About the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison

A colorful illustration depicts a mature woman in a cap and gown with text surrounding her

Why We Do This Work

The Alliance and its stakeholders believe all people, regardless of whether or not they are currently or formerly incarcerated, should have access to high-quality and free higher education.

Higher education in prison provides the support, community and human connection that all people need to thrive. This work is critical and urgently needed to address the intergenerational failure of the education system for people who are currently and formerly incarcerated, an injustice that disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Our ultimate vision for the future is one where the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison is no longer needed because the prison industrial complex and its originating structures cease to exist.

How We Work

We are working collaboratively to advance the field of higher education in prison by supporting practitioners and students, producing reliable data and research, and communicating the need, importance, and value of quality higher education in prison.

Our Mission

We support the expansion of quality higher education in prison, empower students while in prison and after release, and shape public discussion about education and incarceration.

Our Vision

We envision a world in which all people, including those in prison, have access to quality higher education, creating a more just and equitable world.

Our Values

Human Dignity

We believe in the unequivocal value of every person and their right to be treated equitably, without labels or stigmas.

Equitable Access to Education

We believe that all people should have access to the opportunities afforded by higher education, including those incarcerated.


We believe in maintaining an unwavering commitment to our goals.


We believe in bringing together multiple groups to work and share resources for the purpose of rebuilding communities, one generation at a time, through higher education.


We believe in the critical importance of access to reliable information and the insurance of accountability from and to all our members.

“I want to see a world where we treat people like human beings, and I want to see a world where everyone has an opportunity to realize the full expression of who they are. I’ve witnessed the power and the transformation that exists in my own life and in the lives of the students that I work with every day.”
Bianca Van Heydoorn, Senior Director of Office of Reentry Partnerships, City of Philadelphia
Founding Advisory Board Member, Alliance for Higher Education in Prison
“Having education accessible reinforced the sense that I'm still worth something, and I'm still a person regardless of what the prison would try to say. Getting an education inside and then being able to continue it when I got out, and finish a degree, gave me a sense of completion to get myself back on the trajectory that I wanted to be on and that my family kind of expected of me.”
David Cowan, Operations Manager, Prison University Project
“I saw myself as a criminal and I didn’t see myself getting out of the cycle of what prison is. ... I read my first scientific article when I was incarcerated. Education was literally this rehabilitative thing for me and has helped propelled me to where I am today.”
Stanley Andrisse, Assistant Professor, Howard University College of Medicine