Urban or Rural Status
Urban or Rural Status within E-Rate is based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s delineation. An individual school or library is designated as “urban” or “rural” based on the Census block it is located in, the urban area it is located in, and the urban area population. If the urban area has a population of 25,000 or more, it is determined to be “urban” for the E-Rate program.
Any school or library not designated as “urban” is designated as “rural.”
The Urban/Rural status for funding year (FY) 2024 and forward is determined using 2020 Census Bureau data. The Urban/Rural status for FY 2015 to FY 2023 was determined using 2010 Census Bureau data.
If your E-Rate discount rate is 80% or higher, there is no difference between an urban or rural designation (i.e., the discount would be the same for both designations at 80% or higher) per the E-Rate Discount Matrix.
Note: Existing applicants can use the new Entity Search Tool on USAC’s Open Data website to find information about their urban or rural status. Watch the video walkthrough to learn about how to use the Entity Search Tool.
New applicants can check their urban or rural status using the E-Rate Urban Rural Lookup Procedure.
Urban/Rural status for an individual school or library
USAC compares the address of record for a school or library to U.S. Census Bureau data to determine if the school or library is in an area that is considered urban or rural. USAC’s database is then updated to reflect the appropriate status, as follows:
- “Urban” if the school or library is designated as urban.
- “Rural” if the school or library is designated as rural.
Urban/Rural discount for a school district or library system
If more than 50 percent of the schools in a school district or libraries in a library system are designated rural, the school district or library system is eligible for a rural discount. If 50 percent or fewer of the entities are designated rural, the school district or library system is eligible for an urban discount.
- An individual school that is part of a school district must use the discount calculated for its school district.
- An independent school – a school not affiliated financially or operationally with a school district – uses only its student population numbers to determine the level of poverty and the urban or rural status of its physical location for its discount calculation.
- Non-instructional facilities (NIFs) – including NIFs with classrooms – do not have an urban or rural status and do not count toward the urban or rural determination for the school district.
- Charter schools that are part of the school district count towards the school district’s urban or rural determination.
- If a school has several locations not on the same campus (and therefore several different entity numbers) but is considered to be a single school by the state, only the main location counts toward the urban or rural determination for the school district.
- A school that does not serve as the home school for any students and is considered a school by the state (for example, a vocational education school) counts toward the urban or rural determination for the school district.
- A group of schools that acts as a school district (for example, diocesan schools that share a common board and are not individually responsible for finances and administration) may file as a school district and determine the “school district” eligibility as described above for an urban or rural discount.
Individual library branches (outlets)
- An individual library branch that is part of a library system must use the discount calculated for its library system.
- An independent library – for example, a library that does not share a common board with other libraries and is individually responsible for its finances and administration – uses only the level of poverty based on National School Lunch Program (NSLP) data from the public school district in which it is physically located and the urban or rural status of its physical location for its discount calculation.
- NIFs do not have an urban or rural status and do not count toward the urban or rural determination for the library system.
- Bookmobiles and kiosks can be considered library branches and are counted toward the urban or rural determination for the library system. USAC uses the address in its database for the bookmobile or kiosk to determine its urban or rural status.
Consortia and statewide applications
- Consortium and statewide applicants do not have an urban or rural status. Each consortium application’s discount is determined based on the entities included on that application. Additional details are available on the Consortia page of the E-Rate website.