Project History and Methodology

In 2008, the Prison Studies Project at Harvard University began compiling a list of higher education in prison programs throughout the United States. For the next 10 years, the National Directory of Higher Education Programs in Prison remained a central focus of the Prison Studies Project and an important resource for the higher education in prison community. Today, working with our partners at the Research Collaborative on Higher Education in Prison at the University of Utah, and the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, the Alliance for Higher Education distributes the Annual Survey of Higher Education in Prison Programs and hosts the National Directory of Higher Education in Prison Programs (2020), which serves as a comprehensive resource for people seeking information about college in prison programs in the United States.

Data for the National Directory  are drawn from responses to the 2021 Annual Survey of Higher Education in Prison Programs (n = 169), which were compiled with known program information from the National Directory of Higher Education in Prison Programs (n = 204). 

The 2021 Annual Survey of Higher Education in Prison was launched in April 2021. An invitation to take the survey was sent to the primary contact email address of all higher education in prison programs that participated in the 2020 Annual Survey and to all programs included in the National Directory. The survey was also distributed as a link through a mailing list maintained by the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison and through social media and other communication outlets. 

The 2021 Annual Survey consisted of 92 questions, gathering descriptive program information for the 2019-2020 academic year prior to the COVID-19 crisis (July 1, 2019 – March 1, 2020). Questions included where programming was offered and to whom, what certificate and degree pathways were offered, and what additional programming existed for incarcerated students. 

Some programs did not answer all survey questions, accounting for the varying range of sample sizes reported throughout this analysis. Some programs had multiple representatives who participated in the survey, and when that occurred, responses from different program affiliates were combined to create one entry for that program. Participants were entered into a drawing to receive one of five $1,000 incentives for participation.

Once the survey was completed, additional data were retrieved for programs included in the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison’s National Directory but that did not respond to the 2021 Annual Survey. These data were used to update the National Directory with the most recent known program information.