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How To Conduct An Erate Needs Assessment

Bells, sanitized desks, and screams of delight on the playground mean that schools are back in session, and in-person!!  Now that school administrators and IT techs have worked out most of the kinks in reopening schools after Covid, and for the new school year, it is time to look ahead to next year’s technology request for Erate. A needs assessment should be conducted to determine what the school will need, and can request from the Erate program. 

The needs assessment should include looking at how technology can be used to support student learning. It should also consider how technology can improve information safety, tools for teachers, and staff productivity. If the school has a strategic or technology plan, this can be utilized by school leaders to help determine what the school’s technology needs will be for the next school year. It is recognized that forecasting technology needs 7-8 months in advance is difficult. 

What Does Erate Provide Funding For?

Erate provides reimbursement funds for two different categories:

Category 1

Category one is for Internet services that do not have a fixed budget. This is a great way to boost up bandwidth to help improve online learning and test-taking. Through the Erate program, the school will always have to pay a portion of the expenses (cost share) for Internet, equipment, and maintenance. The school cost share depends on the number of students that qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). 

Category 2 

Category two is for Internal connections (equipment), and ongoing maintenance. Category 2 has a set budget. The budget is currently set at $167 per student over a five-year period. For example, If the school has 200 students:

200 x $167= $33,500 

The school receives $35,000 to spend on equipment and ongoing maintenance over a five-year period.

What Kinds Of Equipment Is Eligible For Erate?

A current list of Erate eligible equipment includes:

• Antennas, connectors, and related components used for internal broadband connections

• Cabling

• Caching server

• Firewall services and firewall components separate from basic firewall protection provided

as a standard component of a vendor’s Internet access service

• Racks

• Routers

• Switches

• Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)/Battery Backup

• Access points used in a local area network (LAN) or wireless local area network (WLAN)

environment (such as wireless access points)

• Wireless controller systems

• Software supporting the components on this list used to distribute high-speed broadband

throughout school buildings and libraries (applicants should request software in the same

category as the associated service being obtained or installed)

Why Conduct A Needs Assesment?

Conducting a needs assessment prior to moving to the next step in the Erate process is essential in order to determine the school’s specific projected needs for additional bandwidth in the next school year. Internet pricing tends to be slightly lower each year, so understanding the needs provides an advantage when seeking quotes for services. The needs assessment for equipment should include the make, model, and quantity needed by the school. 

Pro Tip:

Make sure your new services or equipment will work with older equipment. For example, if you plan to increase bandwidth, check to ensure your Firewall can handle the additional throughput.  

Conducting a thorough needs assessment will help the school to be better prepared to move to the next Erate step: The Open Bidding Process.

More Articles In This Series:

What Is Erate?

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