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The Erate Needs Assessment

In 2021 we had two Erate funding windows open, so if the 2022 funding window snuck up on you, that is no surprise.  It is not too late to conduct your needs assessment for the 2022 funding year. Yes it is difficult to plan this far in advance, but Erate sets its funding window up about six months in advance of the next funding year. A needs assessment should be conducted to determine what the school will need and can then 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 next school year. 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. 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)

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. Be thorough, but do not delay. The needs assessment drives the next step-The Form 470. This last day to file this form is on February 22, 2022. 

Grant Consulting Services, LLC has over a dozen years of experience in helping schools to apply for Erate funding. Connect with us to learn more about our services at (760)237-8327 or info@grantconsultingservices.com.

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