NHSA Launches “Head Start Promise” Academic Pathway to Bolster Head Start Workforce

Built in collaboration with National University, the Head Start Promise will create a pathway to a college degree in early childhood education for Head Start and Early Head Start educators

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 12, 2023) — Today, the National Head Start Association announced an ambitious new collaboration with National University’s Sanford College of Education, designed to address the shortage of highly-qualified Head Start and Early Head Start professionals. This initiative–the Head Start Promise–creates a focused pathway designed for anyone who is committed to building a better future for America’s historically underserved children, families, and communities.

The launch of Head Start Promise comes at a time when the early learning sector has shrunk by 9.7 percent over the last three years. Our nation’s flagship early learning program, Head Start and Early Head Start, faces an acute shortage of qualified professionals. Results of a recent NHSA survey show 18% of Head Start staff positions vacant nationwide, with 77% of respondents reporting vacancies are higher than usual.

“Families and communities across the country are feeling the effects of the urgent and unremitting staffing shortage. To close the gap, we must invest in the education and success of those who are just entering this field and looking to make a long-term career in the profession,” said Yasmina Vinci, NHSA’s executive director. “This is about helping high-potential community leaders–those who wake up everyday excited to make a real difference in the lives of the children and families they serve–to have viable, long-term, rewarding careers in Head Start.”

The program will provide a more inclusive, affordable pathway to degree completion for the Head Start workforce, who are 7.7 times more likely than K-12 teachers to be living under the poverty line. Scholarships offered by National University to Head Start Promise Scholars will make enrollment affordable to all eligible Head Start and Early Head Start staff.  Promise Scholars who are 100% eligible for a Pell Grant can earn each certificate for less than $900 out-of-pocket.

“Colleges of education have a unique responsibility to help address the nationwide shortage of talent by developing offerings that meet the needs of the birth-to-five workforce,” said Dr. Robert Lee, dean of the Sanford College of Education at National University. “The Head Start Promise is about increasing equity and opportunity for those who serve our youngest learners. It’s about providing greater recognition—and college credit— removing barriers and paving the way to earning a degree.”

Head Start Promise academic pathway consists of five stackable certificates that provide Head Start and Early Head Start professionals with a flexible pathway to a bachelor’s degree —along with scaffolded academic support to help achieve their goals.

About National Head Start Association: The National Head Start Association (NHSA) is a nonprofit organization committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in life. NHSA is the voice for more than 1 million children, 245,000 staff and 1,600 Head Start grant recipients in the United States. Since 1974, NHSA has worked diligently for policy changes that ensure all at-risk children have access to the Head Start model of support for the whole child, the family and the community. Learn more: nhsa.org

About National University: National University, a Veteran-founded nonprofit, has been dedicated to meeting the needs of hard-working adults by providing accessible, affordable higher education opportunities since 1971. As San Diego’s largest private nonprofit university, NU offers over 125 online and on-campus programs and flexible four-week and eight-week classes designed to help students reach their goals while balancing busy lives. Since its founding, the NU community has grown to 40,000 students and 230,000 alumni around the globe, many of whom serve in helping industries such as business, education, health care, cybersecurity, and law and criminal justice. To learn more about National University’s new possibilities in education including next-generation education, credential-rich education, and whole human education, visit NU.edu.

Learn More About Our University and Scholarships

Join our email list!

Recent Resources

Your passion. Our Programs.

Choose an Area of Study

Your passion. Our Programs.

Select a degree level

View Programs