The social and political atmosphere in the 1960s was highly charged. Many communities reawakened and experienced a resurgence of self-determination and empowerment. Communities and colleges were fertile grounds for change. During that time, even though California’s population was changing to include greater numbers of people of color, most students in the state’s universities and colleges did not reflect that diversity. The college student population at that time was comprised of mostly white, middle- and upper-middle class students. Clearly, change was needed.
The civil rights movements of the 1960s inspired many college students to play an active role in affecting changes within a system that created economic and social barriers. Poverty, discrimination and other socio-economic barriers began to be linked to the lack of higher education opportunities for many minority and socially disadvantaged students. Mexican American/Chicano and Black/African American students on the Campus of California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State L.A.), as well as across the nation, questioned access to higher education and access to quality jobs. These groups first met informally within their communities. By 1967, the Mexican and the African American communities at Cal State L.A. formed their own organizations: the United Mexican American Student Association (UMAS) and the Black Student Association (BSA). Their agenda was clear: Question the access of students of color to the university and usage of university funds, and inform other students about these issues.
Through the diligence of these two organizations, the "two percent rule” was discovered. After conducting extensive investigations into the university admissions process, UMAS and BSA discovered that two percent of the previous years entering first-time freshmen might be designated as "Special Admits." That is, two percent of entering students were allowed to enter the university without meeting all, or even any, of the university's requirements. As Special Admits, students who would otherwise be denied admission due to low-test scores or non-satisfactory academic performance were allowed admission under the two percent rule. However, in investigating the "two percent rule", UMAS found that the two percent rule was not being used to provide access to the disadvantaged minorities. Instead, it was used as a loophole for athletic recruitments.
Student protest against the two percent rule eventually caused Cal State L.A. to revise its admissions policies. This allowed a passage for African American and Mexican American students to gain access to higher education. In 1967, through the educational committee of UMAS and BSA, the concept of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) was founded, utilizing the two percent rule for minority students who would otherwise be denied entrance to the university.
By June 17, 1968, Associated Students Incorporated (ASI) at Cal State L.A. voted to give BSA and UMAS $40,000 to run a "Minority Student Program." In addition, state funds were allocated to help fund administrative support and supplies. Under the direction of Monte Perez and Ralph Dawson, as well as the BSA and UMAS advisors, potential admits were interviewed for the program. In 1968, 68 entering freshmen comprised the first class of the Minority Student Program, which later became the Educational Opportunity Program.
In April 1969, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 1072 (the Harmer Bill) which established EOP at the California state institutions of higher learning. More than 40 years later, the EOP program is going strong, with access provided to first generation, low income, historically disadvantaged students.