How Can Private Schools Benefit from E-rate Funding?
E-rate funding is a great resource that allows all schools — not just public ones — to increase their connectivity! Learn how private schools can effectively leverage E-rate.
E-rate, or the Universal Service Schools and Libraries Program, is a government-funded program designed to help schools and libraries implement digital learning for students without breaking the bank. That includes funding access to high-speed internet and telecommunication services and to broader digital devices. It comes in two categories, each of which targets specific digital and connectivity needs.
While the program has been around for over 20 years, it continues to confuse many who would like to take advantage of it. It’s often unclear who exactly qualifies for the program, what they can use it for, and how to make the most of the program. One of the biggest misconceptions about E-rate is that it’s only available to public schools. In fact, any non-profit private school or charter school can also access E-rate funding to keep their students prepared and up to date with the latest technology. But the E-rate application process can be fairly tricky if you’re trying to navigate it alone. Read on for tips on getting started with E-rate.
Can Private Schools Really Access E-rate Funding?
Yes! E-rate funding is available to any non-profit private or charter school and the process of accessing that funding is identical whether you’re applying on behalf of a private school, public school, or library. The E-rate program identifies which network assets at a school are eligible for special funding and then calculates the school’s discount levels for those network assets based on the percentage of its students who qualify for reduced-price school lunches.
If you’re confused about whether you qualify and how you can make the most of your potential E-rate funding, an experienced partner can be a great resource in navigating the complex E-rate application process.
What’s the Difference Between Category One and Category Two E-rate Funding?
As mentioned earlier, E-rate funding falls into two categories. Although private schools are generally eligible for E-rate, the division of the categories means some schools may be unable to use all of their potential E-rate funding. The categories are:
- Category One: Category One E-rate funding is reserved for schools that need basic internet access. This includes funding for broadband circuits, like fiber wire construction, and more.
- Category Two: Category Two funding is meant to support the broader network infrastructure within a building. The funding is reserved for purchasing new switches, wireless access points, routers, firewalls, structured cabling, controllers, and more. Essentially, it can be spent on any onsite hardware that supports better connectivity for a stronger network. This funding is particularly useful for schools looking to implement ed-tech initiatives — like the increasingly popular 1:1 device initiative — in the classroom since these require a robust network backbone.
Exemptions and Limitations to E-Rate
The good news for private schools is that there are very few exemptions or limitations to E-rate funding access — any K-12 private school is eligible. The exceptions are for-profit private schools and schools with an endowment exceeding $50 million, making these schools ineligible for E-rate.
As long as your private school is non-profit with an endowment under $50 million, you should be eligible for E-rate!
Some E-rate Application Tips
One of the biggest problems with E-rate is the complexity of the application process. The best way to get through that process is by turning to an experienced partner, but for those looking to complete the application on their own, here are a few tips to follow:
- Start early: Make sure you file form 470 as early as possible. By not procrastinating until the final day, you reduce the number of schools you’ll be competing against, which means more bids.
- Plan far ahead: When thinking about what to request in your application, think about how much Wi-Fi access and high-speed broadband you’ll need over the next two or three years, if not even more. Often you will submit requests long before you actually purchase the equipment, meaning those requests can become outdated if you don’t plan ahead.
- Follow the rules closely: Most E-rate denials happen because of mistakes schools make during the bidding process. Make sure to follow all the rules to the letter to ensure you have the best chance of approval.
- Understand what you can use E-rate for: There is a lot you can use E-rate for — including a lot you may not realize can be covered by the funding. Do your research ahead of time or work with an experienced partner who can guide you.
Start Accessing Your E-rate Funding Today
E-rate is a great resource for schools — whether public or private — looking to increase their connectivity and empower their students to succeed. Unfortunately, accessing those funds can be challenging without the help of an expert that has gone through the process before.
At Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI), we have the experience and the resources to help administrators navigate the complexities of E-rate funding, simultaneously removing the burden from a school’s internal resources and increasing the chances of a successful application.
Contact us today to find out how TTI can help you secure and leverage E-rate funds to support cutting-edge education technology in your private school.
By Tony Ridzyowski