Our Students

The students in the College Program bring with them a wide array of life experiences, and are eager to learn and enthusiastic about the opportunity to enroll in college. Most bring resilience, tenacity, and adaptability to the classroom, and are highly intellectually capable. Many students are the first in their family to earn a degree and, like most people in prison, come from some of California’s most vulnerable communities. The complex learning challenges that so many students face are often directly or indirectly related to earlier chronic experiences of trauma.

Follow the links below to learn more about our students and the various activities they are involved in through the Prison University Project’s College Program at San Quentin.

We are diverse. We come from every corner of the state, and indeed many parts of the world. We bring different faiths, races, orientations, genders, backgrounds, and other points of identity to have spirited discussions in class about everything from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to the latest Trump tweet. We range in age from 19 to our early 70s.

We are conservative, liberal, radical, and libertarian. We are devout, agnostic, and atheist, yet we have thoughtful discussions and learn not just to cultivate our own intellects, but also to respect the thoughts and beliefs of others.

We serve as peer educators for fellow incarcerated people at San Quentin seeking their GEDs or learning English as a second language. We are instrumental parts of each rehabilitative or educational program that operates within these walls. We are also leaders in sports, artistic programs, and the media center.

Through our classes we are challenged. Working to meet the challenge teaches us not just the material at hand, but how to be patient with ourselves, how to advocate for our needs in healthy ways, how to collaborate, and how to succeed or fail with positivity and humility.

—James King, Prison University Project student and Program Clerk

The average grade point average of students in our 2018 graduating class.
The average number of students enrolled in our College Program at San Quentin each semester.
The number of students who have taken at least one course at San Quentin State Prison since 1996.


With friends, family, board members, volunteers, supporters, and staff in attendance, students celebrated completion of their A.A. degrees on June 7.



This blog documents our students' intellectual and creative work inside San Quentin State Prison, including academic writing and published works.



Our students are enrolled in over 20 rigorous courses each semester in the humanities, social sciences, math, and science, as well as college preparatory courses.