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What you need to know about the Universal Preschool Colorado program
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The application link for the Universal Preschool Colorado program is open. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions for families.

Enrollment for the Universal Preschool (UPK) Colorado program opened Jan. 17 for families to register their kids for preschool this fall. As of Feb. 9, the UPK Colorado program has received 25,413 submitted applications and another 3,375 applications are in progress. 1,649 providers have signed up to participate in the program.

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 will be done on a rolling basis, meaning that you can still apply after Jan. 17. All applications submitted by February 24 will be matched together, with additional matching rounds to follow. All families who have already submitted applications will be able to make changes from February 17-24. You can begin your application at any time and return to it as many times as you like before submitting.

Families are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. 

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

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