North Carolina Community Colleges PEP

North Carolina Community Colleges PEP

Prison Education Program of the North Carolina Community Colleges

Associated Educational Institution: 49 of 58 North Carolina Community Colleges

Associated Prison: 80 Different Educational Facilities


Mailing Address:
North Carolina Department of Correction
Division of Prisons
831 West Morgan Street 4260 MSC
Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-4260

Phone Number: (919) 838-4010

Fax Number: (919) 733-8272

Email Address: [email protected]

Point of Contact: Tracy McPherson

Social Media:

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North Carolina Prison Education Program and NC State Prisons

Prison education is one of the most effective ways to reduce prisoner reentry. In North Carolina, where state prisons house over 40,000 convicted inmates, the consequences of creating an environment that isn’t conducive to rehabilitation are tremendous.

The North Carolina Department of Corrections created a partnership with North Carolina Community Colleges in an effort to address recidivism. Rather than partner a single prison with a single community college – as other prison education programs have done – North Carolina’s program involves almost every community college in the state (49 out of the 50 community colleges the state offers) and over 80 different prisons.

The program uses a combination of state funding, tuition and fee waivers, and partnerships with local, state, and federal prisons to offer discounted/free admissions to North Carolina Community College programs.

Why the NCCC Prison Education Program

According to a joint report between the Department of Corrections and the community college system, it costs $4,750 to educate a prisoner, compared to $26,542 to house a prisoner for one year (a number that excludes building new prisons). At that rate, NCCC only needs to prevent 1 in every 5.5 released inmates from returning to prison to make the cost worth it – a number that assumes that a prisoner would only return to prison for a single year. Since the average prison time is well over 3 years, realistically, only 1 inmate in every 16.5 inmates educated would need to avoid reentry for the cost to be worthwhile – a number that, thus far, the North Carolina Community College prison education program has well exceeded.

Data on the Prison Entrepreneurship Program

  • 17,500 inmates enrolled in the college education program in 2009.
  • $11,000,000 is spent specifically on college-level courses (others go to GED and Basic Ed)
  • Students receive 1,245,000 hours of instruction per year.
  • 2,788 certificates were awarded in 2008 alone.
  • 1,032 diplomas were awarded in 2008 alone.
  • 864 degrees were awarded in 2008 alone.
  • 30% fewer inmates returned to prison after completing a college course.

Notable Classes and Professors

The North Carolina Prison Education Program (PEP) offers several opportunities for students, and they may vary by institution. For example, Western Piedmont Community College, Vance Granville Community College, and Lenoir Community College all over Associate of Arts degrees, while Mayland Community College offers skills training college programs, such as HVAC (heating and air conditioning) courses.

Many of the inmates in North Carolina are undereducated and not equipped to succeed right away in college courses, so most community colleges offer developmental courses rather than college degrees. These are college-level courses that may not be high enough to provide college-level credit. The idea is that these courses will prepare students for college-level credit eventually.

Also, several of the colleges offer college-level courses in vocations. Several colleges offer horticulture programs, and 11 different community colleges offer a Food Service Technology degree, to provide a combination of college certification and skills training rather than a traditional degree.

Notable Information on the North Carolina PEP

Inmates must have a “minimum length of stay” to participate in some programs, with 4 months or longer minimum to participate in any college-level (curriculum) courses. North Carolina Community Colleges do not offer bachelor’s degrees, so higher education is not largely made available to the inmate population, but the skills training programs that have been provided through the program appear to be successful and reducing recidivism and improving marketability.

The North Carolina Community College prisoner education program has received high praise for its success rates and its ability to span the entire state. But because it depends largely on public funding, it has gone through shortages that have made it more difficult to provide services.

An article in the Star News Online underscored the difficulties that the NC PEP has faced over the last several years. It states that because of the abolishment of Pell Grants for prisoners in 1994, North Carolina will need to provide funding or face a reduction in this successful education program. Jennifer Haygood, the VP of Business and Finance within the North Carolina Community College System, writes, “Unless DOC or the inmates themselves can supplement that pot of money, there will likely be a reduction in programming.”

But those working within the system have underscored the importance of continuing this type of program. “Just warehousing an inmate is the worst thing we can do,” said Enoch Hasberry III, the prison’s assistant superintendent for programs. “Do you think they’re going to hire a felon with no skills?”

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