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File Early, File Often

Earlier this month, Funds For Learning released an analysis on the philosophy of “waiting until the day after tomorrow” shared by many E-rate applicants. Based on the Forms 471 filed for Funding Year 2009, over 91% waited until the last month of the filling window to file their applications, with over 64% of all applicants waiting until the last week of the filling window.

We know that this influx of traffic the last week has negative effects. The SLD website slows down and logging in becomes more difficult. Stress levels rise, and in some cases, deadlines are missed. But this isn’t a new phenomenon. Procrastination in the program has been around since the beginning, yet applicants still wait. The potential of negative consequences aren’t enough to change behavior and spur earlier action.

So how about the potential of positive consequences?

According to a recent Funds For Learning analysis, there is a strong correlation between the time the applicant files, and the date of the Funding Commitment Decision Letter.

As the above chart demonstrates, applicants at all levels (Small: $1 to $14,999, Medium: $15,000 to $99,999, Large: $100,000 to $249,999, X-Large: $250,000 or more) that file earlier within the filing window, receive an FCDL quicker than their procrastinating peers.

Applicants that requested less than $15,000 in FY2009 and submitted their applications 46 or more days prior to the filing deadline (Feb 12, 2009) received their P1 FCDLs faster than anyone else (on average June 8, 2009). A similar applicant who waited until the filing deadline to submit their application received their P1 FCDL on July 20, on average.

Similar results can be seen for all applicant sizes. In fact, for most applicants, the larger the application the larger the disparity between the earlier filed FCDL and the later filed FCDL.

The applicants with the most to gain from early filing are the larger applicants. Large applicants that file outside of 46 days from the filing window on average receive their FCDL a month before than those that file within 45 days, and over 2 months before those that wait until the deadline.

The most significant factor in predicting whether or not an E-rate funding commitment will be utilized is its funding date. Applications that are funded before the start of the funding year have the highest utilization rate. The most significant factor in predicting whether the application will be funded before the start of the funding year is filing before 46 days prior to the closing of the filing window.

We still recommend that the filing window be reduced to 45 days, closing on approximately February 26th, as this would reduce many springtime scheduling conflicts (e.g. many schools have spring break in March) while still giving all applicants ample time to complete their Form 471(s) and giving USAC the time it needs to start reviewing applications. However, this seems unlikely for the FY11 filing window, so we highly recommend for applicants to file early and reap the early FCDL rewards.

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