The Alliance and its members believe all people, regardless of their location or circumstance, should have access to quality higher education. Higher education in prison addresses the support and human connection that all people need to thrive. It also addresses the lack of resources and systems of injustice that currently exclude some people from getting a college education.
Our goals are to build the field of higher education in prison by working to define the practices and theories that constitute high-quality teaching and learning in prison and articulating the meaningful metrics, quality standards, and indicators that should guide programming and the broader development of the field. We are working to identify and understand the multiple stakeholders that are engaged in the work of higher education in prison, to connect those stakeholders to each other, and to improve quality and support excellence in their work by providing a central infrastructure of theories and practices. Over the next three years the Alliance will implement programming to enhance the quality of new and existing higher education in prison programs across the country and support the academic and professional development of currently and formerly incarcerated students.
In 2015, at the 5th National Conference on Higher Education in Prison (NCHEP), a plenary session was hosted and the idea of national organization was introduced. That same year a survey was distributed to NCHEP participants and on the Higher_Ed Listserv to collect input on the idea of a national organization. In December 2015, funding was received to support the Strategic Planning Process to Found a National Organization of Higher Education in Prison. Mary Gould, Saint Louis University Prison Program and Sean Pica, Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison co-chaired the Strategic Planning Process. For the next 18 months facilitated meetings were hosted across the country and a national survey and focus group project was engaged. More than 300 stakeholders collectively participated in the strategic planning process. In June 2016, a Strategic Planning Committee was formed (13-member committee) and collected the feedback from the planning process and wrote the Alliance’s Prospectus Report and a vision for the creation of a national organization for higher education in prison. Later that year, a national invitation was distributed to invite nominations and self-nominations for the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison Founding Advisory Board. In January 2017 a Founding Advisory Board was named and the Alliance began hiring full-time staff.
The Alliance is a project of Community Partners (fiscal sponsor) and operates under Community Partners’ status as a tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. As a project of Community Partners, the Alliance is able to receive foundation grants and other charitable donations. The majority of the Alliance’s financial support comes from foundations, with a much smaller portion coming from individual donors.
You can learn more about the Alliance’s funders on the About Us page.
The Alliance for Higher Education in Prison considers “higher education” to be a specific teaching and learning experience. The purpose and outcomes of higher education in prison should not be conceived of as distinct from higher education on an outside campus. Higher education in prison includes:
This definition is drawn from years of gathering of practitioners, current and former students, advocates, researchers, higher education administrators, and others at the National Conference on Higher Education in Prison, as well as the outcome of a multi-year stakeholder engagement and strategic planning process. This definition is in alignment with other national organizations, including the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and American Association of Colleges and Universities.
The Alliance and its members believe that the development of the field of higher education in prison must be guided by an unwavering commitment to quality. Higher education in prison programs should adhere to the same high standards and opportunities that exist in other quality higher education contexts, in spite of students’ incarceration status.
The Alliance is an inclusive network supporting all those working to expand quality higher education for currently and formerly incarcerated people.
Our community includes practitioners, currently and formerly incarcerated students, teachers and many other stakeholders from across the United States.
The overall purpose of the NCHEP is to provide an annual opportunity for the higher education in prison community to gather and mobilize the talent, resources, and energy needed to expand access to quality higher education and academic reentry support services to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. The Education Justice Project at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, hosted the first NCHEP, in 2010. About 75 people attended the 2.5-day conference.
The cost of the NCHEP fluctuates from year to year, depending on the number of attendees and the city where it is hosted. On average the cost of the conference is between $175,000.00 and $250,000.00. Some of the conference costs are covered by registration fees (50-75%) and the remaining costs are off-set by the Alliance’s fundraising efforts. The cost of the NCHEP, outlined here, does not include the cost of the Financial Aid programs, which is supported by grant funding raised by the Alliance and is not funded by registration fees paid by attendees.
The Alliance for Higher Education in Prison first hosted the NCHEP in 2017, which was the 7th annual conference. The Alliance Advisory Board and staff collaborate with community members to form the planning committee. The Planning Committee is comprised of 12-15 community members who plan the major components of the conference (keynote and plenary session speakers, presentation submission reviews and acceptance/rejection, special events and other activities). The Planning Committee is chosen by the Alliance Advisory Board and staff from a pool of self-nominations. The Committee represents the diversity of the higher education in prison stakeholder community, including people formerly incarcerated. The Alliance staff works to support the planning committee and engages in fundraising and provides financial oversight. The Alliance Advisory Board and staff are responsible for the Financial Aid Program.
Anyone without institutional/program travel support is eligible to apply for a financial aid package, but formerly incarcerated students are prioritized. Financial Aid is funded by private foundation support that is raised by the Alliance. Financial Aid is not funded by registration fees paid by participants.
The Alliance for Higher Education in Prison is invested in ensuring that higher education in prison programs across the country have opportunities to engage in peer-to-peer learning. We encourage programs to share information and resources and to learn from each other, in an effort to improve the quality of all higher education in prison programs. Please refer to the following citation guidelines when utilizing or adapting program materials.
The Alliance for Higher Education subscribes to the Creative Commons Attribution: NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA). All materials shared on the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison’s website follow this license. This copyright licensing allows others to remix, adapt and build upon work for non-commercial purposes, as long as they credit and license their new creations under the identical terms.
While material provided may often fall within 'fair use' or 'fair dealing' provisions, we recommend adding a preferred citation to each document you share, in order to ensure that others will engage in appropriate attribution of materials. The Alliance offers two sample citation format options below, but programs are welcome to choose another preferred citation format or a format in accordance with your discipline’s recognized citation requirements.
Author Last Name, Author First Initial or Organization Name (if not authored by an individual author(s). (year). Title of document. Location (City, State): Organization. Retrieved from: website (without www. and/or http://).
Johnson, E., & Wright, P. (2014). College in Prison Project Student Handbook. Topeka, Kansas: Kansas College in Prison Project. Retrieved from: kansascipp.org
Author Last Name, Author First Initial or Organization Name (if not authored by an individual author(s). (year). Title of document. Location (City, State): Organization.
Kansas College in Prison Project. (2014). College in Prison Project Student Handbook. Topeka, Kansas: Kansas College in Prison Project.
The Alliance believes that language is a powerful tool in shaping the culture and narrative in the field of higher education in prison, and in society as a whole. With this in mind, and drawing upon the rich history of work that has previously been engaged on this topic, we want to express our opposition to the usage of terms that are rooted in a history of violent and oppressive systems. Along with a vast majority of our community members, we share the view that terms such as “prisoner”, “inmate”, “offender”, “convict”and “felon” are stigmatizing, dehumanizing, discriminatory and continue to enact violence and do not acknowledge an individual’s full identity. We consider it standard practice to abstain from such language, unless you have experienced incarceration and choose to self-identify as such.
Our efforts are guided by a practice of conscious communication and the use of person-centered language (e.g., person who is currently incarcerated, person with justice involvement, to name only a few). This statement is meant to express the Alliance’s stance and preference on the usage of language and we commit to sharing this statement with participants in all public events, meetings and sessions hosted by the Alliance.
For anyone wishing to learn more about the various works that have been generated by colleagues across the country, many of whom are directly impacted by the prison system and have been leading voices in these efforts, please refer to these resources:
Indirect costs are general overhead and administration expenses that support the entire operations of a grantee and that may be shared across projects. Examples of indirect costs include the salary and related expenses of individuals working in rent, utilities, equipment and services such as accounting, IT and legal. Indirect costs are not normally charged directly to a Federal award, but are allocated equitably to all of the organization’s activities. Expenses that would be incurred regardless of whether the grant is funded are often indicative of indirect costs. While these costs may not be directly attributable to a project, they are real and necessary to operate as an organization.
Indirect cost rates for grants are subject to the following limitations:
0% rate: government agencies or colleges/university
Up to 10% rate: independent non-profit organizations (501c3) or non-profit organizations with fiscal sponsor status
A grantee or contractor with an actual indirect cost rate lower than the maximum rate provided above should not increase the funding request to the maximum allowed.
The potential grantee should communication with the Alliance in advance of submission if there are questions or concerns about the indirect cost rate.