The Higher Education Act of 1965 mandated that minorities be more actively recruited by campus to provide greater racial balance across the campus student population. Students lobbied the University to admit 1,000 minority students, while the administration wanted to admit only 200. The two groups finally agreed on the number 500 as a compromise, and so Project 500 and the Special Educational Opportunities Program was born. The result was the admission of 565 African American and Latino students, the first wave of equality to sweep across the campus landscape. 
On October 18, 2003, Project 500, an oil painting commemorating the 35th anniversary of Project 500 and the Special Educational Opportunities Program, was dedicated. The painting, by Billy Morrow Jackson, hangs on the northwest wall of the Courtyard Caf.