Cyber safety challenges — and the often-pricey tools designed to overcome them — are a fact of life. Sure, the cheapest cybersecurity solution is to just give up using every piece of technology that poses any sort of risk — but that would leave your school with chalkboards and paper spreadsheets.
Suffice it to say that your students (and faculty and staff, too) probably wouldn’t be thrilled.
The good news is that cybersecurity doesn’t have to drain your budget. With a number of financial assistance options to choose from, it’s possible to get what your schools need.
Here’s what you need to know about cybersecurity grants for education and how they help create academic excellence every day.
Why should schools apply for a cybersecurity grant?
The story of any cybersecurity grant begins with one simple fact: Digital defense is a pain.
That’s because cybercriminals are both clever and determined. Even with the best cybersecurity education and information systems in the world, your school would still be up against some tough competition.
Here are some of the top cybersecurity challenges facing K-12 schools:
As the National Center for Education Statistics reports, almost 70% of K-12 schools said teaching positions might go unfilled due to a lack of applicants. 63% said the same was true for non-teaching roles — which is bad news for a school’s cybersecurity workforce and computer science expertise.
Many public schools have tight budgets, which means they have little to spend on cybersecurity education, professional development, and cutting-edge information technology. To a hacker, that makes you a sitting duck.
Cybercriminals are targeting student data more and more every year. In fact, according to Microsoft data from March 7, 2023, almost 80% of educational devices had encountered malware in the past 30 days, making this the most-affected industry. Plus, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, digital attacks have steadily increased since 2016. Digital threats are becoming more sophisticated, numerous, and dangerous — but K-12 security measures aren’t keeping up.
The moral of the story? Don’t feel bad if your school struggles with cybersecurity — you’re not alone.
Luckily, cybersecurity education grants just might save the day. A grant offers pathways to overcoming these challenges, protecting student information, and seamlessly navigating data privacy laws and regulations — all without eating into your budget.
Top grant options for K-12 cybersecurity
Ready to dip your toes into the world of financial aid? Try the Grant Finder Tool from Schoolsafety.gov — and in the meantime, check out these top options for a cybersecurity grant:
State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program
This grant, announced by the Department of Homeland Security in late 2022, will distribute a total of $1 billion to state and local governments across the country.
Your school won’t directly apply for the grant; instead, your state will apply. According to K-12 Dive, states must allocate at least 80% of these funds to local government agencies, including school districts like yours. Your state will likely conduct an assessment to determine overall financial need, so be prepared to communicate your cybersecurity challenges and goals.
Homeland Security Grant Program
This grant provides funds to help governments “prevent, protect against, and respond to terrorist attacks” — and that includes cybersecurity threats. Only a State Administrative Agency (SAA) can apply for this funding, so you’ll have to go through them if you want to be considered as a sub applicant.
Proposed Cybersecurity Grants for Schools Act of 2022
If this act is passed, it will allow the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to award financial aid at “elementary and secondary education levels.” That means schools like yours could get help funding cybersecurity education for students, cybersecurity workforce development, and more.
More ways to bring in the cybersecurity bucks
Your school isn’t limited to any one kind of funding opportunity. Here are a few non-grant options to keep your eye on:
- E-rate: Managed by the Federal Communications Commission, this program provides discounts on tools and solutions for computer science, information technology, and more.
While it’s true that most education tech leaders and experts agree that E-rate is woefully outdated in terms of what funding can be used for cybersecurity, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s possible to use E-rate to offset some other technology costs in a way that can, in theory, free up some budget for cybersecurity expenditures.
- ESSER: The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund may be used for cybersecurity and information technology needs related to COVID-19 challenges.
- ARP: The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides funds for a variety of government needs. This act was further amended by the Final Rule for the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (Recovery Funds) portion of the ARP, which states that governments can use funds for “modernization of cybersecurity, including hardware, software, and protection of critical infrastructure.”
Spending your grant: Best ways to improve cybersecurity
Finding grants and meeting eligibility criteria is only half of the journey. Once you get your grant, you still have to use it according to any requirements or regulations put in place by the grantor. This generally includes cybersecurity protections and activities, such as:
- Starting a professional development program
- Securing endpoint devices
- Auditing third-party vendors
- Reviewing app privacy policies
- Ensuring compliance with state and federal privacy regulations
- Educating students on common signs of phishing and malware
- Implementing multi-factor authentication, data encryption, and other security solutions
If you want to get the most bang for your buck, your best bet is to invest in a cloud security platform like ManagedMethods. This single source of automated security creates a unified, protected cloud environment — not just for data, but for users too.
Better yet, ManagedMethods doesn’t require browser extensions, gateways, or other virtual hoops for your school to jump through. That means you don’t need a team of cybersecurity professionals with years of experience; your students, staff, and faculty will all be able to learn and use your improved cloud environment without interrupting classroom learning experiences.
From screening third-party apps to viewing and managing permissions, you’ll have everything you need to overcome the challenges of modern cybersecurity.