The TRIO programs had their beginnings in the nation's War on Poverty in the 1960s. The first program, Upward Bound, was created as part of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The program began with 17 pilot programs in the summer of 1965, and served 2,061 low-income high school students.

Talent Search was the next program to be created, and was included in the landmark Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. To this day, this is the most significant piece of legislation governing American higher education. Title IV of the HEA--the section of the law in which TRIO programs are currently located--accounts for 95 percent of all funds appropriated under the HEA.

When the HEA was reauthorized for the first time in 1968, the Special Services for Disadvantaged Students program was established. This program, which served low-income students who had entered college, was later renamed Student Support Services. The 1968 reauthorization also joined all three programs under the Office of Education in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Subsequent reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act brought significant changes to the TRIO programs. The 1972 reauthorization created the Educational Opportunity Centers and Veteran's Upward Bound programs. The 1976 reauthorization added the staff and leadership authority that provided federal funding for TRIO personnel training.

While the 1980 reauthorization did not add new programs to the TRIO family, it included two crucial elements that have benefited the program long-term. The first piece was the changing of eligibility criteria to include first-generation students, those students whose parents had not completed a baccalaureate degree. The second piece was the establishment of prior experience. By awarding points in the competitive grant competition to existing programs that have successfully met performance targets and accountability requirements, prior experience allowed TRIO programs to become a permanent part of the disadvantaged communities they serve and the institutions that sponsor the programs.

Prior experience has also helped foster the development of experienced TRIO professionals who administer the programs and provide a voice for the low-income and disadvantaged. The remaining TRIO programs--the McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program and Upward Bound Math/Science--were created in 1986, and 1990, respectively. In addition, a TRIO Dissemination project was added in 1998.

Today more than 870,000 students are served through the TRIO programs, which receive $828.2 million dollars in federal funding. This is a substantial increase since the program's simple beginnings in 1968. Over 1,200 colleges, universities, and agencies across the country offer TRIO programs.