At COE’s 40th Anniversary a Time for Reflection, Recommitment and Celebration Emerges

February 25, 2021

By President Maureen Hoyler

Fighting for the Past Forty Years for Equal Access to Higher Education for Everyone

Turning 40 is traditionally a time to take stock, to measure the triumphs and lessons of past years and prepare for the challenges to come. In this, COE’s 40th year, we are grateful for all we have accomplished with the help of allies who have accompanied us on our journey. Together we have made real progress in helping low income, first generation and minority students and students with disabilities improve their lives by attending and graduating from college.

This year we will look back, not to rest on our laurels, but for inspiration and renewal. We will reaffirm our mission of improving the lives of students and the committed professionals who guide them.

There is still so much good work to do. With you, we look forward to all the tasks ahead.


Maureen Hoyler
Council for Opportunity in Education

The Genesis of NCEOA and Development of COE: A Timeline


The National Council of Educational Opportunity Associations (NCEOA) — which later changed its name to the Council for Opportunity in Education — incorporates in Washington, DC in March, replacing the informal coalition of TRIO-based associations known as the National Coordinating Council of Educational Opportunity Associations.

NCEOA holds its first annual Policy Seminar in Washington, DC.

The NCEOA opens a Washington office in June.


In September, the NCEOA’s First Annual Conference draws 490 participants to Washington.


The NCEOA Board approves a policy whereby higher educational institutions or agencies sponsoring TRIO projects, as well as other institutions, agencies, and organizations interested in supporting efforts to enhance educational opportunity, can become members of the NCEOA.

NCEOA wins the 12-Day War. NCEOA convinces the full Senate Appropriations Committee to reject the subcommittee’s proposal to slash TRIO by 33% and moves to increase the appropriation by $10 million.


The NCEOA launches its first institutional membership drive.


NCEOA organizes the first annual Seminar on Relations with the Department of Education immediately following its Policy Seminar.


National TRIO DAY is proclaimed by Congressional resolution. The day is meant to focus the nation's attention on the needs of disadvantaged young people and adults aspiring to improve their lives, to the necessary investment if they are to become contributing citizens of the country, and to the talent wasted if that investment is not made.

A fifth TRIO program is created, the “Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program” — later known as the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program — designed to provide increases in the number of low-income and first-generation students pursuing doctoral study.


NCEOA initiates a job line to advertise employment vacancies in TRIO and other educational opportunity programs.

NCEOA moves to its new offices at 1025 Vermont Avenue, NW.


The first annual National Student Leadership Congress is held.


The New York Times identifies NCEOA as a particularly effective advocacy organization.


War on Opportunity. COE defeats the House Budget Committee’s recommendation to eliminate TRIO.


Congress appropriates $500 million to support TRIO students.

Creation of the Pell Institute, originally known as the Center for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.


NCEOA officially changes its name to the Council for Opportunity in Education “to better emphasize its mission and the students it serves.”


The Corporate Advisory Committee is established.

The first group of study abroad students go to South Africa and Mexico.


TRIO funding tops $800 million.


COE organizes the first briefing of the Congressional TRIO Caucus.


The Council’s 24th Annual Conference in Washington, DC celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the Higher Education Act.

COE defeats the Administration’s attempt to eliminate Upward Bound, Talent Search, and GEAR UP.


COE defeats a renewed attempt by the Administration to eliminate Upward Bound, Talent Search, and GEAR UP.


In the budget reconciliation bill, COE secures $228 million (over four years) to fund nearly 200 additional Upward Bound projects in that year’s grant competition.


In the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, COE defeats the unethical evaluation of the Upward Bound program, establishes a formal appeals process, and wins five-year grant terms for all projects.


At COE’s Annual Conference in New York City, the Pell Institute celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the Pell Grant program.


Upward Bound celebrates 50 years of service.


Search celebrates 50 years of service.

The Pell Institute publishes the first expanded, annual edition of the Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States trend report in partnership with the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy of the University of Pennsylvania (PennAHEAD).


COE hosts its first Executive Leadership Institute at Princeton University.

COE defeats a Republican amendment to remove $60 million from TRIO by a House floor vote of 153-263.


TRIO funding cracks $1 billion threshold for the first time in its history.

Student Support Services celebrates 50 years of service.

At COE’s 37th Annual Conference in New York City, the Council recognizes Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis, her sisters, and their mother with the first ever TRIO Family Achievement Award in recognition of the impact of TRIO on their entire family.


COE launches robust online professional development offerings to respond to student need during the COVID-19 crisis.

Both COE’s Policy Seminar and Annual Conference take place in virtual formats due to the pandemic.