Research Report E-Rate and American Indian-Serving Schools
Who Applies and Who Gets Funded?
Duncan Chaplin
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This report was prepared for the U.S. Department of Education. The project monitor was Jeffery Rodamar. Any opinions, observations, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Urban Institute.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Executive Summary
The Potential of E-Learning
The E-Rate Program
American Indians
Formative Evaluation of the E-Rate Program
BIA Data
Appendix: Tables and Figure

Executive Summary

The Universal Service Fund for Schools and Libraries, commonly referred to as the E-Rate program, is a federal initiative designed to help provide Internet access to schools. In this report, we analyze how participation in the E-Rate program by public schools varies with the fraction of students who are American Indians, particularly for schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). We use administrative data covering the 1st and 2nd years of the program. This study finds that:

Most non-BIA schools serving American Indians applied for the E-Rate program. The application rates vary from a high of over 80 percent for schools with 0-2 percent American Indian enrollment to a low around 60 percent for schools with 50-80 percent American Indians. Interestingly, schools with no American Indian students were in between, with application rates around 75 percent.

Size Matters: While application rates generally increase with the size of the school, the participation rates of non-BIA schools with over 80 percent American Indian enrollment were not as clearly related to school size.

BIA schools greatly increased their E-Rate use between Years 1 and 2. Although the application rate of BIA schools was very low in the first year of the E-Rate program (at only 35 percent), by the second year the BIA schools had the highest application rate of any group of schools analyzed (at over 95 percent), and received more than three times the national average in per student funding commitments. Total commitments to BIA schools rose by a factor of 20, from only $300,000 in Year 1 to over $6 million in Year 2.

All BIA applicants were funded. All BIA schools that applied received at least some funding in both years of the program, in comparison to about 98 percent of all schools that applied.

BIA schools had high application rates compared to similar schools in Year 2. BIA application rates for the E-Rate program are higher than other schools with similar levels of poverty and urban location, which are the factors that determine the E-Rate discount rate. The BIA schools also had much higher application rates than other schools with 100 percent American Indian enrollment.


The author would like to thank a number of individuals whose assistance was invaluable to this effort. Jeffery Rodamar, of the Planning and Evaluation Service at the U.S. Department of Education, provided important information, insights, and overall guidance. Linda Roberts and Carole Wacey, with the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, also assisted greatly in these areas.

This project would not have been possible without the cooperation and assistance of the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Company, which provided the administrative data used in this analysis. Similarly, I would like to thank Peter Camp at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who provided a complete list of BIA schools and quick answers to many inquiries.

Finally, I would like to thank several of my colleagues at the Urban Institute for their tireless help: Kristen Olson, Dulari Tahbildar, Latasha Holloway, Alissa Anderson, David Perry, and Michael Puma.

All errors, however, are the responsibility of the author.

Research Areas Education Race and equity
Tags Racial and ethnic disparities K-12 education Racial equity in education