UPK Family Information

Universal Preschool (UPK) Colorado ensures that every child in the year before they are eligible for kindergarten is eligible for up to half-day (15 hours) of state-funded, voluntary preschool beginning in the 2023-24 school year. Providers may choose to offer 10-hour programs. Three-year-olds with qualifying factors are eligible for part-time (10 hours) of preschool programming.

Apply for UPK Colorado

The family application process is open. It is not a first-come, first-served process.

Who is eligible for the 15 free, voluntary hours?

Every child in the year before they are eligible for kindergarten is eligible for up to half-day (15 hours) of state-funded, voluntary preschool to support their preschool enrollment for the 2023-24 school year. Providers may choose to offer 10-hour programs. Three-year-olds with qualifying factors are eligible for part-time (10 hours) of preschool programming.

What happens if I need more than 15 hours of free, voluntary preschool every week?

Families of children in the year before they are eligible for kindergarten and with certain qualifying factors, are eligible for an additional 15 hours stacked on top of the half-day programming, pending eligibility confirmation and available funding.

Does this mean I can only get 15 hours of preschool every week?

No, you can apply for many types of programs. Your options include part-time, half-day, and full-day. Half-day (15 hours) of that program will go toward your total cost of care.

For example, if you are eligible for half-day, but need full-day care, the half-day portion is covered by UPK Colorado and the additional hours could be paid through Head Start, local funding, CCCAP or parent pay. Check with your provider to determine that amount, or review their rates on their application page.

Can I apply for any program in any location?

If you are applying for a preschool program at a school, you may need to be a resident in that district.

For example, you may not be accepted into a school-based program near your place of work as the school may need you to be a resident in that location.

What documents will I need to apply?

Proof of date of birth and residency will be collected as part of the registration process with the provider with whom you are matched.

You will need to provide proof of income with your application if you are applying for additional hours.

Certain families may need to provide a waiver for specific school districts in Denver and Canyon City if enrolling a child under 3. The LCO of these districts can support these families.

What kind of documents can I upload for proof of income?

Documents that will be accepted to showing household income include:

  • Jobs: 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 (this statement of earnings form may be used); or, if you work for yourself, business or farming papers, such as ledger or tax books.
  • Social Security, Pensions, or Retirement: Social Security retirement benefit letter, statement of benefits received, or pension award notice.
  • Unemployment, Disability, or Worker’s Compensation: Notice of eligibility from State employment security office, check stub, or letter from the Worker’s Compensation office.
  • TANF Payments: Benefit letter from the State TANF office.
  • Child Support or Alimony: Court decree, agreement, or copies of checks received.
  • 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. 
  • Military Housing Privatization Initiative: Letter or rental contract showing that your housing is part of the Military Privatized Housing Initiative. 

If you do not have income, please send a brief note explaining how you provide food, clothing, and housing for your household, and when you expect an income.

What is the definition of homelessness as a qualifying factor for UPK Colorado?

For UPK Colorado, the definition of homelessness is having a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings; living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; or, is a child who is migratory who qualifies as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the child is living in circumstances described in this definition.

What if my child needs special accommodations or is enrolled in an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

While searching for providers, families can filter for special accommodations. Providers are required to list what they are able to support. This includes things such as dietary restrictions, routine medication, language and physical supports, and a variety of other needs.

Please contact your school district to ensure IEP resource alignment.

Are there any restrictions to providers I can apply for?

We want to offer families a wide range of options for their providers. However, we will still have certain limitations for school-based providers. Families applying for a school-based provider may need to be a resident of that district.

When can I submit an application and when they are processed?

You can submit an application anytime. Applications are processed in rounds. This allows us to provide an equal opportunity for applicants to access providers of their choice. Once the rounds are completed, applications will be processed as they arrive.

What happens after my application gets submitted?

The matching process for the first batch of applications began on February 27. By April 26, families who applied in the first round will receive an email letting them know which provider they matched with and the next steps for enrollment.

Click on the link below to view a video that explains the matching process.
English | En Español

I already submitted my child’s application. Can I un-submit it so that I can wait until different providers are available to choose from?

If you need to edit your application for any reason, please contact your local coordinating organization (LCO).

What specific ages are eligible for UPK Colorado?

If your child was born between October 2, 2018 and October 1, 2019, they are eligible for the up to 15 hours available to 4-year-olds. If your child was born between October 2, 2019 and October 1, 2020, and meets certain qualifying criteria, they are eligible for the 10 hours available to 3-year-olds.

My child will be five on October 1, 2023, but I am sending them to preschool in the 2023-2024 school year. They are showing up as ineligible for this program due to age. How do I proceed?

In the state of Colorado, preschool and kindergarten are voluntary and therefore families have the right to defer enrollment in both based on their child’s needs. The UPK Colorado program is funded through the legislature to cover services for four-year-old children in the year before they are eligible for kindergarten and qualifying three-year-olds only. If your child will be 5 on October 1, 2023, they are not eligible for free preschool through UPK.

While your child may still enroll in preschool, their attendance is not funded by UPK Colorado. Families with children that will be five on October 1, 2023 that wish to send their child to preschool in the 2023-2024 school year should contact their desired providers directly to inquire about enrollment outside of UPK Colorado.

My child is three but is not showing up as eligible for this program. How do I proceed?

Three-year-olds are eligible for UPK Colorado if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Their family income is below the federal poverty line
  • They have an active Individual Education Program (IEP)
  • They have limited English proficiency
  • They are in foster care or kinship care
  • They are experiencing homelessness

If you have indicated that your child meets one or more of these criteria in your application and are still receiving a status of ineligible, please contact your local coordinating organization (LCO). They can help you edit your application or explore qualifying criteria.

What is the family income threshold for 3-year-olds? I want to know before I decide to fill out an application or not.

You can always start a family application to see the questions and workflow before you submit it.

The family income threshold is below 270% the Federal Poverty level, based upon your household’s gross annual income. Currently, the income thresholds by household size are:

  • 1 - $36,693.00
  • 2 - $49,437.00
  • 3 - $62,181.00
  • 4 - $74,925.00
  • 5 - $87,669.00
  • 6 - $100,413.00
  • 7 - $113,157.00
  • 8 - $125,901.00
  • 9 - $130,620.96
  • 10 - $135,340.92
  • 11 - $140,060.88
  • 12 - $144,780.84
I don’t see the provider I’m looking for. What should I do?

If you do not see the provider you are looking for, please contact the provider directly. There are several reasons why the provider may not be visible yet. UPK Colorado is a voluntary program; if your preferred provider is not registered with UPK Colorado, we encourage you to ask them to join!

I want to make sure that my child continues to attend the school they already go to. How can I mention this on my application?

The last question on the application asks if your applicant child currently attends one of the providers that you chose and ranked. When you answer yes to this question, you will be prompted to select the provider where your child currently attends. This will be noted on your child's application and taken into consideration when matched to an open seat.

Can my child go to the same school as their sibling?

Yes, you can note that your child has a sibling with a provider that you have selected. We will take this into account to keep families and siblings together where possible.

What happens if I don’t like the provider I was matched with?

Our system will do its best to match you to your most preferred provider(s). If you are matched with a provider that no longer meets your needs, you will be able to reject that match. You may need to resubmit your application if you reject the match, depending on when the rejection is completed.

My 3-year-old does not have any qualifying factors for free preschool hours through UPK Colorado, but I still want to enroll my 3-year-old in preschool for the 2023-2024 school year. How do I proceed?

If you do not qualify for UPK Colorado, please contact your preferred provider directly for information on how to enroll in their preschool program. This application is only for students requesting free preschool through UPK Colorado.

Contact Us
Have more questions or need help? Contact us at cdec_upkcolorado@state.co.us
 or 303-866-5223.

Comprehensive UPK Colorado Frequently Asked Questions.

NOTE: The information provided generally relates to preschool general education. Preschool special education may involve additional or different standards and requirements. Click here for more information on UPK Colorado and special education.