In March of 1988, oilman Patrick F. Taylor was asked to speak to 183 underachieving and troubled New Orleans middle school students who planned to drop out of school. Having grown up in a poor family in East Texas, Taylor had taken the opportunity to attend Louisiana State University at no cost and subsequently become a billionaire.
Recalling that experience, Taylor chose to eschew the “role model” speech. Instead, he promised the kids that he would see to it that they went to college. They would be required to stay in school, stay out of trouble and complete a college preparatory high school curriculum with a B average. The response from the students and their parents was overwhelming and many went on to college.
That experience led Taylor to dive deep into college opportunity for low-income students, who simply felt that college was for other kids. Convinced that all children are entitled to the opportunity to achieve success, Taylor conceived and prepared legislation for Louisiana to address the issue. With his energy and weight behind the initiative, the “Taylor Plan” was signed into law in the summer of 1989 (just 15 months after meeting with the middle schoolers). Now in Louisiana, a college education for all children was now based on their ability to learn rather than their ability to pay, thanks to the first state-paid, merit-based tuition program.
Taylor passed away in 2004 and four years later the official name of the program was changed from the Louisiana Tuition Opportunity Program for Students to the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students.
At the time of his death, his Taylor Energy Company was the only individually-owned company ever to explore for and produce oil and natural gas in federal offshore waters in the Gulf of Mexico. He was also recognized as the first and only billionaire from Louisiana by Forbes magazine’s 400 Richest Americans List (October 2004 issue).