Free Early Childhood Education 1011 and 1031 Courses

The Need 

Demand for early childhood educators and directors is expected to increase by nearly 25% percent over the next ten years, especially in rural communities. Making higher education pathways more affordable and accessible is a proven way to recruit new educators and help the existing workforce advance in the field. 

The Strategy

Each year, this partnership with the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) is providing 1,000 to 1,500 individuals with the minimum coursework required to become an early childhood educator. These courses, Early Childhood Education (ECE) 1011 and 1031, are available for free for a period of three years, from fall of 2021 through spring of 2024. 

Professionals who are interested in starting a career in early childhood education can enroll in ECE 1011 and 1031 and have their tuition and fees paid at the in-state or online rates. Related course registration fees will also be covered. To access these funds, students need to be registered in at least one of these courses or their equivalents at a public community college or four-year institution (approximately 22 participating institutes of higher education). 

Key Outcomes and Learnings 


This project has supported 6,614 students between fall of 2021 and summer of 2023. CDHE and CDEC are working collaboratively on securing the data agreements necessary to conduct analysis on how many of the people who took these courses entered and remained in the early childhood field upon completion. 


Navigating financial aid and billing processes across 22 institutes of higher education has been a large undertaking. CDEC is working with CDHE to create uniform policies and guidance to access the funds where possible. CDEC has worked to update funding streams to meet this project’s overwhelming demand. CDEC is also developing processes to understand student enrollment in alignment with program goals moving forward.

blue gear labeled workforce


Amount: $1,497,158.78 


  • American Rescue Plan Discretionary 
  • Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA)
  • Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) 
  • State and Local Federal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) 

Expiration: June 30, 2024

Next Steps

CDEC is working with CDHE to understand how this project will complement funding from HB23-1246: Support In-Demand Workforce.


Evidence Brief

"Recruitment and Retention Scholarship Program and Free 1011 and 1031 Coursework" 

Butler Institute for Families, University of Denver 

(September 2023)


report cover image for recruitment and retention scholarships and free early childhood education coursework

bar chart showing course enrollments by term
This graph shows enrollments per semester; however it does not show unique individuals, as students may take ECE 1011 and 1031 in different semesters.