The State of Colorado supports at least 15 hours of preschool for every four-year-old
Licensed preschool providers can participate in Colorado Universal Preschool (UPK); the program is voluntary for both providers and families. UPK provides a minimum of half-day preschool, or 15 hours per week, for children in the year before they are eligible for kindergarten.
Four-year-olds with qualifying factors may be eligible for additional hours of preschool per week. Three-year-olds may also be eligible for UPK if they meet certain qualifying factors. Click below to download the 2024-25 UPK provider handbook.
UPK is available for nine months during the school year. The funding for each child’s preschool tuition goes directly to the participating preschool provider. Providers that can participate in UPK include:
- Licensed Family Child Care Homes
- Licensed Community Based Centers
- Licensed School District Based Programs
- Licensed Charter School Programs
- Licensed Head Start Programs
Licensed faith-based preschools can participate but UPK funds cannot be applied during hours of religious programming.
Preschool providers participating in UPK may serve the number of preschool students allowed for by their current child care license.
CDEC has released draft Quality Standards rules for UPK
The draft UPK Quality Standards Rules reflect statutory requirements, incorporate findings from comprehensive reviews of 26 national and Colorado-specific standards, and include input and feedback from various stakeholders.
All documents, and any future relevant material including the draft rule package once it is available, are posted in the UPK Quality Standards Public Folder. You can also review the CDEC Rule Tracker, located on the Rulemaking and Rules Advisory Council’s (RAC) webpage.
UPK Provider Information
CCCAP & UPK Work Together for Families
Signing up for UPK allows families that participate in CCCAP to get the maximum number of hours of child care each week and reduce or eliminate parent fees!
Understanding Qualifying Factors
Some children may be eligible for more than 15 hours a week of free preschool if they meet income eligibility requirements AND have one additional qualifying factor.
UPK Matching Process
Understand how families are matched to a preschool provider by the BridgeCare platform using criteria created by CDEC to reflect family choice, eligibility, and weighted priorities.
UPK Intersections with Special Ed, EI and IEP
Understand how Universal Preschool intersects with preschool special education, Early Intervention, and the Individualized Education Plan, or IEP.
Important Provider Updates
If you have a walk-in placement request, please submit a ticket, rather than email the Triad Bright Futures Help Desk. From the drop-down menu, select “Child Care Provider” or “School District” for Category. Then select “Walk-in Enrollment” for Question Type. Please include the family’s email in address in your request to facilitate open communication and expedite the process. We ask that you allow 24-48 hours for our Help Desk team to respond and refer to this resource for additional information about walk-in placements.
Resources from the September 11, 2023 UPK Quality Standards webinar hosted by CDEC
Only currently licensed providers are eligible to participate in UPK. If you do not currently have a license through the state, begin that process today.
All providers must have a signed provider agreement by August 31, 2023, to participate in UPK for the 2023-24 school year.
To begin the UPK registration process, you will go to provider.upk.colorado.gov. Licensed providers will be able to claim their accounts. To claim your account, you will need the email associated with your license. This is the same email you use to login to Provider Hub.
Once you create and account, you will go through a brief registration process. After your registration has been sent, your LCO will send you a provider participation agreement to sign through the system. After entering your digital signature, you will then be able to manage your provider profile. This profile is how you will be displayed to families as they are searching and applying for the UPK Colorado Program for the 2023-2024 school year.
Click here for the UPK Provider Guide, a resource to help providers understand and navigate Colorado’s new UPK system.
Families of children who are in the year before they are eligible for kindergarten AND with certain qualifying factors are eligible for an additional 15 hours of preschool per week. These additional hours are stacked on top of half-day programming.
Please note that additional hours are not guaranteed as they depend on confirmation of a family’s eligibility and available funding.
Household income below 270% of the 2023 federal poverty guideline plus one:
- Individualized Education Program (IEP)
- Dual Language Learner
- Foster/Kinship Care
Yes. Children will continue to qualify for the state’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), Head Start and other funding sources. These programs can be “stacked” on top of the universal preschool hours to provide a child with additional hours per week. Providers participating in UPK are encouraged to blend and braid UPK tuition credits with other available funding sources including Head Start and CCCAP for eligible families.
The initial 15 hours of UPK funding should be applied first to a child’s tuition costs. After that, Head Start or local scholarship dollars are applied. Then, if remaining tuition is owed, the additional UPK rate for qualifying factors is applied. By statute CCCAP is the last funding source applied.
In the Triad Bright Futures catchment area (Jefferson, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties), the UPK tuition credit rates and schedule are as follows:
- Part Time Slot – funds 10 hours per week/$471 per month in 10 payments (or $4,713.94 for the entire year) – Available to 3-year-olds with one qualifying factor
- Half Day Slot – funds 15 hours per week/$589 per month in 10 payments (or $5,890.53 for the entire year) – Available to children the year before kindergarten* (no qualifying factors)
- Full Day Slot – funds 30 hours per week/$1,051 per month in 10 payments (or $10,513.26 for the entire year) – Available to children the year before kindergarten with income plus one additional qualifying factor
Tuition credits are paid directly from CO Dept of Early Childhood to the licensed provider monthly, August through May.
*The year before kindergarten for the 2023-24 school year includes children who turn 4 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023. If the four-year-old with no qualifying factors enrolls in 10-14 hours per week, the part time tuition credit rate will be paid.
Programs in Universal Preschool are defined as follows:
- Part time – 10 hours a week
- Half day – 15 hours a week
- Full day – 30 hours a week
Please see this operation memo from CDEC, which provides information related to the implementation of quality standards for year one of UPK Colorado, as well as information on quality standards and aligned supports beyond the 2023-24 year.
In October, CDEC released draft Quality Standards rules for the Colorado Universal Preschool Program (UPK), as outlined and required by Colorado House Bill 22-1295. The draft UPK Quality Standards Rules reflect statutory requirements, incorporate findings from comprehensive reviews of 26 national and Colorado-specific standards, and include input and feedback from a broad range of stakeholders.
The Draft UPK Qualifying Factors rule is expected to be reviewed by the Rules Advisory Council (RAC) and adopted on an emergency basis in January 2024, followed by permanent adoption in February 2024. If approved, this rule change would be in effect for the 2024-25 program year.
“For Year 1 of the UPK Colorado program, preschool providers are expected to maintain current quality and licensing practices. CDEC has