After completing his law degree at Howard University – a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) – and passing the bar exam, Marshall’s first case opened the very University of Maryland doors that were closed to him.  Thus began Marshall’s career of fighting racism and discrimination in the American legal system, and ensuring the human right of education.  In this way, Marshall opened many doors to educational equality – including in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court CaseBrown v. the Board of Education.  In recognition of his accomplishments and intellect, Thurgood Marshall became the first African-American United States Supreme Court Justice.

Yet, while Justice Thurgood Marshall worked legally to topple educational barriers and open doors for all Americans, today’s rising college costs are closing the doors to higher education for millions of low-income and minority students.  Since 1985, college costs have risen 600%, while government-backed financial aid has declined – decreasing college affordability and thus, accessibility.  For low-income and first-generation students, these trends result in high attrition rates before the second year of college.  Nationally, 1 in 3 first-year students leave college due to lack of resources, and for first-generation students, the rate is 90%.  A student that has the financial resources to afford college is seven times more likely to graduate than one that does not – regardless of intellectual ability.

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Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. is the President & CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF).  Established in 1987, TMCF supports and represents nearly 300,000 students attending America’s 47 publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), medical and law schools.  Through its scholarships and programs, TMCF plays a key role in preparing tomorrow’s leaders.  For more information, go to: