INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s new two-year state budget will make thousands more families eligible for grants to send their 4-year-old children to pre-K.

For many families across Indiana, affording child care is a challenge.

“It costs more to send a child to child care than it does to send a child to Ball State for a semester,” said Missy Modesitt, the executive director of Muncie By5, an early childhood education coalition in rural Delaware County.

In urban Marion County, it’s a similar story.

“I especially think of all of the single family households that they might be blessed with that job that pays a little bit more, but they still might be battling with a financial burden,” said Chelsea Ndaiga, school leader at IU Health Day Early Learning Center in Indianapolis.

Ndaiga said that’s why she’s excited state lawmakers have expanded access to the state’s On My Way Pre-K program, which provides tuition funding to low-income families of 4-year-olds.

Eligibility is determined by household income in relation to the federal poverty line.

Under the current requirements, families making up to 127% of the federal poverty line can receive grants; for example, a family of four making up to $38,000 a year would be eligible.

The income threshold for a family of that size will jump to $45,000 when the new budget takes effect July 1. It will allow families making up to 150% of the federal poverty line to qualify.

“We’re thrilled with the progress,” said Maureen Weber, president and CEO of Early Learning Indiana. “There is always more work to do as we make sure that all children receive access to high-quality early learning opportunities.”

Before any further expansion, Republican lawmakers say several factors need to be considered, such as capacity.

“Build-out is a big piece of that equation,” said State Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond), who chairs the Senate Education committee. “The Early Learning Advisory Council, we’re looking to them to bring us back some information on these things.”

Statehouse Democrats had called for lawmakers to take steps toward universal pre-K, but Republicans, who hold a supermajority in the legislature, did not agree to that kind of measure.