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Changes to Eligibility Requirements for Rising STARS Beginning July 1, 2019 (Posted May 2019)

The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) supports the degree attainment for early childhood educators through two scholarship programs in Pennsylvania, T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhoodâ PENNSYLVANIA and Rising STARS Tuition Assistance (RSTA). In order to maximize Federal and State funding and streamline the scholarship options in PA, the requirements for eligibility under each program are changing for the 2019-20 program year. Effective July 1, 2019, the following criteria will be used to determine eligibility under each scholarship program:

Beginning July 1, 2019, OCDEL will prioritize public funding for RSTA to support students pursuing coursework toward the following:

  • In state, credit bearing CDA coursework, voucher and completion support (Infant/toddler, Child Development and Family Childcare)
  • Infant Toddler Credentials or Endorsements, School Age Credential and Director’s credential
  • Coursework that leads to an AIMH Endorsement

PLEASE NOTE:  AA and BA Degree seekers currently receiving funding from Rising STARS will be given FY 19-20 to transition to another eligible option which may include TEACH or OCDEL PDO partners. 

For more information on funding for early childhood credentials and certificates available through Rising STARS Tuition Assistance (RSTA), visit this link or call Amber Repman at 717-213-2071 or email at ambrep@pakeys.org.

Questions about T.E.A.C.H.? Contact a T.E.A.C.H. Counselor at teachinfo@pacca.org or (717) 657-9000.  More information on T.E.A.C.H. is available on PACCA’s website.

Important Change to Rising STARS Funding Beginning July 1, 2019 (Posted April 2019)

In an effort to prioritize limited funds, The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) will be revising eligibility requirements for the Rising STARS Tuition Assistance program.

Beginning July 1, 2019, master level degrees will no longer be eligible for assistance from the Rising STARS Tuition Assistance program. This will apply to new applicants as well as any current applicants funded in 2018-19.

T.E.A.C.H. and Rising STARS Funding Update for 2018-2019 (Posted December 2018)

The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) is deeply committed to investing in the early care and education workforce’s educational attainment.  OCDEL’s tuition assistance funds both the T.E.A.C.H. (administered by PACCA) and Rising STARS (administered by the PA Key) programs. Although OCDEL expanded funding for T.E.A.C.H. and Rising Stars this fiscal year, the demand for scholarships has steadily increased over the new investments.  PACCA has awarded new T.E.A.C.H. scholarships for Spring 2019 and has filled all of their scholarship slots available for the upcoming semester.  As a result some applicants have been wait listed until additional funding becomes available.

To help students still enroll for the Spring 2019 semester, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) has indicated that any T.E.A.C.H. applicant who is eligible, but waiting for funding can apply for Rising STARS Tuition Assistance (through the PA Key) in the interim.  Applicants can apply for tuition assistance for semester(s) occurring between now and June 30, 2019.

IMPORTANT:  This temporary access to Rising STARS Tuition Assistance will only be made available to individuals who have applied to T.E.A.C.H. and who are eligible, but wait listed for funding.  Any staff interested in applying for T.E.A.C.H. for upcoming semesters, should still submit an application ASAP.  Submitting an application helps PACCA to demonstrate the need for scholarships and make the case for additional funding from new sources.  It also helps students to arrange for their financial assistance needs prior to their desired semester.

Changes to the Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program (Posted December 2018)

Beginning immediately, degree waivers for programs outside of the approved degree list (see below) will no longer be accepted. If you are already enrolled in a program with a previously approved degree waiver, your funding will continue until your program is completed.

Applications for out-of-state institutions will also no longer be accepted. If you are enrolled in a program and have been funded previously by Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program at an out-of-state institution, your funding will continue until your program is completed.

About Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program

The Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program pays 95% of tuition costs for eligible college coursework taken by early learning professionals, with a maximum benefit of $6,000 per individual each fiscal year (July 1 through June 30). The program covers tuition costs only and does not include books, materials, or fees. Tuition costs net of other funding sources such as scholarships, stipends, discounts or grants (except the Pell Grant) are used to determine the amount of assistance. It is recommended completed applications be submitted at least four weeks prior to the start of the course, or prior to the tuition due date, whichever is first.

Eligibility Requirements for the Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program – Updates to 18-19 FY eligibility requirements coming soon

To be eligible for funding consideration, applicants must meet all the following requirements. Meeting eligibility requirements does not guarantee funding.

  1. Pennsylvania resident;
  2. Working at a Keystone STARS designated early learning program, including Head Start and PA Pre-K Counts, and demonstrates continuous employment for at least 12 months;
  3. Working a minimum of twenty (20) hours weekly in a classroom setting or as the director, assistant director or education coordinator;
  4. Aides, Assistant Teachers, Teachers, Assistant Directors: Earning less than $40,000 annually;
  5. Child Care Center Directors, Family or Group Child Care Home Owners/Operators; Head Start Education Managers, Coordinators, Site Supervisors: Earning less than $50,000 annually;
  6. Agreeing to continue to work in a Keystone STARS facility for two months for every credit supported by the Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program with two months beginning at the conclusion of the course for which funding was received. (Total time due will not exceed 24 months following the conclusion of the most recent course completed); and
  7. Maintaining a 3.0 GPA for the classes taken or degree program in which the student is enrolled.
  8. Pursuing an approved degree. See the list of approved degree programs.

Required Documents for Application Submission

The following documents must be submitted with your application. Incomplete applications or those submitted with missing documents may result in delayed or rejected funding.

  • The Name of your Degree, which may be listed on your transcripts, degree audit or other documentation from your institute of higher learning
  • Course information including Course Number, Course Title, Begin/End Dates of Course, Number of Credits.  A course description is required for courses toward the Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential, Director Credential, or movement on the Career Lattice.
  • Itemized Financial Billing Statement showing the cost of tuition for the course.  The Billing Statement must indicate that the applicant has been registered for the course, and must state the course name and the tuition cost for that specific course.   Fees or other costs should not be included in the tuition cost line.
  • Transcript showing current DPA as of most recent completed semester.  Official transcript with raised seal not required.  (Not required only if this is the first course taken for this degree/certificate)
  • Employer Attestation Form (PDF) completed by your Director.

Additional information, helpful for completing your application.

Submit all documentation with application or via fax to 717-213-0585 or 717-213-0584, or email to pakeyvoucherprogram@pakeys.org.

If you have not received a letter indicating approval, denial, or the need for more documentation to complete your application within two weeks of submission of your application, please contact pakeysvoucherprogram@pakeys.org to ensure the application has been received and processed.

Determining Fiscal Year

The start date of the course determines the Fiscal Year.

  • For Fiscal Year 2017-18, documentation for courses with a start date of July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018 must be submitted with application and all supporting documentation by June 30, 2018.
  • For Fiscal Year 2018-19, documentation for courses with a start date of July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019 must be submitted with application and all supporting documentation by June 30, 2019.
  • See the Samples of Acceptable Documentation for Courses (PDF)

Master’s Degree and Rising STARS Tuition Assistance

If you are pursuing a Master’s degree and have not received Rising STARS Tuition Assistance, please email pakeyvoucherprogram@pakeys.org to request access to the New Application option.

If you are pursuing a Master’s degree and have received Rising STARS Tuition Assistance in the 2017-18 fiscal year, you have automatically been given access to the New Application option. You do not need to go to the T.E.A.C.H. link.

THE CDA ASSESSMENT FEE VOUCHER PROGRAM

 The CDA ASSESSMENT FEE VOUCHER PROGRAM supplies payment for the CDA Assessment Fee that is required to complete the CDA Assessment process. The full CDA Assessment Fee of $425 is paid directly to the Council for Professional Recognition. This program does not reimburse individuals.

The Voucher Program for the CDA Assessment Fee is a two-step process.  The first step is to apply for a Voucher.  Applications are then reviewed and are either approved or denied.  Individuals whose applications are approved receive 2 copies of the Voucher in the mail, which they must send one copy with their application to the Council for Professional Recognition in Washington, DC.   The Council is then paid directly by the PA Key.

To apply for CDA Assessment Fee Voucher click on “apply online” above.

If you are receiving funds from the Keys to Quality System, you are not eligible for the voucher program. (some exclusions may apply)

Please note:  Effective January 1, 2018, the Council for Professional Recognition has increased the application processing for candidates submitting paper applications to $500.  Candidates who utilize their online application system at www.cdacouncil.org, will continue to be charged $425.  At this time, the CDA Assessment Fee voucher will continue to be valued at $425.  Should you choose to utilize a paper application, you will be responsible for submitting the additional $75 fee in addition to the $425 CDA Assessment Voucher.  Paper applications submitted to the Council with only the $425 CDA Assessment Fee voucher will be returned to the applicant. 

RE: CDA ASSESSMENT FEE VOUCHER PROGRAM

Dear Head Start Professionals,

In the past, any Head Start agency who participated in STARS through the traditional route, was able to have their staff take advantage of the CDA Assessment Fee Voucher program. The program provides payment for the CDA Assessment Fee that is required to complete the CDA Assessment process. The full CDA Assessment Fee of $425 is paid directly to the Council for Professional Recognition. This program does not reimburse individuals.

With Head Start reciprocity, and all eligible Head Start agencies obtaining STAR 4, we will have to re-evaluate the availability of funding for vouchers for Head Start staff in 2018-19.  However, for the remainder of this fiscal year (2017-18), we are pleased to be able to continue to support all Head Start staff working in STAR 4 Head Start agencies under Reciprocity, with the voucher program.  All applicants must redeem their voucher by June 30th, 2018 if they are interested in taking advantage of this program.

The first step is to apply for a voucher – the application form can be found on the Pennsylvania Keys portal. Applications are then reviewed and are either approved or denied.  Please provide a copy of the Reciprocity letter that your organization received from OCDEL as verification that you qualify for Reciprocity.  Individuals whose applications are approved receive a voucher in the mail, which they must send to the Council for Professional Recognition in Washington, DC, along with the CDA Application. The Council is then paid directly by the Pennsylvania Key.

Reminder: 2018-2019 funding and policies for the CDA Assessment Fee Voucher coming soon

Questions? Contact us at 800-284-6031 option #2 or pakeyvoucherprogram@pakeys.org