Apply for Universal Preschool

*** Free Universal Preschool for Fall 2023 — Apply Now! ***

Colorado’s new Universal Preschool (UPK) program will pay for every 4-year-old child in the year before they are eligible for Kindergarten to attend a minimum of a half-day of preschool for the 2023 – 2024 school year. Some 3-year-olds will also qualify for free part-time preschool.

DOWNLOAD THE INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE AS A PRINTABLE PDF DOCUMENT.

Who is eligible?

If your child is in the year before they are eligible for Kindergarten (will be at least 4 years old by 10/1/2023), they will qualify for up to a half-day (15 hours per week) of preschool. If your child also has at least one qualifying factor (see below), you may be eligible for additional hours. If your child is 3 years old (will be at least three years old by 10/1/2023) and meets at least one of the qualifying factors, they may also be eligible for part-time (10 hours per week) preschool funding.

How do I find a preschool provider?

Go to upk.colorado.gov and you can search for available providers based on where you live or where you work. You will be able to select your top five providers and rank them in order of your preference. All types of providers are in the UPK system including school districts, child care centers, and licensed home facilities. You will be asked if your child is already enrolled at a provider, has a sibling in a provider’s care, or if a parent is employed by the provider. If any of these are true, you will receive priority to match with that provider.

When do I need to apply?

The application opened on January 17 and will be open throughout the year. All of the families that apply before February 14 will be a part of the first batch of applications to be matched with their chosen providers. To have the best chance of being matched with your preferred provider families should apply before February 14. Applications will continue to be accepted after February 14 and matched with providers on a rolling basis throughout the year.

What are the qualifying factors?

Four-year-olds with at least one of the qualifying factors listed below will be eligible for 15 additional hours of preschool per week (minimum 30 hours). Children who turn 3 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023, will be eligible for UPK if they meet at least one qualifying factor:

  • A household income of less than 270% of the 2023 Federal Poverty Guidelines, when you go to apply, the application will walk you through your household size and tell you what 270% means for your family in terms of dollars. As an example, for a family of four it will be $74,925.
  • Your child has an Individualized Education Plan also known as an IEP
  • Your child is a dual language learner and the primary language spoken in the home is not English
  • Your child is currently in the custody of a state supervised and county administered foster care home or in non-certified kinship care
  • Your child identifies as homeless or lacking an adequate nighttime residence

If your income is lower than 270% you will need to provide proof of your family’s income, there are many ways you will be able to do this and a list is provided below.

Answers to Common Questions

Starting on February 15th the system will work to match families with their preferred providers and shortly thereafter you will receive an offer from the provider you matched with which will guarantee your child a spot.

There is limited funding for additional hours for four-year-olds with qualifying factors and three-year-old spots so apply before February 14th for the best chance of securing these dollars.

You will still be able to enroll in a program of your choosing and the first 15 hours per week will be free and then you can pay for the additional hours or often the program can work with you to see if you might qualify for other programs to help subsidize the cost. You will be able to review the costs of each program on their page in the application program and decide which program is best for your family.

You will only need to show proof if your family income is less than 270% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. At the end of the application you will need to upload proof of your income. If you don’t have it when you first apply you will be able to log back in and add it to your application.

  • If you have a job(s): Paycheck stub or pay envelope that shows the amount and how often pay is received; letter from employer stating gross wages and how often you are paid; or, if you work for yourself, business or farming papers, such as ledger or tax books.
  • If you receive Social Security, Pensions, or Retirement: Social Security retirement benefit letter, statement of benefits received, or pension award notice.
  • If you receive Unemployment, Disability, or Worker’s Compensation: Notice of eligibility from State employment security office, check stub, or letter from the Worker’s Compensation office.
  • If you receive TANF Payments: Benefit letter from Colorado Human Services office.
  • If you receive: Child Support or Alimony: Court decree, agreement, or copies of checks received.
  • Military Housing Privatization Initiative: Letter or rental contract showing that your housing is part of the Military Privatized Housing Initiative.
  • For All Other Income (Such as Rental Income): Information that shows the amount of the income, name of the person who received the income, the date it was received, and how often it was received.
  • If you do not have income, you can include a brief note explaining how you provide food, clothing, and housing for your household, and when you expect an income.

All children are eligible to receive universal preschool services. If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), partnering with your local school district is essential in ensuring aligned resources. School districts have responsibility for ensuring a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in accordance with IDEA and ECEA.
If your child does not have an IEP, and you have concern of a potential developmental delay, go to www.cde.state.co.us/cdesped/childfinddirectory for information on next steps.

If the provider of your choice is licensed and participating in UPK, it’s possible that your child will be matched with that program, but not guaranteed.

To participate in UPK, families will apply online and rank their preferences for participating preschool providers. The system then matches the child with an available UPK slot at a participating preschool program.

UPK funding is given directly to participating preschool providers. UPK providers must be licensed by the State of Colorado. Licensed preschool programs participating in UPK could include:

  • Licensed Family Child Care Homes
  • Licensed Community Based Centers
  • Licensed School District Based Programs
  • Licensed Charter School Programs
  • Licensed Head Start Programs

While many preschool programs will participate in UPK, the program is voluntary and not all programs will sign on to receive state UPK funding.

Families cannot use UPK funding to support the costs of an unlicensed provider, such as a family member, friend or neighbor.

If you need help, you can call (303) 866-5223 or send an email to CDEC_UPKColorado@state.co.us.

3-year-olds may also be eligible for free preschool hours

Children who turn 3 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023, are eligible for UPK if they meet at least one qualifying factor (see list above).

All eligible 3- year-olds must be served through school district preschool programs or with community preschool providers who contract with school districts.