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What are Early Learning Scholarships, why are they offered, and who is eligible?

Helping more families afford access to high-quality child care

If you haven't heard about the child care shortage in our region, you may be in the minority. It's a subject that is top-of-mind among parents, employers, school districts, elected officials, and other community members. Not only are child care openings in short supply, but many families struggle to afford child care at all.

chart shows infant care in minnesota costs more than college tuition or housingThe Economic Policy Institute ranks Minnesota as the fourth most expensive for infant care among all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. In northeastern Minnesota, infant care costs slightly less, averaging $11,000 per year, but lower median income means paying for one infant still consumes 20% of household earnings.

Minnesota's Early Learning Scholarships Program is providing a way for more young children to be in quality-rated child care and preschool settings, improving their readiness for school.

toddlers and teachers play and dance in a child care centerJuly 1st marked the start of the Northland Foundation's third year as the Early Learning Scholarships administrator for the seven-county region of northeastern Minnesota. Scholarships are funded through the State of Minnesota Department of Education. Families who meet income or other guidelines may apply for scholarships to help cover the costs of high-quality child care or preschool.

A total of 945 scholarships were awarded for child care for young children in northeastern Minnesota from July 2017 through June 2018—the most recent application year with final data available.

Scholarships are as much as $7,500 per year, per child and are paid directly to the Parent Aware-rated family child care, child care center, Head Start, or school-based program the family chooses. Parent Aware is the State of Minnesota’s early care and education quality-rating program.

“Helping families to access Minnesota Early Learning Scholarships is such rewarding work for our team. They get to see and hear firsthand the difference this program makes in people's lives.” —Tony Sertich, Northland Foundation President

To be eligible to apply for the first time, applicants must meet income or other criteria. Once they have received a scholarship, families can continue to reapply every year until the child turns five, even if their income increases. Priority is also given to children who have experienced homelessness, are in foster care or child protective services, or have a parent age 20 or younger.

2019-2020 applications are now being accepted, and Northland Foundation staff members are busy answering questions, assisting parents and providers, and processing applications and payments.

Parents or guardians of young children, foster parents, caseworkers and others who work with young children, including child care providers in Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, or St. Louis County, are encouraged to find out more about Early Learning Scholarships.

For Early Learning Scholarships Information

For more information about Early Learning Scholarships in northeastern Minnesota, please visit the Northland Foundation website or call us at 218.723.4040 or 800.433.4045 (toll free).