Early Learning Scholarships

Early Learning Scholarships increase access to high-quality early childhood programs for 3- and 4-year-old children with the highest needs to improve school readiness for all young children. Scholarships provide support for children to attend a high-quality early learning program as rated through Parent Aware, Minnesota's quality rating and improvement system. Children birth to age 2 are eligible if identified as being in one or more of the following priority populations:

  • Child of a teen parent;
  • Currently in foster care;
  • In need of child protective services;
  • Experienced homelessness in the last 24 months.

Families must meet eligibility requirements as outlined in Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.165.

Up to $7,500 per scholarship will be awarded. We estimate that funding will support approximately 11,000 scholarships per year, statewide, representing about 21 percent of the eligible children in Minnesota.

The Early Learning Scholarships Program was evaluated in 2015. Read the corresponding legislative report and evaluations for recommendations in the following areas: efficiency and effectiveness of administration; appropriateness of current scholarship cap; and impact of scholarships on kindergarten readiness outcomes. The report can be found on the Legislative Reports page - 2016. 
There are two pathways to an early learning scholarship:
Early Learning Scholarships - Pathway I

Pathway I scholarships are awarded directly to families who meet eligibility requirements. Families must have a child between the ages of three and four as of September 1 of the current year or meet the criteria for priority populations for children from birth to two years old.  All  children must meet other eligibility requirements outlined in Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.165. 
Pathway I scholarship funds are paid to the early childhood program that the family chooses. The program must participate in the Parent Aware Quality Rating and Improvement System and may include Head Start, school district prekindergarten and preschool programs and child care programs. Pathway I scholarships “follow the child” and are awarded to the family for up to 12 months.

*Starting July 1, 2020, Early Learning Scholarships - Pathway I can only be used at programs with a Three- or Four-Star rating.
Families interested in applying for an early learning scholarship should contact the Area Administrator serving their county. Learn more about area administrators.
Early Learning Scholarships - Pathway II
Pathway II scholarships are awarded to families through an eligible Four-Star Parent Aware Rated program. These include Head Start, school district prekindergarten and preschool programs, and child care programs.  Child eligibility for Pathway II scholarships is the same as Pathway I. Pathway II scholarships are paid to the early childhood program.

Families interested in applying for an Early Learning Scholarship - Pathway II scholarship should contact Pathway II-funded programs in their area. Please see the Early Learning Scholarship Pathway II Funded Programs by Program Name FY 2018 document in the Early Learning Scholarship Use in Minnesota section. 

For more information on Parent Aware, please visit the Parent Aware website.  
For more information on the early learning scholarships, please contact our office at MDE.ELS@state.mn.us.


Early Learning Scholarship Participation

Program Guidance