Parallel to the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960’s, college students played a critical role in creating changes that reduced economic and social barriers to higher education. Poverty and other socio-economic barriers began to be linked to a lack of higher education opportunities for many minorities and socially disadvantaged students. African American/Black and Chicanx/Mexican American students at Cal State LA, and across the nation questioned access to higher education and quality jobs. These groups first met informally within their communities. By 1967, the African American and Mexican American communities at Cal State LA formed their own organizations: The Black Student Association (BSA) and the United Mexican American Student Association (UMAS). The goals of these groups were clear: 1) to question the access of higher education for students of color, 2) to question the usage of university funds, and 3) to keep students informed about these prevalent issues.
Through the diligence of these two organizations, the Two Percent Rule was discovered. After conducting extensive investigations into the university admissions process, BSA and UMAS discovered that two percent of the previous year’s entering first-time freshmen may be designated as Special Admits. As Special Admits, students who would otherwise be denied admission due to low-test scores or non-satisfactory academic performance, may quality for university admission. In their investigation BSA and UMAS found that the Two Percent Rule was not being utilized to provide admission for disadvantage students. It was being used as a loophole for athletic recruitment instead. Consequently, students protested the misuse of the Two Percent Rule. The protests caused Cal State L.A. to revise its admissions policies and practices. Revisions to the admissions policies opened the door for students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds and communities.
In 1967, the Minority Student Program, known today as the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), was formed by the educational committee of BSA and UMAS. By June 17, 1968, the Associated Students Incorporated (ASI) at Cal State LA voted to give BSA and UMAS $40,000 to implement the program. In addition, state funds were allocated to employ administrative support personnel and supplies. Utilizing the Two Percent Rule to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the leadership of Monte Perez, Ralph Dawson, and advisors from BSA and UMAS, interviewed potential students for the program. In 1968 Perez and Dawson co-coordinated the first year of the Minority Student Program. The program’s first class comprised of 68 entering freshmen.
In April 1969, EOP obtained financial stability when the California Legislature Senate Bill 1072 (the Harmer Bill) passed. This bill established EOP throughout the California State University System of higher learning. Nearly 50 years later, EOP continues to provide access to economically and socially disadvantaged students who display the potential for academic success at the 23 campuses throughout the California State University System.