What is Universal Pre-K?
Jul. 8 2019

What is Universal Pre-K?

What is Universal Pre-K?

Universal Pre-K, or UPK, is a government-funded preschool program, which means it’s free to those that attend.  In New York State, only a select number of school districts offer UPK.

Why Is Universal Pre-K Important?

In the 2013 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said, “Education has to start at the earliest possible age. Studies say the earlier a child starts learning, the better he or she does down the road, but we are not doing enough to give all of our kids that change. Fewer than three in ten 4-year-old’s are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program.”

High-quality, early childhood preschool education is crucial for a child’s physical, social, emotional and intellectual development.

Without access to Universal Pre-K, students enter kindergarten with varying levels of social and academic development, creating a gap between the students’ levels.

As children grow up, closing this gap becomes more difficult and costly.  Universal Pre-K closes this gap by allowing all children living within the school district to participate regardless of household income.

Where can I find Universal Pre-k for my child?

Any family that has a child that will be 4 years old by December 1st, 2020 and lives in the Utica City School District, is eligible to register for Universal Pre-K at the Neighborhood Center.

The UPK Program is a FREE 2 1/2-hour program, 5 days a week, offering morning and afternoon sessions from September to June that emphasizes readiness for kindergarten.

Applications are available now! If you need any UPK applications for yourself or someone you know, please contact The Neighborhood Center at 315-272-2760 or stop at the Administration offices at 624 Elizabeth St., Utica, NY. Applications are being accepted through September 2020.


The Neighborhood Center is a comprehensive Human Services Agency in Central New York. All Services are based on a philosophy of empowerment – helping people to help themselves. Our mission is to enrich the lives of individuals and families through cooperative opportunities, resources, and advocacy that embrace diversity, promote empowerment, and foster responsible citizenship. For more information about The Neighborhood Center and its services go to www.neighborhoodctr.org


By Jennifer Benn, Director of Daycare Registration and CACFP