Free Universal Preschool for Fall 2023 — Apply Now!
Colorado’s new Universal Preschool (UPK) program will pay for every 4-year-old child in the year before they are eligible for Kindergarten to attend a minimum of a half-day of preschool for the 2023 – 2024 school year. Some 4-year-old children will be eligible for additional UPK hours bringing them to full day (30 hours) if they have at least one qualifying factor (see below). Some 3-year-olds will also qualify for free part-time preschool.
Who is eligible for UPK?
Your child is eligible for UPK if your child…
- is in the year before they are eligible for Kindergarten (will turn 4 between 10/2/2022 and 10/1/2023), they will qualify for up to a half-day (15 hours per week) of preschool.
- also has at least one qualifying factor (see below), you may be eligible for additional hours.
- is 3 years old (will turn 3 between 10/2/2022 and 10/1/2023) and meets at least one of the qualifying factors, they may also be eligible for part-time (10 hours per week) preschool.
How do I sign my child up for UPK?
Go to upk.colorado.gov and you can search for available providers based on where you live or where you work. You will be able to select your top five providers and rank them in order of your preference. All types of providers are in the UPK system including school districts, child care centers, and licensed home facilities. You will be asked if your child is already enrolled at a provider, has a sibling in a provider’s care, or if a parent is employed by the provider. If any of these are true, you will receive priority to match with that provider. Click here to view a demonstration video about signing up for UPK.
Is there a deadline to apply?
UPK applications are accepted and matched with providers on a rolling basis throughout the year.
Answers to Common Questions
You will still be able to enroll in a program of your choosing and the first 15 hours per week will be free and then you can pay for the additional hours or often the program can work with you to see if you might qualify for other programs to help subsidize the cost. You will be able to review the costs of each program on their page in the application program and decide which program is best for your family.
You will only need to show proof if your family income is less than 270% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. At the end of the application you will need to upload proof of your income. If you don’t have it when you first apply you will be able to log back in and add it to your application.
- If you have a job(s): 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; or, if you work for yourself, business or farming papers, such as ledger or tax books.
- If you receive Social Security, Pensions, or Retirement: Social Security retirement benefit letter, statement of benefits received, or pension award notice.
- If you receive Unemployment, Disability, or Worker’s Compensation: Notice of eligibility from State employment security office, check stub, or letter from the Worker’s Compensation office.
- If you receive TANF Payments: Benefit letter from Colorado Human Services office.
- If you receive: Child Support or Alimony: Court decree, agreement, or copies of checks received.
- Military Housing Privatization Initiative: Letter or rental contract showing that your housing is part of the Military Privatized Housing Initiative.
- For 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.
- If you do not have income, you can include a brief note explaining how you provide food, clothing, and housing for your household, and when you expect an income.
All children are eligible to receive universal preschool services. If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), partnering with your local school district is essential in ensuring aligned resources. School districts have responsibility for ensuring a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in accordance with IDEA and ECEA.
If your child does not have an IEP, and you have concern of a potential developmental delay, go to www.cde.state.co.us/cdesped/childfinddirectory for information on next steps.
If the provider of your choice is licensed and participating in UPK, it’s possible that your child will be matched with that program, but not guaranteed.
To participate in UPK, families will apply online and rank their preferences for participating preschool providers. The system then matches the child with an available UPK slot at a participating preschool program.
UPK funding is given directly to participating preschool providers. UPK providers must be licensed by the State of Colorado. Licensed preschool programs participating in UPK could include:
- Licensed Family Child Care Homes
- Licensed Community Based Centers
- Licensed School District Based Programs
- Licensed Charter School Programs
- Licensed Head Start Programs
While many preschool programs will participate in UPK, the program is voluntary and not all programs will sign on to receive state UPK funding.
Families cannot use UPK funding to support the costs of an unlicensed provider, such as a family member, friend or neighbor.
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 five 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.