School and Library Eligibility

Schools and libraries must meet statutory definitions to be eligible for Schools and Libraries (E-Rate) program support.

Definition of a School

For purposes of universal service support, schools must meet the statutory definition of elementary and secondary schools found in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (20 U.S.C. Section 7801):

  • An elementary school is a non-profit institutional day or residential school, including a public elementary charter school, that provides elementary education, as determined under state law.
  • A secondary school is a non-profit institutional day or residential school, including a public secondary charter school, that provides secondary education, as determined under state law, except that such term does not include any education beyond grade 12.

Schools operating as for-profit businesses or that have endowments exceeding $50 million are not eligible. In some cases, non-traditional facilities and students may be eligible. For more information regarding specific eligibility of Head Start, pre-kindergarten, juvenile justice, and adult education student populations and facilities, visit the Non-traditional Education page. An Educational Service Agency (ESA), which may operate owned or leased instructional facilities, may be eligible for E-Rate program support if it provides elementary or secondary education as defined in state law.

School Residential Facilities – Starting in FY2011, the following school residential facilities became eligible for discounts:

  • Schools on Tribal lands;
  • Schools that serve children with physical, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities;
  • Schools that serve children with medical needs;
  • Juvenile justice schools, where eligible; and
  • Schools with 35 percent or more students eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

Definition of a Library

Libraries must meet the statutory definition of library or library consortium found in the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), as amended by the Museum and Library Services Act of 2018 (20 U.S.C. Section 9122) and be eligible for assistance from a state library administrative agency under that Act.

The definition of a library includes:

  • A public library
  • A public elementary school or secondary school library
  • A Tribal library
  • An academic library
  • A research library, one that makes publicly available library services and material suitable for scholarly research and not otherwise available to the public and is not an integral part of an institution of higher education
  • A private library, but only if the state in which such private library is located determines that the library should be considered a library for purposes of this definition

The FCC amended sections 54.500 and 54.501(b)(1) of the E-Rate program rules to include Tribal library in the definition of library in the Tribal Library Order (FCC 22-8) adopted January 27, 2022, and to clarify that Tribal libraries are by statute eligible for support from State library administrative agencies under the LSTA, and therefore are eligible for support from the E-Rate program.

Tribal libraries should be able to demonstrate three basic characteristics of a library:

  • regularly scheduled hours,
  • staff, and
  • materials available for library users.

Any Tribal library that is eligible for LSTA funding under the Museum and Library Services Act of 2018 which has not been validated in the E-Rate program should be prepared to demonstrate their eligibility by providing:

  • Documentation from an authorizing Tribal government entity (such as a charter or ordinance or letter from the Tribal Council), as well as documentation that shows that the applicant has characteristics of a library, including regular hours, staff, and materials, or
  • A signed letter from a state library agency.

For more details on how to get started in the E-Rate program if you are a Tribal library new to E-Rate, these resources are available: Tribal Leader Letter, Getting Started Checklist and E-Rate Tribal Training page.

A library’s eligibility for support also depends on its funding as an independent entity. Only libraries whose budgets are completely separate from any schools, including but not limited to, elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities shall be eligible to receive discounted services.

For example, an elementary school library is only eligible to receive discounted services if its budget is completely separate from the elementary school. If its budget is not completely separate from the elementary school, the elementary school library is not eligible for support independent from the school with which it is associated.