Though the status of eRate applications from 2003 should be resolved shortly, most 2004 applicants will still be wondering how much eRate funding they are to receive before it’s time for them to apply again for 2005 funding.

The SLD announced on Nov. 5 that applicants will have 66 days in which to file applications the 2005 funding year. The application window, which is scheduled to open more than a month later than previous years and is shorter than the typical 75 days, will open Dec.14 and close Feb. 17.

“In essence, we lose [several] days of the window, but statistics say the majority of people don’t file until the very end [anyway],” said Gary Rawson, infrastructure planning and eRate coordinator for Mississippi’s Information Technology Services department and chairman of the State eRate Coordinator Alliance, which is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

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    Opening the window early doesn’t really benefit applicants, because they have too many questions each year that need to be resolved, Rawson said.

    The SLD is encouraging applicants to start the process early–whether filing online or by paper. Although there will be a new Form 470 for the 2005 program year, the SLD is strongly encouraging applicants to use an old form and start posting it before the window opens. (Form 470 must be posted to the SLD web site for 28 days before any contracts are signed and before applicants file their Form 471–meaning the latest schools can post a Form 470 and still meet the filing deadline is Jan. 20.)

    “There is no need to wait for the opening of the filing window to post Forms 470,” the SLD said on its web site. “If the existing Form 470 is used, that will be all that will be required for 470 posting for 2005–no additional action will be necessary.”

    The SLD continued, “If applicants wait for the opening of the filing window to file the Form 470, they may have difficulty completing the procurement process and filing the Form 471 by the close of the filing window.”

    A new Form 471 for the 2005 funding year will be available on the SLD web site when the filing window opens.