How to Spot an Effective E-Rate Consultant

This funding year, selecting an effective E-rate consultant is more important than ever.

With the announcement of new rules governing the federal E-rate program, selecting a strong E-rate consultant is more important than ever. In addition to a 20% increase in Category 2 funds, schools must now contend with newly defined, five-year E-rate funding cycles set to begin in 2021. The funding amounts within each cycle, moreover, will remain stable for each five-year period, no longer adjusting for inflation, as was the case previously. 

These changes present new opportunities and challenges for schools and other organizations hoping to make the most of their E-rate funds; crucial to successfully navigating the bidding process is an effective E-rate consultant. 

Effective E-rate consultants craft bids that serve your long-term goals.

More than any single quality, your E-rate consultant should work with your school’s leadership to craft a bid that supports your long-term goals. Perhaps your school is expanding within the next 2-3 years; you may like to provide each student with his or her own Chromebook, or even make heavy investments in educational software to support a new ELA curriculum.

No matter the case, an effective E-rate consultant is one who will sit down with your leadership team, map out your projected spending over the next several years, and begin crafting an effective bid based on your school’s needs. 

A strong E-rate bid allows your school to stay ahead of developments in educational technology.

In addition to thinking through longer-term investments, an effective E-rate consultant should help your school stay ahead of the curve when it comes to developments in educational technology. Rather than bidding for internal connections or software that may become obsolete in the next 1-2 years, your consultant should counsel your school to forego certain investments in the short-term if new innovations are just around the bend. 

More broadly, an effective E-rate consultant simply knows his or her stuff: rather than dragging you through endless conversations laden with technical jargon, your E-rate consultant should seek to understand your school’s long-term vision and, with the existing education technology landscape in mind, take it from there, saving you the time and energy necessary to run your school effectively. It’s not your job to know the precise specifications of a given piece of hardware: an effective E-rate consultant takes care of the details for you. 

Want to get a jump on system maintenance? Add these items to your E-rate bid. 

Central to your bid, too, should be any internal system maintenance required for the upcoming school year. As any school administrator or teacher can tell you, frequent WiFi outages or slow processing speeds can make the difficult task of running your school even more challenging, costing you precious instructional minutes within a given class period. 

As part of any intake process, your E-rate consultant should ask you about any technology deficits you’re currently experiencing and determine whether it’s appropriate to include any short- or long-term fixes in your annual bid. Rather than paying for expensive maintenance out of pocket, it may be wise for school teams to instead leverage federal dollars to address such issues. 

Erate Consultant Checklist

Your school is more likely to make the most of its E-rate funds if your consultant has worked with similar organizations in the past. 

Of course, nothing pays like experience, and it would be wise for school teams to ask prospective consultants about schools they’ve worked within the past. If your school is undergoing a dramatic facility renovation, adding a new site altogether, or simply expanding enrollment in particular grades, an E-rate consultant who has experience navigating similar situations can help you make the most of your annual funding.

In addition, E-rate consultants who work primarily with schools in a particular region will have a better sense of the existing provider landscape, crafting your bid in a manner that conforms with the services he or she knows are available in a particular region. While it may feel nice to fill your bid with the latest trends in education technology, it won’t matter if there aren’t providers in the region capable of fulfilling the needs of your bid. Instead, you’ll find yourself with a group of imperfect bids, none of which adequately serve the needs of your school or organization. 

Your school has a unique mission. Your E-rate consultant should work with you to create a bid that supports your organization’s goals. 

If there’s one thing we know at CTS, it’s that each school has a unique mission. Our job is to craft technology solutions that support that mission and make it a reality for administrators, teachers, and students. Having earned 434 E-rate awards with a total value of more than $10 million, we know what it takes to meet your school’s education technology needs. Contact us today to learn more about how you can leverage your school’s E-rate funds to support the unique mission of your school.