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What you need to know about the Universal Preschool Colorado program

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Enrollment for the Universal Preschool (UPK) Colorado program opened Jan. 17 for families to register their kids for preschool this fall. More than 32,000 families have signed up to participate in the state-funded voluntary program available to every child in the year before they are eligible to enter kindergarten. 

As of April 26, 24,743 families who applied in the first application were matched with one of the five providers they selected in their application. 22,087 families of 4-year-olds were matched with their top choice. The second batch of applications will be matched in May.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the UPK Colorado program?

Families can choose part-time (up to 10 hours/week) or half-day (up to 15 hours/week) of state-funded preschool in the year before the child is eligible for kindergarten through this free, voluntary program.

Some families may be eligible for additional hours of free preschool based on various factors, including income. Families seeking additional hours based on income are required to submit proof of income documentation.

Slots depend on availability and funding. 

Who can be in the universal preschool program?

Every Colorado child in the year before they are eligible to enter kindergarten can receive universal preschool. The cutoff birthdate is Oct. 1, meaning that any Colorado child who turns 4 before Oct. 1 in the year they are enrolling will be eligible.

What is the deadline to apply?

The enrollment process is done on a rolling basis, and there is no deadline to sign up. Families seeking to participate in Universal Preschool Colorado that have not yet applied can continue to sign up and make provider rankings for their child. You can begin your application at any time and return to it as many times as you like before submitting. 

What do I do now that my family has matched with a provider?

Families have until May 10 to log back into UPK.Colorado.Gov and accept or decline their match. Families that accept their match will need to complete the registration process with their Universal Preschool provider. Families are encouraged to connect with their matched provider to learn more about their program philosophy, daily schedule, registration procedures, policies, and parent tuition responsibility.

What if I want to decline the match?

Families that decline their match can submit new program choices and go through the next round of matching. If a family declines a match, the seat will be released and may not be available in the future. Seats for families that do not accept or decline their match by the May 10 deadline will also be released.

How do I apply for free preschool?

The link for the application has gone live. Through the link, you can browse participating UPK Colorado providers. You can filter results based on your location, your method of transportation, the number of eligible children that you are enrolling into the program and more to help you find the right provider for your family. 

Each provider also has a profile that you can review, which contains information about the provider, such as the provider type, program options available and location. All UPK Colorado providers must be licensed child care providers, so they are required to adhere to licensing requirements.

During the application process, you will rank a list of your preferred providers. If you are applying for a preschool program at a school, you may need to be a resident in that district.

What documents do I need to apply?

You will only need to provide proof of income to submit your application. Proof of age and proof of residency will be collected as part of the registration process with the provider you receive an offer from. 

What if I need more than 15 hours of care every week for my child?

Families with certain qualifying factors are eligible for more hours stacked on top of the half-day (15 hours) available to every child in the year before they are eligible for kindergarten. 

Qualifying factors include:

 

Families may also qualify for CCCAP (Colorado Child Care Assistance Program), Head Start, or other state, federal or locally funded child care programs. Families may also utilize a “private pay” option in coordination with their provider to supplement UPK Colorado and other funded programs they might be interested in utilizing.

For more information on qualifying factors, you can go here.

What happens after my application gets submitted?

Once your application is submitted and processed you will receive an offer from a provider from your list. This offer will guarantee your child or children a spot with that provider. 

If you do not like the provider you are matched with, 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. 

Where do I go if I need additional support in signing up?

Local Coordinating Organizations (LCOs) support communities as they participate in the Universal Preschool (UPK) Colorado Program. They help to create partnerships in their community and represent the voice and needs of the community. They also support families and providers in navigating resources and can help you in applying for UPK Colorado slots.

Find your local coordinating organization here

Who runs UPK Colorado, and how will it operate?

UPK Colorado is housed within the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC), along with other early childhood and family support programs. The CDEC has appointed local coordinating councils to support the program at the local level.

How was UPK Colorado created?

The program was created through HB 22-1295, a bill that was a result of Proposition EE, a voter-approved ballot initiative that sought to increase taxes on nicotine products and use the generated revenue towards various health and education programs, including preschool funding. in 2020. 

Where do I go for more information about this new program?

More information can be found on the CDEC’s FAQ page. For family-specific frequently asked questions, you can go here. For provider-specific frequently asked questions, you can go to this link here


Theresa Ho is the RMPBS Kids digital content producer. You can reach her at theresaho@rmpbs.org.

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