In the late 1960s, the term "TRIO" was coined to describe three federal outreach programs developed as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. In support of its commitment to providing educational opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, ethnic background or economic circumstance, Congress established the Higher Education Act from which a series of programs were created. Upward Bound was the first program to emerge from the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964. The second TRIO outreach program, Talent Search, was created in 1965 as part of the Higher Education Act. In 1968, Student Support Services which was originally known as Special Services for Disadvantaged Students, was authorized by the Higher Education Amendments and became the third in this series of educational opportunity programs. Over 1,000 colleges, universities, community colleges, and agencies now offer TRIO Programs across the United States.

The Rutgers University Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, has been in operation on the Rutgers University—New Brunswick campus since 1991. The McNair program is one of four TRiO programs on the Rutgers University—New Brunswick campus. The McNair program serves low-income, first generation college students and students from groups historically underrepresented in graduate education that aspire to attain a doctoral degree. The services provided are designed to prepare rising juniors (and some rising seniors), who have demonstrated academic potential, with the research and scholarship skills necessary for entry into doctoral studies. Rutgers McNair Scholars have continued on to attend and receive doctoral degrees from some of the most prestigious institutions in the nation, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Cornell, University of California—Berkeley, and Stanford.