Readers of The Washington Post can earn college credits through the 15-part "Courses By Newspaper" series on "Crime and Justice in America" to be published in The Weekly beginning Sept. 15.

The series is being offered by The U.S. Department of Agriculture Graduate School, The American University, Bowie State College, Prince George's Community College and the University of Virginia School of Continuing Education Falls Church Regional Center.

The series of 15 articles makes up the "lectures" in the course, which look behind statistics to explore and causes and possible solutions to the pervasive crime and imperfect justice of modern times. Topics to be covered by authorities, including a federal judge and ex-felon, are the nature of crime; white collar, organized and street crime; criminal law; the administration of criminal justice, and punishment.

Each participating school will offer college level credits to students who successfully complete the course, and each school offers classes in conjunction with the articles. Information on participating schools appears at the end of this article.

Anyone may apply to take the course, regardless of past education or current enrollment. Two books, "Crime and Justice in America," ($6.25) and a study guide ($2.95) are available to students who are taking the course through participating schools. Casual readers or study groups can also obtain copies from participating school bookstores, except the University of Virginia. Books can also be ordered directly from the publisher: Publisher's Inc., 243 12th Street, Drawer P. De1 Mar, California 92014.

People who are unable to attend college because of illness or other reasons can earn credit from the Division of Independent Study at the University of California. For information, write to Independent Study, University of California Extension, (Dept. JUSTICE), 2223 Fulton St., Berkeley, Ca. 94720.

Here is the scheduled course outline:

One - Crime: No Simple Solutions, by Jerome H. Skolnick, course coordinator and director of the Center for the Study of Law and Society, University of California, Berkeley; author of "Justice Without Trial: Law Enforcement in a Democratic Society."

Two - White Collar Crime: The Genteel Crooks, by Gilbert Geis, professor of social ecology, University of California, Irvine; author of "White Collar Criminal."

Three - Organized Crime: Running the Rackets, by Francis Ianni, professor and director of Horace Mann-Lincoln Institute, Teachers College Columbia University; author of "A Family Business" and "Black Mafia."

Four - Urban Crime: The Dark Side of City Life, by James F. Short Jr., professor of sociology, Washington State University, and author of "Suicide and Homicide and Group Process and Gang Delinquency."

Five - Sex and Crime: Female Victims - and Offenders, by Lois DeFleur Nelson, professor of sociology, Washington State University; author of Policing the Drug Scene."

Six - Race and Crime, by Alphonso Pinkney, professor of sociology, Hunter College, City University of New York; author of "The American Tradition of Violence."

Seven - The Philosophy of Criminal Law, by Gertrude Ezorsky, professor of philosophy, Brooklyn College, City University of New York; editor of "Philosophical Perspectives on Punishment."

Eight - Limits of Criminal Law: Criminal Sanctions and Social Ills, by John Kaplan, Jackson Eli Reynonds Professor of Law, Stanford University; author of "Marijuana: The New Prohibition."

Nine - Civil Liberties and Criminal Law, by Damon J. Keith, Federal District Court Judge, Eastern District of Michigan.

Tea - Police: Law Enforcement in a Free Society, by Jerome H. Skolnick.

Eleven - Pre-Trial Detention: Bail or Jail?, by Caleb Foote, professor of law, University of California, Berkeley; author of "Studies of Bail" and "Struggle for Justice: A Report on Crime and Punishment in America."

Twelve - Plea Bargaining and Discretionary Sentencing: An Affront to Justice?, by Allen Dershowitz, professor of law, Harvard University; author of "Criminal Law: Theory and Process."

Thirteen - Punishment: A Historical Perspective, by David Rothman, professor of history, Columbia University; author of "The Discovery of the Asylum."

Fourteen - Life Behind Bars, by John Irwin, associate professor of sociology, San Francisco State University, an ex-inmate; author of "The Felon."

Fifteen - The Future of American Punishment, by Sheldon Messinger, professor and former dean, School of Criminology, University of California, Berkeley; co-author of"C-Unit: Search for Community in Prison."