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Denver’s taxpayer-funded preschool program offers working families more tuition help

Sheryl Robledo, an early childhood coach, plays with preschool students at a Sewall Child Development Center site in far northeast Denver.
The Denver Preschool Program is now offering more financial help to working families who choose full-day preschool.
Ann Schimke

The Denver Preschool Program is now offering more financial help to working families that make too much to qualify for free preschool but still struggle with tuition costs.

That help comes in the form of 250 scholarships meant to cover some or all of the full-day preschool cost beyond what’s covered by the program’s current sliding-scale credits. Leaders at the Denver Preschool Program say the move recognizes both the high cost of living in Denver and the challenges that working families face when their earnings exceed the thresholds for public housing, food, and other assistance, but don’t cover all their bills.

“For us, this is an opportunity to create that equalizing effect to make sure these families are still able to live and thrive in Denver,” said Elsa Holguín, president and CEO of the Denver Preschool Program. “During COVID it’s even more critical, but even before COVID it was needed.”

The Denver Preschool Program is a sales tax-funded initiative that offers preschool tuition assistance to all city 4-year-olds. About 60% of eligible children receive tuition credits through the program, with children from the lowest-income families qualifying for free preschool.

Holguín said parents interested in the new scholarships may direct inquiries to their preschool providers.

The scholarships are available to low and middle-income families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that means earnings of up to $77,000 a year. The size of the scholarship varies depending on several factors, including family income and preschool tuition cost.

For a family of four earning up to $48,000 annually, the scholarships will cover the remaining cost of full-day preschool after tuition credits are applied. For qualifying families earning more than $48,000, the scholarships will cover some but not all of the parent portion after tuition credits.

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