Universal Preschool

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Overview

Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, the Department of Early Childhood is slated to fund at least 10 hours of high-quality, voluntary preschool for every Colorado child in their year before entering kindergarten. This Universal Preschool Program (UPK) allows families to choose the right setting for their child, whether it is in a licensed community-based, school-based or home-based preschool setting.

We know that many families will require more than 10 hours of care, and there will be a number of ways to access additional hours. Some children will qualify for additional state-funded hours based on the risk factors to-be-developed by the Department of Early Childhood. Information on the risk factors and additional hours of care will be published as it becomes available. Many of these children will also qualify for Colorado’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), Head Start, and other funding sources that can be stacked on top of UPK hours to meet the needs of families. The Department will work towards creating a single, unified application for all of these services. In coordination with their preschool providers, families are also welcome to provide a co-pay for additional hours as needed. 

The Colorado Universal Preschool Program is expected to save families an average of $4,300 per year on child care. High quality preschool programs are known to aid in a child’s development and to have social, academic, and economic benefits that are carried with that child throughout their life. The launch of this program, as a result of the voter-approved Proposition EE,  builds on Colorado’s long-standing commitment to children and families and helps ensure that they are valued, healthy and thriving. 

Learn more about Colorado’s Universal Preschool program by reading the stakeholder-driven Universal Preschool Recommendations, which were approved unanimously by the Early Childhood Leadership Commission.

How to apply for UPK

The application for Universal Preschool will go live in January 2023. The Department of Early Childhood will work with a vendor to build a user-friendly application portal for families to determine their child’s eligibility for Universal Preschool and eligibility for additional hours. After the UPK application launches, the Department will be working to bring additional state-funded early childhood services to the same application portal, reducing the level of burden and bureaucracy placed on families. 

Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media to get notified when the application goes live.

How to get assistance

The Colorado Universal Preschool Program will be coordinated at the local level through what we call “Local Coordinating Organizations” (LCOs). LCOs are local government or non-profit entities that apply and are designated by CDEC to serve this role. With support from CDEC, LCOs are responsible for coordinating a mixed delivery system of Universal Preschool in their community, with the longer term expectation that they will coordinate all 0-5 related services within their community. Families looking for assistance navigating preschool services will be able to contact their LCOs for assistance.

LCOs have recently been designated, and will be trained and provided with resources over the coming weeks and months. Click here to find the LCO in your community.