The Thurgood Marshall College Fund is one source through which students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other institutions can further their educational journey without exclusive reliance on loans. In the article below, we'll explore what this organization does for its member colleges. As well, we'll provide some background information on the group and how it serves to nurture the next generation of leaders in the African American community.

The Mission and Meaning of the TMCF

Attaining higher education and excellence in leadership are primary tenets of the African American community. Learning and leadership provided and continue to offer paths forward for many who begin in underprivileged communities. But the apparent difference between other philosophies of individual enrichment pales beside the concept of community leadership. In many ways, this is a tool of community cohesion—when the community invests in the success of one or more individuals, those individuals return the care and resources to the community.

The mission of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund has three main components dedicated to this end. First, they work with an extensive network of member schools, colleges, and universities to elevate and sustain a high retention rate among African American student bodies. Then, they work to groom students at these member institutions who demonstrate desirable leadership potential. While scholarships to new and continuing students are a large part of that process, it also entails greater access to social and scholastic resources for students who will make the most of them. Their pillars of academic support include advocacy and policy creation, scholarships, support for capacity building, and programmatic resources.

Perhaps one of the most critical aspects of the TMCF mission is the creation of a conduit for students emerging into the marketplace. Alumni of the organization are well positioned to offer advice and direction to newly minted graduates seeking their future roles in the world. Because the TMCF also provides many attractive and educational internship opportunities to students attending member institutions, these freshly fledged community leaders also have an excellent idea of where they wish to work and how they will apply their education.

When, Why, and for Whom

Founded in 1987 to honor Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice, the organization has ample backing from companies such as Sony Music, the NBA, and Miller Brewing Company. Their primary motivation for offering assistance to students enrolled at HBCUs is that these students are often first-generation college students and come from backgrounds that leave them academically under-prepared.

More than one-third of the first year students at HBCUs drop out due to financial pressures that college enrollment constitutes, and 97 percent of all students attending these colleges seek financial aid of some type. To mitigate reliance upon loans and encourage students to remain in school, TMCF designs support programs, scholarship funds, and grant initiatives as well as perpetuating a social network of established alumni to offer social support to students.

While their motivation is entirely philanthropic, the organization has earned the highest possible marks for their work from some prestigious institutions. They pair intellectual rigor and community spirit in a way that benefits students and their extended networks. The Thurgood Marshall College Fund operates by a simple credo—changing the world one leader at a time—and they believe that supporting those leaders as they learn is the first, best step in such a journey.

See also: The 50 Best Value Historically Black Graduate Schools in the U.S.