Education for prisoners is at their own expense through distance education courses or studies completed through U.S. mail.
While the case for prison education is clear, with many proven benefits for prisoners, their family, the community and the overall economy, over the past 20 years the U.S. has cut funding for prison education, beginning with Congress passing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994 (Read More about the controversial history of prison education).
In the summer of 2015, the Obama administration temporarily re-instated the Pell Grants, a financial entitlement for students with financial needs. These grants may be available for U.S. prisoners if legislation permits. Read more about the Pell Grants.
Aside from this recent funding addition, the only education for prisoners beyond the high school equivalency level (GED) is at their own expense through distance education courses or studies completed through the U.S. Mail.
While program offerings aren’t ideal, correspondence education programs do have benefits. All levels of study and courses are available, from high school to business administration, ministerial, and even law.
While we can’t help with funding, we can point American prisoners and their families to accessible inmate education programs. Below are links to information and recommended programs for prisoners at different levels.
Education for Prisoners
- Graduate degree programs
- Undergraduate degree programs
- Religious-oriented college programs
- Career and vocational courses
- GED and high school diploma programs
- Adult Continuing Education (ACE) programs
- Fee-based Bible study programs
- Free Bible studies
- In-prison educational programs
Our Favorite Correspondence Programs
Distance learning can be difficult for prisoners to obtain. This page includes a list of our favorite correspondence schools that offer paper-based programs.
With no access to the internet, distance learning can be difficult for prisoners to obtain. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite correspondence schools that offer paper-based formats that are accessible to prisoners.
High School Diploma
The following schools offer High School Diploma and/or GED programs for prisoners:
The following schools offer undergraduate programs with a wide variety of courses available:
Graduate Correspondence Programs for Prisoners
- Adams State University
- American Graduate University
- California Coast University
- California Miramar University
- Colorado State University-Pueblo
- Huntington College of Health Sciences
- Louisiana State University
- Ohio University
- Southwest University Graduate Studies
- University of Idaho Graduate Studies
- University of Northern Iowa Graduate Studies
Correspondence Profile Explanatory Notes
The following pages are designed to help you determine which school(s) might be best for you to investigate further. To simplify your search, the schools are grouped according to the level of study or degrees they offer. The study level is noted on the top right portion of each listed starting with the most advanced degrees and working down to the more basic levels.
Under the study level are letters that indicate the kind of degrees or certificates offered.
C: a certificate program,
Dip: a diploma program,
A: a two-year associate degree,
B: a four-year bachelor’s degree,
M: a graduate master’s degree, and
D: a graduate doctorate (Ph.D.) degree.
You will find the following information to the extent it is available:
Accreditation: This is your guarantee that the school or educational institution meets high standards of quality and that courses you take there will be recognized and accepted by other schools. For your protection, we do not mark a school as accredited unless their accreditation comes from an authentic accrediting agency.
Tuition: This is the fee charged for your course credits. If a course you are taking earns 3 credits toward your graduation, you multiply that fee by 3. Tuition fees are how an institution pays its faculty and staff, how it equips its labs and computer systems, libraries, and facilities. Tuition fees do not include application fees, the cost of books, or other educational fees.
Payment Plan: Some schools will work with you to set up a payment plan so you can pay what you owe in installments; others do not. The school’s catalog might provide financial information and available options if there are any. You can also call the school’s financial office to discuss your situation and how you propose to pay.
Transfer: If you wish to change schools (to transfer from one institution of higher education to another), be sure the credits you earned on courses completed at the first school will transfer to the second school. The second school has to recognize and accept the course standards at the first school. This is not normally a problem if both schools are authentically accredited.
Time Limit: This will tell you how much time you have to complete a course or program. If for any reason you cannot complete within the time limit, you might be able to request an extension. In some cases, you might be charged an extension fee. If an extension or grace period is not granted, you will have to repeat the course or program.
Degrees: Here we list all the certificates, diplomas, or degrees offered by the school through correspondence courses.
Course Categories: These are the areas of study, or subjects, in which courses are offered.
Course Delivery: Unless incarcerated in New Mexico, prisoners cannot enroll in Internet courses and are restricted to paper-based courses. Our lists do not include schools that provide only web-based distance learning.
Media Component: If the course incorporates video, photographic, or audio elements in its instructional format, it usually requires computer-based media players that are unavailable to you. Therefore, the courses should say “none” or “N/A” (not applicable) unless your prison’s education department allows access to select media players.
Catalog: Write to any and all schools that interest you and ask them to send a current catalog. All schools offer a catalog free of charge, although a few might ask for a nominal fee to cover mailing and packaging costs. The catalog will tell all you need to know about the school’s programs, courses, events, application procedures, academic requirements, and policies. Read it carefully. It will help you decide intelligently which school is best for you.
Application Fee: Once you have decided to enroll, you will fill out an application for acceptance as a student. Most schools require a fee ranging from $25 to $100. Some schools waive the application fee for prisoners. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask. If they are willing, you fill out a form to request the waiver. If they will not waive the application fee, it must be paid.
Founded: The year in which the school began isn’t critical but ones that have been around for a long time provide reassuring stability.
Comments: If we know something personally about the school, we try to give an honest evaluation so you can pursue it further or avoid wasting time and money.
School’s Comments: Where available, this section might give you insight into the institution’s goals and priorities. Also where available, we include the most current comments by school officials.