Child Care Scholarship Program

General Program Information

The CCSA Child Care Scholarship Program can help to provide low-cost access to high quality child care for qualifying families living in Durham or Orange Counties or who are affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A variety of scholarships are available, funded by Durham’s Partnership for Children – a Smart Start Initiative, Durham County, United Way of the Greater Triangle, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and other private donors. The primary goal of these scholarships is to provide children with access to high-quality child care. Types of CCSA Child Care Scholarships include the following:

  • Smart Start Scholarships: support for children birth to five living in Durham County.
  • General Scholarships: support for children birth to five living in Durham or Orange County.
  • UNC Scholarships: support for children birth to twelve to students and staff of UNC-Chapel Hill.
  • Partner Program Scholarships: provides support to the Pre-K and Early Head Start programs in Durham.

Family and Child Care Provider Eligibility

Families who meet basic eligibility screening for available scholarship funds will be invited to apply. To qualify for a new award, families must meet both activity and income eligibility.

Activity Eligibility

At the time of initial eligibility, each parent in the household must demonstrate full-time need for child care, usually in the form of 30 or more weekly hours of work, a full-time student schedule, or a combination of the two. For UNC-CH affiliates, the primary applicant parent must be a full-time student according to UNC’s guidelines or full-time, benefits-eligible employee. 

Income Eligibility

Household income from all sources must not exceed the maximum income limits by family size for the county or program for which they are being considered. This might consist of wages from work, child support, SSI and financial aid. Students who pay tuition may have their tuition deducted from the household total. 

Maximum Income Guidelines
Family SizeDurham County General and Smart Start ScholarshipsOrange County General ScholarshipsBuild Babies Durham* and UNC-CH Scholarships

*This project is being supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number 35-333003 awarded to Durham County, North Carolina, by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Child Care Provider Eligibility

In order to provide care for a child with a CCSA Scholarship, a child care facility must be licensed by the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education at the 4- or 5- star level and be approved through an application process by the Scholarship program. A provider not yet participating with the scholarship program may apply by invitation only from the program once a family with a scholarship makes a request to use their scholarship with that provider.  If a provider goes six months without serving a child on scholarship, the provider will become inactive and must reapply in order to resume service to children using scholarships.

Fees and Payments

Parents Fees

Most scholarships include a parent fee based on a modest percentage of gross monthly family income. Parent fees are paid by parents directly to the child’s care provider on the schedule designated by the child care provider. 


The Scholarship program pays providers directly and operates on a reimbursement model. That means payment is made at the end of the month following service provided, usually based on a child’s attendance pattern. The rate paid to the facility uses the state subsidy rate as its base, though some amounts will be higher if certain criteria are met. The parent fees make up a portion of the rate, with the Scholarship program’s payment making up the rest. 

Waiting List

Waiting lists for various kinds of child care subsidy assistance differ. CCSA’s Scholarship program’s general waiting list is organized by total household annual income divided by family size, with priority consideration for circumstances such as homelessness or teen parents completing high school. Families with the fewest resources per family member are placed higher on the waiting list. Using this order, instead of a first come, first serve order, means the list changes as we add new families.

To sign up for the waiting list, please call us toll-free at 855-EARLY-ED (855-327-5933) to speak with a child care referral specialist. Spanish-speaking specialists are available!

Have child care scholarship questions? We can help!


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