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The Tri-State Consortium of Opportunity Programs in Higher Education began in 1988 when its founder,  Robert James, then Senior Director of Special Programs at the State University of New York, reached out to a couple of colleagues, Mitch Duren, Director of HEOP at New York Technical College, Diane Hill, Assistant Director of Special Programs at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and Doug Mercado, Bureau Chief, HEOP, State Education Department suggesting that they meet to discuss the possibility of starting an organization whose membership would include representation from all of the opportunity programs in the States of New York, New Jersey. and Pennsylvania.

The focus of the new organization was to, provide Opportunity Program practitioners’ opportunities for professional development, serve as a conduit for ideas and information, and publish theoretical and practical experiences of program personnel all useful in improving access, persistence and graduation of program participants. Invitations to join the consortium were sent to the leadership of the opportunity program statewide associations and organizations, director councils and central offices.  By 1991, the Consortium was formed, incorporated, and established a Board of Directors. The Consortium held its first Conference in 1991, entitled “A Mirror on the Past, A Window to the Future”. Since then the Consortium has held 15 conferences on a biennial basis and 10 Leadership Institutes.

It must be noted that the concept to join the programs from each state originally occurred in 1978 at the historic conference entitled Tri-State Opportunities Conference, “Minorities in Higher Education, Public Policy and Futures Planning” (PDF). While that conference was a huge success, the proposal to form a three state organization did not move forward.