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 about UPK please review our Family FAQs or sign up to receive email updates from using our subscriber form. We have also setup a dedicated UPK helpline to support Denver families, please call us at (720) 221-8500 and leave a message. We will return your call within 24 hours.

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 for the 2023-2024 school year opened on January 17, 2023 at upk.colorado.gov. Families wishing to participate in UPK Colorado that have not yet applied are able to sign up and make provider rankings for their child. Enrollment is on a rolling basis and families can log in to upk.colorado.gov to find a provider in their area. There is no deadline to sign up.

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.

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 UPK Colorado application for the 2023-2024 school year opened on January 17th. Families can submit their application at any time throughout the year. Applications will continue to be accepted on a rolling basis and families will be matched with providers throughout the year. The state will post additional information as it is available on their website and we will also post updates on this page of our website.

Families can apply for UPK Colorado at 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.

Families that apply for UPK Colorado for the 2023-2024 school year were matched with providers through matching “rounds” through July. The CDEC has not announced additional rounds of matching and will likely match families on a rolling basis throughout the school year.

When informed of their match, families either accept or decline their match. If families accept their match, they then apply at the preschool they are matched with. Families can also decline their match but may not receive a UPK slot at another provider as UPK Colorado is a first come, first-served program.

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.

The UPK Colorado matching process is outlined in this English and Spanish video.

The Matching process is completed through an algorithm called the DAA (Deferred Acceptance Algorithm). The DAA was designed by Noble Prize-winning economists to be strategy-proof and is used across the country in school lotteries. It was specifically designed to produce equitable outcomes and remove bias from the matching process.

After the matching process happens, providers will have a set time to review matches. Providers will then accept (or decline) matches, and families who are accepted will be notified. A family can then choose to accept or decline the match (see next question about your options if you do not like your match). Families may choose to enroll their child with another provider at any point in the process, but they may not receive UPK Colorado tuition credits unless they are matched with that provider.

You have a few options for how to proceed:

  1. Accept your current match This guarantees your child will have a match for UPK Colorado. Your application will be withdrawn for all of your other programs. Acceptance is the only way to guarantee you are matched in UPK funding.
  2. Decline the match Your seat for the matched program will be released, and your child will not be rematched with the program in the future. Your application will be rerun through the matching process in future rounds for the opportunity to match with any of your other selected programs. However, a match is not guaranteed.
  3. Take no action Your seat for this program will be released. Your application will be rerun through the matching process in future rounds for the opportunity to match with any program you selected, including your current offer. However, you are not guaranteed to be placed in another program or the one you are currently matched with.

The difference of taking no action from declining is that you still have the opportunity to match with your current program, whereas declining means you will never be matched with that program again. If you want to try for a program you are waitlisted in the next round and want your current match to stay on you list, taking no action would be the best option; however, there is no guarantee you will receive a match at a higher ranked program, your current program, or other choices in the next round.

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 have been able to apply for UPK Colorado for the 2023-2024 school year since January 17th. The CDEC had 4 ongoing rounds of application review and matching through the end of July. The CDEC has not announced additional rounds of matching for the 2023-2024 school year and will likely match families on a rolling basis throughout the year.

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.