Ask the Expert: Options to Help You Afford Preschool
by Marla Segal, Pre-K Project Manager
Working in the early childhood field, the most common comment I get from parents is how expensive it is to send their child to preschool. I definitely agree that it can be, but there are a few options that may help.
Several of these funding sources for preschool are geared toward low income families:
- Head Start is a federally funded program that focuses on the healthy development of low income families. To qualify, families must make less than 100% of the federal poverty guidelines ($24,300 for a family of 4 in 2016). Head Start also provides services for families experiencing emergency situations. Programs may be half-day or full-day, depending on the community.
- On My Way Pre-K is Indiana’s pre-K pilot program. It is offered in five counties in Indiana: Allen, Lake, Vanderburgh, Marion, and Jackson. Families must be below 127% of the federal poverty guidelines ($30,797 for a family of 4 in 2016). There is an application process for families that occurs once a year, typically beginning in mid-January. Funding is limited, so, depending on the number of applications received, a randomized lottery may occur in your county to select families. Children must be four years old by August 1st of that year to qualify, however, Marion County also accepts three-year olds.
- The Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) is a federally funded program that helps low-income families who work or go to school. CCDF allows parents to select a child care of their choice that participates in the CCDF program. This means parents can research those high-quality child cares that may also offer preschool programing within their curriculum. Unfortunately, several counties may have a waitlist for families to receive funding.
Title I is another federally funded program that is given to public schools that have high percentages of low-income families. Some school districts support their own preschool programs with Title I. Call your local school district to see if they offer Title I to preschoolers and find out their requirements.
For those families that are not officially considered low-income, a few programs are available to help lower preschool costs.
- Preschool Co-Ops are preschool programs whose tuition can be a little friendlier on your wallet, but it does come with some hard work. Co-Ops keep their tuition low because they look at parents as the key to running the program. If you begin looking into co-ops, investigate every aspect and make sure it will work for you and your family.
- Tuition Assistance Programs are offered at some preschool programs. Typically the amount of scholarship you receive is based off on your gross monthly income. These types of programs also may require you to be working or going to school. Child Care Answers, your local child care resource and referral agency, can help locate programs in your area that may offer tuition assistance.
No matter the funding source that may work best for you, the most important thing for parents is to research and visit the programs they are interested in to ensure a good fit for the family. Several high-quality programs accept different funding sources – Child Care Answers can help you locate programs in your area to help make the search a little less stressful.