Digital learning technologies are no longer an addendum to the traditional educational experience in the United States. In elementary schools, 45 percent of students use at least one digital learning tool a day. Over 60 percent of middle and high school students use e-learning tools daily.
With entire school districts across the country switching to online learning during the pandemic, thousands of students at all grade levels rely on digital learning tools for the majority of the school day. Because of the benefits of e-learning – it offers educators and students more flexibility, and digital educational experiences can increase information retention by 25 percent to 60 percent – it’s no surprise that the e-learning market is expected to keep growing.
This increasing reliance on online learning makes it even more critical to ensure all schools have access to affordable technologies so they can provide students the same opportunities and benefits. The E-rate program does just that. Find out if your school may benefit and what next steps eligible schools can take to get started with E-rate.
What is the E-rate program?
The E-rate program, also known as the Schools and Libraries Program, is a federally funded program created by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to increase equity in education in the digital era. It gives schools and libraries the ability to purchase discounted telecommunications services and products. That way, these institutions can offer students of all ages adequate internet speeds and Wi-Fi access so they can take advantage of digital learning technologies.
Who qualifies for the E-rate program?
Both schools and libraries are eligible. Schools can be public or private K-12 institutions. For-profit schools with endowments exceeding $50 million aren’t eligible. If your school is eligible for E-rate, it can apply for discounts for products and services listed on the FCC’s Eligible Services List. These include:
- Data transmission and internet access
- Internal connections such as routers, switches, hubs, and wiring
- Managed Internal Broadband Services (MIBS), which include third-party services for operations, management, and monitoring of internal connections
- Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections (BMIC)
What are the benefits of E-rate?
With E-rate, your school may save on necessary telecommunications and IT hardware, installation, and maintenance. Servers, cybersecurity solutions, wireless network equipment and configuration, and cabling supplies are all included.
The benefits of a program like this are immense. It allows grade-level educational institutions to upgrade their IT infrastructure and install necessary telecommunications connections and supplies to deliver quality online learning experiences for all students.
With discounts as high as 90 percent for E-rate, the program can help prevent inequalities in education and allow schools to afford technologies that otherwise wouldn’t fit into the budget. Instead of relying on outdated IT, educators can ensure their technology is up-to-date, and students can access the tools they need to be successful.
How to apply for the E-rate program
If your school is eligible, you can submit a request for competitive bids to the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC). You can request bids for discounts on the specific goods and services your institution needs. Vendors will then bid on the requests, and your school can choose the most cost-effective solutions.
The funding for the program is capped. For 2019, it was set at $4.15 billion. If the demand for E-rate discounts exceeds the available funds, the highest poverty schools and libraries will get priority.
Navigating the E-rate application and bidding process can be complicated. To ensure your students get the technology they need at the best prices possible, we can help.