This program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. The program helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; offers students a broad array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.

Awards are made to SEAs annually, which in turn manage statewide competitions and award grants to eligible entities. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program is a Formula-based grant program. For this program, eligible entity means local education agencies (LEAs), community-based organizations, Indian tribe or tribal organization, another public or private entity, or a consortium of 2 or more such agencies, organizations or entities. Faith-based organizations are also eligible and may apply to states for subgrants.