What is the National Directory?

General information about the National Directory and higher education in prison:

What is a higher education in prison program?

Every in-prison higher education program constitutes a unique partnership among some combination of one or more academic institutions, non-profit organizations, corrections departments, and/or other government or community-based organizations. For our purposes, a higher education in prison program is defined as an organization that meets the following criteria:

  1. provides postsecondary education;
  2. is formally affiliated with a college and/or university; and
  3. uses a secondary credential (e.g., a High School degree or GED) as a
    requirement for admission.

Who maintains and manages the National Directory?

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.

How is the data collected?

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.


How to Use the National Directory

Common questions and answers about how to use the National Directory:

Can I view data from a prior year?

The National Directory is currently in its second year, with data from the 2021 Annual Survey reflecting the Academic Year 2019-2020.

An archive of prior year(s) is available here.

My program is not listed or the listing is incorrect/incomplete. How do I correct this?

Please fill out this form so that we can contact you to gather information. We value your participation and actively want to make the Directory as accurate and complete as possible.

Can I view a list of all academic institutions in the directory?

Yes! The Directory is primarily organized by program, however you can see the list of academic institution names here. For more details about each institution's involvement in higher education in prison, click on the linked program name(s) below each institution.

A facility has its enrollment model listed as "other." What does that mean?

This means that enrollment at the facility is something other than strictly open enrollment or strictly competitive or merit-based enrollment. Some facilities with this designation may offer a combination of open and competitive or merit-based enrollment models.

A facility has its admission cycle listed as "other." What does that mean?

This means that the admission cycle at the facility is something other than annually, twice per year, quarterly, or rolling. Some facilities with this designation may offer a combination of admission cycles.

What documents does the National Directory collect?

Respondents to the 2021 Annual Survey of Higher Education in Prison Programs were invited to share program documents in order to make them publicly available. A series of common documents were identified and all documents shared under the Creative Commons Attribution: NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA). The documents currently available are: Admissions Application, Annual Reports, Bylaws, Curriculum, Faculty Handbook, FAFSA, MOU, Org Chart, Program Evaluations, Re-entry Guide, Staff Handbook, Strategic Plan, Student Handbook, Volunteer Handbook.