Beginning the 2023-24 school year, the State of Colorado will support at least 15 hours of preschool, or pre-k, for Colorado children in the year before they enter kindergarten.
Colorado’s Universal Preschool Program (UPK) provides a minimum of half-day preschool, or 15 hours per week, for the 2023-24 school year to children who turn 4 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023.
Four-year -olds with at least one qualifying factor (see below) will be eligible for 15 additional hours of preschool per week. Children who turn 3 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023, are also eligible for UPK if they have at least one qualifying factor.
Participating in UPK is voluntary, both for families and preschool providers.
UPK is available during the school year (nine months). The funding for each child’s preschool tuition goes directly to the participating preschool provider.
UPK providers must be licensed by the State of Colorado. Participating UPK preschool providers could 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 can not 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. UPK will replace the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP).
Frequently Asked Questions About UPK
If you are having issues with the UPK system or are concerned about your match report, please submit a Triad Bright Futures UPK help desk ticket here.
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 June 30, 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 this 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. Once your registration has been sent, your LCO will send you a 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.
Children with “qualifying factors” are eligible for more than 15 hours per week.
Four-year-olds with at least one of the qualifying factors listed below are eligible for 15 additional preschool hours per week (30 hours total). Children who turn 3 between October 2, 2022, and October 1, 2023, will be eligible for UPK if the child meets at least one qualifying factor:
- Lives in a low-income household (270% of the 2023 Federal Poverty Guidelines)
- Is a dual language learner and the native language spoken at home is a language other than English, or the child’s native language is not English
- Has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
- Is currently in foster care or in non-certified kinship care
- Is identified as homeless
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.
Human services departments will be confirming 2024 CCCAP rates in Spring 2023.
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 – 10 hours of weekly preschool programming – Available to 3-year-olds with one qualifying factor: $4,713.94 total for the 9 month school year
- Half Day Slot – 15 hours of weekly preschool programming – Available to children the year before kindergarten* (no qualifying factors): $5,890.53 total for 9 month school year
- Full Day Slot – 30 hours of weekly preschool programming – Available to children the year before kindergarten with at least one qualifying factor: $10,513.26 total for 9 month school year
Tuition credits are paid directly from CO Dept of Early Childhood to the licensed provider on a quarterly basis: August, November, February and May.
Families who enroll for more than the number of hours covered by the UPK rate amount will pay only for hours not covered by the UPK rate. Click here for a step-by-step calculation.
*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.
These videos from CDEC, in English and Spanish, explain how the matching process works.
During set periods of time, families will be matched to a preschool provider by the online UPK application. Children are matched to available UPK slots using criteria created by the Colorado Department of Early Childhood. The criteria consider the family’s choice, eligibility, and “weighted” priorities (e.g., if a family is already enrolled at the program or a sibling is).
Providers will be notified of the preliminary match and must confirm it before the notification is sent to families.
The match criteria give added priority — or weight — to family choice that would support continuity of care (meaning the chance for a child to participate continuously in a program and enjoy stable relationships with caregivers). Siblings in the same program is another example of a weighted priority.
Some preschool providers will require specific information from families based on their own program requirements. This might include requirements for parent volunteer hours, or other requirements based on if the program is language-, employer-, or faith-based or if the student has an IEP.
The first match took place Feb. 27. Additional match rounds will occur for applications received every two weeks through March. Then the application will move to a rolling matching process as application volume declines.
Providers will have time to review and confirm additional eligibility information before notification of the match is sent to families to either accept or decline. See this step-by-step guide for reviewing matches, including declining matches for authorized reasons.
If a family declines, their application they will need to wait until the next round to be matched.
Families will be sent match notification around the beginning of March and April and then every two weeks as the matching process proceeds.
Universal preschool funding is tied to the seat — not the child. Unlike CCCAP or Head Start that have attendance requirements, the UPK rate is not impacted by a child’s actual attendance.
Click below to learn how UPK intersects with Special Education, the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and Early Intervention.
Download the UPK Intersections fact sheet.
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.
“For Year 1 of the UPK Colorado program, preschool providers are expected to maintain current quality and licensing practices. CDEC is beginning the process of developing UPK quality standards to begin in Year 2 of the UPK Colorado program.”