North Carolina's Innovative Program for Prisoners

North Carolina's Innovative Program for Prisoners

The North Carolina Department of Correction works with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Friday Center for Continuing Education to provide a variety of tuition-free university courses and educational services to inmates. Only those incarcerated in the North Carolina prison system qualify for the Correctional Education Program.

Since 1974, 167 participants in Correctional Education’s on-campus study-release program have earned college degrees, including three doctorates and eighteen masters 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.

Who is Eligible?

Incarcerated individuals must meet academic and sentence criteria for eligibility. The academic criteria are a GED score of at least 250, a WRAT 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, as well as other adult offenders whose parole eligibility and discharge dates are more than 10 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.

The Procedure

Qualified inmates should contact a Programs or Education staff member, preferably their caseworker, at their correctional facility

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

Self-paced Correspondence Courses

Inmates can take correspondence courses in the Friday Center’s Self-paced Courses program. These courses have a nine-month enrollment period. A renewal of four months is available for a $30 fee (paid by the Correctional Education Program). A second four-month renewal is available in some circumstances, but the $75 second-renewal fee is not covered by the Correctional Education Program.

On-site Classroom Courses

On-site classroom courses for college credit are currently offered at approximately twenty-five participating North Carolina correctional facilities during the fall, spring, and summer terms. As with campus courses, each course consists of forty-five total classroom hours. Class sessions consist of fifteen three-hour classes, either one evening a week (for fifteen weeks) or two evenings a week (for seven and a half weeks). The final examination in on-site courses is given by the instructor during the last class of the term.

Transferring Credits

Credits for self-paced and on-site classroom courses taken through the Correctional Education Program are transferable to other colleges, universities, and community colleges that offer an equivalent course, as long as the student has a final course grade of C or better.

For More Information

Brick Oettinger
Associate Director for Correctional Education
[email protected]
Source:  Friday Center Credit Programs