Many school districts that benefited from federal pandemic-related funds are finding that the well is running dry at a time when equipment and technology refreshes are coming due. These districts would benefit from financing options to spread out the cost of acquiring new technology over multiple budget years, while making critical updates to technology now.
The influx of free money has come to an end
According to research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the American Rescue Plan included $350 billion in Fiscal Recovery Funds that states, localities, territories and tribal governments could decide how to spend. A significant portion of this funding was directed to schools under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds to support staffing, facility, and technology needs.
As a result, for the past couple of years, school districts have been flush with money to modernize equipment and deploy technology such as remote learning capabilities. The incremental funding gave many schools a unique opportunity to provide devices for every student. It was a refresh that schools badly needed to keep up with technology advances, but also created procurements that many schools were forced to make happen almost overnight during the early days of the pandemic.
There were also persistent supply chain disruptions. The “take whatever we can get” procurement directives meant some of the equipment schools purchased wasn’t intended for longer term use, and created a mixed pool of devices across a school’s technology platform, which resulted in a challenging support environment.
Financing provides opportunities for seamless upgrades
Many schools have built out their entire curriculum using a 1:1 device philosophy where each student has access to their own device. If your child has been bringing a tablet or laptop home for the last two or three years, you continue to expect him/her to bring a device home for homework and potential remote learning. Schools can’t just take those devices away or let them fail, as they’d be rolling back the technology advances and investment in the electronically delivered curriculum they’ve already made.
Since schools also aren’t flush with funds to purchase thousands or potentially millions of dollars of technology, financing becomes a great option. Districts can acquire new equipment that’s optimized for longer-term use and spread the payment over the course of several fiscal years. This way, they can afford payments on terms that work for their annual budget appropriations without relying on another influx of money from the federal government. This approach also allows schools to avoid staggered rollouts of equipment over a period of years, creating a more homogeneous support environment.
Software, services, and infrastructure are also needed
Devices aren’t the only upgrades many schools are due for - they also need to consider the software that runs and protects those devices and the infrastructure needed to support them. The additional cost of software licenses and the services needed to keep networks safe from cyberattacks is another reason financing can be appealing. KeyBank’s financing packages can include the actual devices, accessories, software, support services, and third-party deployment costs if needed.
Although the federal money well has largely run dry, school districts can easily continue with their plans to upgrade and enhance their technology by leveraging equipment financing as an option.
Mark Casel is senior vice president at Key Equipment Finance and has 35 years of experience in the industry. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.