The SEEK Program began as a pre-baccalaureate program at the City College of New York in 1965. It was signed into law by the New York State legislature in 1966 as the City University's higher education opportunity program in the senior colleges. Comparable programs such as EOP and HEOP were also instituted at the State University and private colleges, respectively. The legislation was a result of the efforts of social activists and progressive politicians whose vision was to provide access to CUNY senior colleges for students who graduated from high schools that had not prepared them for the rigors of college.
Today, SEEK has grown to eleven SEEK Programs across the University, one Program in each of the seven senior and four comprehensive colleges. Currently, CUNY’s various SEEK Programs have a combined enrollment of approximately 8,600 SEEK students. The SEEK Program at Lehman opened its doors in 1968 and currently has an enrollment of about nine hundred students. SEEK students account for a significant portion of the University's graduates who go on to contribute to the graduate school enrollment and work forces of New York City and the State as well as the region and the nation.
In February 2010, the New York State Assembly unanimously passed legislation renaming the SEEK Program as The Percy Ellis Sutton SEEK Program in honor of the late Percy Sutton, multifaceted leader in the fields of law, communications, business, and civil rights. Percy Ellis Sutton, along with Shirley Chisholm, Charles B. Rangel, Basil A. Paterson, David Dinkins and Allen B. Ballard, was instrumental in the creation of the Program as a New York State Assemblyman in 1966 when he sponsored and became the leading advocate of the establishment of the SEEK Program at CUNY. As of May 2010, the NYS Senate's Higher Education committee is considering the Senate version of the bill.