A new online general education certificate created for service members and veterans is intended to help troops become eligible to apply to degree-completion programs within a major area of study at North Carolina's public community colleges and universities.

Administered by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Friday Center for Continuing Education, the UNC Core Certificate will give active-duty service members, reservists and veterans the chance to knock out those gen-ed courses in one of two flexible formats — self-paced or semester-based.

Self-paced classes aren't connected to a semester schedule and must be completed nine months from the date the student completes the first assignment.

Semester-based classes follow the academic calendar but are still online. Communication with instructors and classmates is via email or discussion boards.

"UNC Core will offer active-duty service members the opportunity to earn not just college credits, but a credential — a certificate — from an institution known for quality and value," said Steven Long, chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Special Committee on Military Affairs, in a statement. "This is an attractive educational entry point that can lead to a degree at a North Carolina community college or UNC institution."

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill claims the distinction of being America's first public university and is home to the Tar Heel Battalion of the Army's Reserve Officer Training Corps (the battalion patch is pictured above).

The UNC Core program doesn’t require an application for admission. Seven institutions provide the courses for the program, and each school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools:

  • East Carolina University
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • North Carolina Central University
  • North Carolina State University
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Western Carolina University

Students will have earned 27 or 28 credit hours upon completing the certificate. Initial launch was planned for the fall of 2016.

UNC Core credits are transferable to other schools within the University of North Carolina system.

Find out more at unccore.org.