The Northland Foundation administers Early Learning Scholarships that help parents, guardians, and foster families afford high-quality child care and early learning programs for children under five. 

Helping Families
Afford Child Care

Minnesota Early Learning Scholarships (or ELS) is a state program that we help administer in Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, and St. Louis County.

Whether you are a parent or guardian, or a child care provider, find more helpful information and forms below.

Is My Child Eligible?

Children under age five may qualify for scholarships.

Starting July 1, 2024, maximum award amounts will be based on the child’s age, program type, county where the program is located, and Parent Aware participation status.

The money is paid directly to the licensed child care, child care center, Head Start program, preschool, or school-based prekindergarten program each month.

Early Learning Scholarships must be used at a Parent Aware-Rated program. Parent Aware is a rating tool to help parents select a high-quality child care or early education program. For more information, visit the Parent Aware website.

For most children, family income must be equal to or less than 47% of the State Median Income OR the children/families are already receiving assistance from an approved state or federally funded program.

Special priority for scholarships is given to children:

  • With a parent under age 21 who is working on a high school diploma or GED.
  • Who have experienced being homeless in the past two years.
  • Receiving child protective services.
  • In foster care. (Foster families do NOT need to meet the income guidelines.)

Beginning July 1, 2024, special priority will also include children who:

  • Have an incarcerated parent.
  • Have a parent in a substance use treatment program.
  • Have a parent in a mental health treatment program.
  • Have experienced domestic violence.
  • Have an individualized education program (IEP, ages 3 to 5) or an individualized family service plan (IFSP, birth to age 3).

Learn more in the Supplemental Guide for Priority Populations. NOTE: The Supplemental Guide will be updated soon to provide more details about the expanded priorities that take effect on July 1, 2024.

Families of Young Children: Application & Instructions

Starting July 16, 2024, the Pathway I Early Learning Scholarship application can be completed online at the Early Learning Scholarships Hub!

CLICK HERE or copy and paste into a web browser window to get to the Hub webpage.

From there, you can create an account and apply for a scholarship. If you create an account, you can easily complete the application and upload required documents, get email updates and check the status of your application, apply for other children in your household, and renew when it’s time. Award, renewal, and status updates will now be managed mainly by email.

We encourage you to use the online portal, but it is not a requirement that you create an account. You can still get email updates without creating an account, and you can also contact your Area Administrator at any time with questions.

If you have questions, feel free to call our office at 218-260-2736 or email us at

If you are unable to use the online application, use the PDF form below. Make sure you fill out all the pages, and don’t forget to sign it. This is a PDF you can fill out on your computer or other device, or you can print it and fill it out by hand. The application is 15 pages.

If you do not have access to a printer or are having trouble with the form, contact us and we will work with you!

  1. Directions for the Application
  2. Early Learning Scholarship Application
  3. Download Adobe Acrobat Reader for free if you need it to help you complete the form.

Send completed applications by email to, FAX to 218-723-4048, or mail to:

Northland Foundation
202 W Superior Street, Suite 800
Duluth, MN 55802

You can find a list of rated child care sites in your area on the Parent Aware website. Learn about more different kinds of assistance and benefits for families on the Help Me Connect and Bridge to Benefits websites.

Child Care Providers:

If you are a Northeast Minnesota child care provider and have ELS questions, you can contact us for assistance.

Please Note the following important update as of July 1, 2024:

Greater Twin Cities United Way (GTCUW) is the Central Payment Administrator for the Early Learning Scholarship Administration Program. 

If you have not already received and sent back your program’s W9 and ACH forms for electronic payment, please email GTCUW at or call (612) 340-7402 to be set up to receive scholarship payments.

To submit invoices for payment, for services provided July 1, 2024, and later, submit invoices to GTCUW in one of the following ways.

Email invoices to:

or mail them to:
Greater Twin Cities United Way
Early Learning Scholarship Program
404 South 8th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Funding provided by the Minnesota Department of Education using state funding to support administration of early learning scholarships, 124D.165.

For Help With

Early Learning Scholarships, call 218-260-2736 or email us at You should hear back within 24 hours or the next business day.

From traditional, ancestral & contemporary lands of Ojibwe, Dakota, Northern Cheyenne & other Native people. See a more detailed acknowledgement of this land and its history.


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