What Are the Benefits of Education Group Purchasing

Cooperative purchasing has fundamentally shifted how educational institutions source everything from cafeteria food to campus construction materials to technology services. By leveraging their collective buying power, colleges and universities nationwide are saving money and streamlining processes, enabling them to refocus their administration teams on strategic goals.

The Benefits of Education Group Purchasing

The value that education group purchasing provides institutions ranges from financial perks to operational advantages and risk reduction.

Financial Benefits

The main financial benefit of education group purchasing is from bulk discounts on products and services. By aggregating spend across schools and universities, you can negotiate considerable cost savings from suppliers. These discounts can produce significant bottom-line savings for individual institutions, which they likely could not achieve on their own. For example, E&I Cooperative Services leverages the bulk buying power of its 6,000 educational institution members to leverage significant savings. E&I Cooperative Services also provides rebates to members based on participation levels. In 2021, for example, the member-owned cooperative returned a record $8.7 million to its 6,000 members in the form of patronage revenues and redemption of equity certificates.

Operational Efficiencies

A cooperative purchasing group for education simplifies procurement. Rather than having to spend significant time and effort to research suppliers, solicit bids, negotiate contracts, and manage supplier relationships, the purchasing group manages the bulk of the process. This allows colleges and universities to focus on strategic goals rather than handling routine transactions, knowing they are getting best-in-class pricing. Compare the traditional lengthy procurement process to the fast and streamlined way group purchasing agreements work.
Identify needs Identify needs
Write RFP/RFQ Research cooperative contracts
Advertise RFP/RFQ Get approval
Provide adequate response time Opt-in to cooperative contract
Review bids
Get approval
Not only do you save money with cooperative agreements by using education group purchasing power, but you also significantly reduce the time it takes to complete purchases.

Access to Expertise

A key benefit of working with an education group purchasing partner is access to deep expertise and category knowledge. Most group purchasing organizations employ dedicated teams across areas like facilities maintenance, IT hardware, capital equipment sourcing, and more, which provide market intelligence and benchmarking. This leads to better pricing and more favorable terms. This depth of resources also allows schools to get guidance navigating highly technical or specific categories without needing to build such capabilities internally.

Risk Mitigation

Contract terms negotiated by group purchasing organizations also mitigate a range of risks for institutions through legal and regulatory compliance. By centrally managing competitive solicitations and securing contractual commitments, such as general and professional liability coverages, cyber insurance minimums, and product quality assurances, a purchasing group for education can reduce liability exposures for members. Additionally, the collective bargaining power of the education group often improves the ability to demand favorable concessions, indemnifications, product warranties, and other protections from suppliers—helping transfer the risk away from the college or university.

Group Purchasing Organizations vs. Cooperatives

Some schools utilize the services of a group purchasing organization (GPO) to help facilitate procurement. However, who you partner with can make a big difference in savings and performance. Some GPOs charge a membership fee, require minimum purchasing levels, or take a significant percentage of the sale price as their fee. E&I Cooperatives Services is a member-owned, non-profit sourcing cooperative that does not charge for membership. There is no obligation to use any of the competitively solicited contracts and no minimum purchase commitment. E&I Cooperatives Services also has an industry-low fee, which is paid by the suppliers at no cost to the higher educational institution. As a non-profit, any proceeds beyond costs are paid back to member institutions in the form of patronage refunds. As colleges and universities face unrelenting budget constraints, the proven benefits of utilizing a purchasing group for education for cooperative agreements provide significant savings in time and money—some organizations see savings in the millions of dollars. Utilizing cooperative agreements from a partner you can trust enables procurement teams to work more efficiently and streamline the end-to-end procurement process.

Choose E&I Cooperative Services

E&I Cooperative Services is the only member-owned, non-profit sourcing cooperative that focuses exclusively on education. Staffed by procurement experts who know the education sector, E&I Cooperative Services can leverage broad buying power and help its members make better purchasing decisions. Offering a wide range of competitively solicited contracts, members can broaden their supplier base and ensure compliance with institutional priorities—all while reducing the time and effort it takes to handle transactions. Contact E&I Cooperative Services today to learn about the benefits of becoming a member.


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