Child Development

Little-To-No-Cost San Diego Preschools: Do I Qualify?

Three Little-To-No-Cost Programs for San Diego Preschools You Need To Know

The United States is home to some 23.7 million preschool aged children.

San Diego preschools

Image from 10 News.

With San Diego being one of the most populated cities, it stands to reason that a large majority of those preschoolers live in America’s finest city.

Unfortunately, San Diego is also home to a large portion of low income and homeless families.

Many times these families have preschoolers of their own, and cannot afford to send them to school.

Preschool is considered one of the foundations of a solid education, leaving these preschoolers open to a lifetime of struggles in academia if left alone.

Luckily, San Diego Unified provides free-preschool options for low-income families.

Take a look to see whether or not your child qualifies for support and where programs are available to them across the various San Diego preschools.

General Qualifications

Though qualifications vary across programs, here is the general list of requirements for receiving aid.

  • Age: Your child must be aged 0-5 years old (preschool aged).
  • Income: You must be able to provide proof of income, showing that you are in a position requiring financial aid or assistance. This is done by checking an individual family’s income against the general poverty line and adjusted in line with the Consumer Price Index annually.
  • Other Factors: Foster children, homeless families, and those receiving TANF and SSI may be eligible for certain programs with proof of paperwork.
  • More: In many cases families that have children with disabilities will be eligible for help.
  • In many cases you are not required to submit proof of citizenship to receive aid.

Popular Programs

Head Start Program

head start preschool program

Image from ECLKC

What Is It:

Among the list of programs available for San Diego preschools and their students is Head Start. The program is a comprehensive preschool program that provides services in early education, supporting childhood development, medical and dental health, and nutrition while encouraging parent involvement.

Who Is It For:

Head Start is for children aged three to four years old in low-income families, including children with disabilities.


  • The family must meet income eligibility guidelines (described above). Depending on the circumstance of the individual family, these guidelines may be able to be waived when applicable.
  • The preschooler must not be ready or preparing to enter kindergarten at the time of enrollment.
  • To receive priority, the preschooler must be four on or before September 1st.
  • Priority may be given to preschoolers with disabilities.
  • Once determined eligible, the child will remain eligible for the program regardless of changes in their family’s income.
  • The Head Start Program is focused mainly on the child’s age eligibility versus their income eligibility, meaning that so long as they remain in the age bracket after acceptance they will remain eligible for the program.

Where Is It:

Head Start is available across San Diego County. For a full list of the Head Start preschools in your area, visit their website.

California State Preschool Programs

What It Is:

CSPP provides part time and full time preschool hours for children who are three or four years of age. These programs take place

low cost preschool program

Image from Pinterest

Monday through Friday, for either six or three hours depending on the child. By encouraging literacy, social development, number skills, health, and safety CSPP prepares preschoolers for kindergarten. Because CSSP has low funding, it asks for the help of the parents as volunteers to help out with the classroom.

Who Is It For:

California State Preschool Programs are for children aged three to four years old in low-income families. Though the program is low-cost it may assess a fee to help provide for supplies and food.


  • Families of the preschooler must meet income eligibility guidelines.
  • Children must be three or four years old by September 1st.
  • Priority is given to those with the greatest need.
  • Continued eligibility is reassessed and based off the child’s continued need in the program, and have followed the rules and regulations that come with it.

Where Is It:

San Diego preschools across the county are eligible for California State Preschool Programs, but to see if your preschool qualifies or if your preschooler might be qualified check out their site.

Alternative Payment Programs

What Is It:

low cost preschool programs

Image from the Next Generation

Alternative Payment Programs or APP’s are available to preschoolers whose parents are in vocational or job training situations.

Who Is It For:

APP is for families whose parents are unemployed but actively searching for work, working toward a goal or degree, or are involved in a vocational training of some sort. The program covers children up to the age of twelve but can be extended until age twenty-one if the child has a disability.


  • The preschooler’s family must meet the state income requirements.
  • The family must have a childcare provider who is in the service area of APP.
  • Families are ranked by the internal system of APP and aid is given to those who need it most first.
  • Parents must be unemployed and actively searching for work, working toward a degree, are seeking vocational training, are looking for permanent housing, and/or are incapable of physically or mentally providing for their family.
  • Families may remain in the program so long as they remain within the guidelines, and meet the rules and regulations of the program.

Where Is It:

Check to see if your preschooler is eligible for APP by visiting their site.

Still wondering about San Diego preschools and their low cost programs?

Comment below with questions and let us help you get settled into the program that’s right for you!


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