West Virginia’s Universal Pre-K Program


  • Public Pre-K

West Virginia

In 2022, West Virginia introduced its Universal Pre-K Program (UPK). It is now available in all 55 counties for all 4-year-olds, and for some 3-year-olds with special needs. Because of a lack of space for pre-K classrooms, it took about a decade after its founding for the program to attain the facilities necessary to meet the capacity needs of the state’s pre-K-aged children. The state provides a minimum of 25 hours of care per week, 4 days per week. The UPK program is a voluntary, mixed-delivery model provided through a combination of public, private, Head Start, and community-based programs. As of 2022, 63% of West Virginia’s population of 4-year-olds was enrolled in UPK settings statewide. Though the state has made some efforts to expand slots for 3-year-olds, just 6% of this age group is served by public pre-K slots.


West Virginia Department of Education. (2019). West Virginia Universal Pre-K Guidebook.

National Institute for Early Education Research. (2023). West Virginia.

Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. (2017). West Virginia Universal Pre-K.

Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:

High-quality, affordable early education and care supports children’s healthy development and allows families to work, engage in their own educational pursuits, and/or participate in other aspects of community life. To support children and families in these instrumental ways, research suggests there is a need to expand the availability of early education opportunities across the mixed-delivery system.

Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) show:

  • Families rely on a range of formal (e.g., Head Start, center-based care, public pre-K) and more informal (e.g., home-based, relative care) early education settings; when choosing a setting for their child, families balance many logistical constraints and personal preferences.
  • But for many families – and especially low- and middle-income families – early education choices remain tightly constrained due to issues of affordability and supply.


Learn More about ELS@H Findings

Learn more about West Virginia

Context matters. Visit the West Virgina profile page to learn more about its demographics, political landscape, early education programs, early education workforce, and funding sources and streams.

Visit the West Virginia Profile Here
  • The state population is 1,775,156
  • The percentage of children under 6 with all available parents in the workforce is 60%
  • The rural percentage is 55.4%