What Families Need to Know about Universal Preschool (UPK) Colorado

Colorado’s Universal Preschool/Universal Pre-K (UPK) program is here! This is an exciting era in early childhood education for our state and for your family. 

For more information please review our Family FAQs below and sign up to receive email updates from DPP:

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UPK Resource for Families

Family FAQs

Beginning in the fall 2023, Colorado’s UPK program plans to offer families across the state up to 15 hours of funded preschool each week for the 2023-2024 school year between August 2023 – May 2024.

Denver families are projected to have access to at least a projected annual amount of $4,883 of State UPK support between August 2023 – May 2024. Colorado’s UPK tuition support is in addition to DPP’s year-round tuition support. UPK Colorado will complement Denver Preschool Program’s proven tuition credit and quality initiative programs.

Family applications open on January 17, 2023 at upk.colorado.gov. Families that apply between January 17 and February 14 will be matched with a preschool and notified of their match in March. If families like their match, they will then apply to the preschool. We recommend that Denver families first apply for Colorado UPK, enroll in a preschool, and as a final step apply to DPP for additional tuition assistance.

Colorado’s State UPK is an exciting new era in early childhood education for our state. Ultimately, it means more financial support for families like yours to enroll your child in a high-quality preschool of your choice.

Make sure to have a copy of your child’s birth certificate (PDF, digital, photocopy, etc.), which you will need to register your child for UPK. To be eligible for Colorado’s state UPK, your child will need to be 4 on or before October 1, 2023.  If you need to obtain a new copy of your child’s birth certificate, you can do so via the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment here or the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment here.

You will need to provide proof of income with your application if you are applying for additional hours. For information on what documents are accepted, please visit the state’s FAQs here.

Certain families may need to provide a waiver for specific school districts in Denver and Canyon City if enrolling a child under 3. Please contact us at denverupk@dpp.org for support with waivers in Denver.

The application opens on January 17th and will continue to be accepted throughout the year. All of the families that apply before February 14th will be a part of the first batch of applications to be matched with their chosen providers. You do not need to apply on January 17th to be “first in line.” This will allow for a more equal opportunity for families to match with providers of their choice. In order to have the best chance of being matched with your preferred provider you should apply before February 14th. Applications will continue to be accepted after February 14th and matched with providers on a rolling basis throughout the year. The state will post additional information here as available, and we will also post updates on this page of our website.

Starting January 17th, families can apply for UPK Colorado here: https://upk.colorado.gov/.

This video walks you through the application process.  You can apply on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

This video outlines how to search and find a provider.

Denver Preschool Program is your Denver-area contact for any and all questions related to UPK. You can also reach out to us at denverupk@dpp.org. Additionally, the state’s website at https://cdec.colorado.gov/colorado-universal-preschool has information and the state has a helpdesk for issues with login details and programming questions, which you can reach by calling 303-866-5233 or emailing cdec@upkcolorado@state.co.us.

Starting on February 15th the system will work to match families with their preferred providers and shortly thereafter you will receive an offer from the provider you matched with which will guarantee your child a spot.

There is limited funding for additional hours for four-year-olds with qualifying factors and three-year-old spots so apply before February 14th for the best chance of securing these dollars.

All children are eligible to receive UPK Colorado 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. In the City of Denver, Denver Public Schools would be your school district: https://www.dpsk12.org/.

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.

While the family application and matching process is being finalized, it will generally follow this process:

  1. Your program/provider registers and signs a provider agreement via the UPK Portal(more info here).
  2. During the application process, families can select from the list of participating providers and rank their provider preferences.
  3. Following family application approval, students will be matched with a school based on their ranking and other criteria which are being finalized. Approval and matching are handled by the state.
  4. Providers and families will be notified to “accept” the match to complete the UPK enrollment process.
    1. Some providers will have the ability to decline a match if the family does not meet other program requirements (for example, Head Start eligibility at Head Start sites). Match “override” capabilities will be determined based on information in their provider profile. 
    2. Families will have the opportunity to decline the match and restart the application process if they do not want to accept their match.

The state is planning to release the family application on January 17th and additional information will be available in the coming weeks.

Go to upk.colorado.gov and you will be able to search what providers are available based on where you live and where you work. During the application you will be able to select your top five providers and rank them. All types of providers will be in the system from school districts to child-care centers to 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.

If you do not see the provider you are looking for, please contact the provider directly. There are several reasons why the provider may not be visible yet. UPK Colorado is a voluntary program; if your preferred provider is not registered with UPK Colorado, we encourage you to ask them to join!

Since 2007, the Denver Preschool Program has helped families living in the City and County of Denver find and pay for quality preschool. Denver Preschool Program (DPP) tuition credits continue to be available to Denver families and can be added to UPK Colorado funding to increase your tuition savings. You may benefit from added Denver Preschool Program (DPP) tuition credits if your child:

  1. Will be attending preschool more than 15 hours/week
  2. Will be in preschool year-round, including summer months

Families can apply for UPK Colorado starting on January 17th. The first round of applications will begin to be “matched” with providers in February and families will be notified in March. The state will have ongoing rounds of application review and matching.

If your child was born between October 2, 2018 and October 1, 2019, they are eligible for up to 15 hours available to 4 year old’s. If your child was born between October 2, 2019 and October 1, 2020, and meets certain qualifying criteria, they are eligible for the 10 hours available to 3 year old’s.

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 children in the year before they are eligible for kindergarten and qualifying three year old’s only. While your child can still enroll in preschool, their attendance is not funded by UPK Colorado. Children born on or after October 2, 2018 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.