Education for Inmates in North Carolina

Education for Inmates in North Carolina

The North Carolina Department of Corrections has teamed up with the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill’s Friday Center for Continuing Education to provide tuition-free university courses and education services for incarcerated men and women throughout North Carolina. What an excellent opportunity for inmates in North Carolina to receive college degrees!

The Correctional Education Program in North Carolina began in 1974, and since that time, hundreds of inmates have earned college degrees, including doctorates, Master of Arts, and Master of Sciences. Many of these graduates, when released from prison, have gone on to land and keep professional jobs–helping to keep the recidivism rate very low.

How does an inmate in North Carolina become involved in this program? Prisoners must go through a strict eligibility process first. The academic criteria are a GED score of at least 250, A WRAT (Wide Range Achievement Test) reading grade level of at least 10.0, or prior college (or community college) academic credits. The sentence criteria exclude all Class A and Class B felons and other adult offenders whose parole eligibility and discharge dates are more than ten years in the future. The 18- to 25-year-old individuals funded by Federal Youth Offender Act grants must be within five years of parole eligibility or discharge date.

Since 1974,  participants in Correctional Education’s on-campus study-release program have earned college degrees, including doctorates and master of arts or master of science degrees. Many have gone on to thrive in professional jobs. The recidivism rate of study-release participants is only 7 percent.

If an inmate has these qualifications, the next step is to contact their caseworker at the correctional facility where they are housed. The caseworker will help the inmate with the following requirements: 

  1. To confirm that they qualify to take low-cost (postage only) Self-paced Courses and no-cost on-site classroom courses.
  2. To obtain the registration form for Self-paced Courses.
  3. For instructions on how to apply for and schedule a Self-paced Course final examination to be administered at the prison.
  4. In minimum custody facilities, for information about on-campus study release opportunities and requirements.

Once these qualifications are determined, the prisoner can take the Correspondence Courses that are part of the Friday Center for Continuing Education self-paced courses.

Twenty-five participating North Carolina correctional facilities offer on-site classroom courses similar to the University of North Carolina campus courses. Each on-site course consists of a total of forty-five classroom hours. At the end of the course, an instructor gives an on-site final examination.

If the student/prisoner achieves a final course grade of C or better, then the credits taken from either the on-site or self-paced become transferrable to other colleges, universities, and community colleges that offer an equivalent course.

Course offerings include:

  • Foreign Languages
  • Humanities (English, music, philosophy)
  • Social Sciences (economics, history, political science, psychology, social work, sociology)
  • Mathematics
  • Natural Sciences (astronomy, geology, biology, chemistry)
  • Business
  • Accounting
  • Health Education
  • Hospitality Management

Please read here for further information on the University of North Carolina’s Friday Center for Continuing Education.