The people who manage the E-rate program for their school, district, library, or consortium don’t fit any single profile. According to our survey, most are administrators (43 percent) or IT coordinators (40 percent), although some are procurement officers (1 percent), accountants (7 percent), or even classroom educators (8 percent). This diversity among E-rate managers has important implications for schools, libraries, and the E-rate program itself.
E-rate managers who identified themselves as IT coordinators reported the most familiarity with various aspects of the program; overall, their self-reported familiarity with the E-rate process rated a 3.7 on a scale of 1 to 5. Educators and procurement officers reported the least familiarity with the E-rate process (rating 2.9 and 2.8, respectively)–most likely because the program’s requirements are furthest removed from their core job responsibilities.
The survey data reveal a key opportunity for federal officials to reach out to superintendents and senior-level staff members at eligible schools and libraries with guidance on how best to approach the E-rate, said John Harrington, CEO of E-rate consulting firm Funds For Learning LLC.
"One of the challenges of the E-rate is that it crosses many different aspects of a district," Harrington said. "But USAC doesn’t provide any training to applicants on how to staff it." If the agency offered advice about the kinds of functions or roles that are best suited to managing various aspects of the program, he said, applicants might have an easier time with the E-rate process.
Our survey also revealed a high rate of turnover among E-rate managers at schools and libraries. Nearly 40 percent of respondents said they’ve been managing the E-rate process for three years or less–and 19 percent said it was their first year doing this.
"You’ve got a bunch of people for whom this is totally new, and it takes a while for these people to get up to speed," Harrington said. This represents another opportunity for the Universal Service Administrative Co. to provide special training or outreach–in this case, to applicants who are new to the program–to help improve the E-rate, he added.
Sixty-four percent of respondents said they are the only person who manages the E-rate process for their school, district, library, or consortium. Thirty-four percent said their organization manages the E-rate process with two to five people, and 2 percent said their organization uses more than five people. Larger organizations and those with more complex applications reported using a greater number of people to manage the E-rate process.
In terms of the tools or resources that applicants use for help, 74 percent said they use a three-ring binder, 60 percent said they use internally developed spreadsheets, 35 percent said they use their state E-rate coordinator, and 18 percent said they use a professional consultant. There was virtually no difference between the percentage of smaller applicants (18 percent) and that of larger applicants (20 percent) who use consultants–or between the percentage of low-discount applicants (16 percent) and that of high-discount applicants (18 percent) who do so.
The average applicant spends 21 hours a month managing the E-rate process, though this varies widely depending on the type of applicant and the kinds of services requested. Here’s a closer look at how much time applicants spend on the process:
Hours Per Month Committed by Organization
Overall Average of Respondents 21 hrs
By Requested Amount
Less than $10,000 9 hrs
Between $10,000 and $100,000 12 hrs
Between $100,000 and $500,000 16 hrs
Between $500,000 and $1,000,000 28 hrs
More than $1,000,000 47 hrs
By Type of Funding Requested
Telecomm/Internet only 9 hrs
Internal Connections 21 hrs
By Entity Type
Library 7 hrs
Private School 9 hrs
School District 17 hrs
Consortium 29 hrs
By Size of School or District
Less than 5,000 students 12 hrs
Between 5,000 and 15,000 students 20 hrs
More than 15,000 students 36 hrs