What Is a Cooperative Agreement for Education?

If you search online for “what is a cooperative agreement for education,” you will see that a cooperative agreement is generally a written agreement between faculty and researchers or between educational institutions. They indicate a mutual interest in collaborating on academic research without committing the participants to any particular obligations.

When it comes to procurement, a cooperative agreement works in a similar manner.

What Is a Cooperative Agreement for Education Procurement?

What is a cooperative agreement for education procurement? It is an agreement enabling academic institutions to opt into making purchases at their discretion with no obligation. School districts, colleges, and universities use cooperative agreements to optimize purchasing power and streamline procurement.

Cooperative procurement agreements have become increasingly popular within the education sector for several key reasons.

Cost Savings through Collective Purchasing Power

Cooperative agreements allow educational institutions to accrue significant cost savings on a variety of goods and services. Schools, colleges, and universities can leverage their combined volume of purchasing needs to negotiate better prices with vendors by pooling their purchases.

Increased Efficiency

This streamlined process reduces administrative burdens and allows procurement teams to focus on more strategic tasks. Moreover, competitively solicited, ready-to-use contracts eliminate the need for individual institutions to conduct their own bidding and negotiation, saving time and staff resources.

Improved Accessibility and Choice

Educational institutions, particularly smaller schools with limited procurement resources, gain access to a wider range of vendors and products, often including specialized goods and services that may be difficult for individual institutions to source independently.

Enhanced Compliance

By adhering to established contracts and regulations, institutions can mitigate risks and ensure compliance with procurement laws. By following established guidelines, institutions protect themselves from potential legal and ethical concerns, fostering a procurement environment that adheres to policies.

Meeting Sustainability and Diversity Goals

Cooperative agreements can help source sustainable and diverse suppliers to meet specific goals, surfacing suppliers that otherwise might be challenging to find. While many institutions have implemented social responsibility guidelines, nearly half of procurement leaders surveyed say they have only a fair or poor process to identify and develop sustainability in their supply chains. Just 40% of organizations say they have a formal process to meet DEI initiatives in procurement.

Identifying certified sustainable products and diverse suppliers has generally been a manual process. Today, eProcurement platforms that focus on education may have competitively solicited cooperative agreements in place with both sustainable and certified diverse suppliers.

Shared Expertise

Collaboration within the cooperative provides access to knowledge and best practices, promoting continuous improvement in procurement processes. For example, working with E&I Cooperative Services, academic institutions have access to a team of professionals that focus specifically on the education sector and have years of experience in procurement.

Spend Analysis

Cooperative agreements provide you with an easy way to compare your current costs versus leveraging cooperative contracts.

Some cooperative purchasing organizations can also do a strategic assessment of your spending to identify suppliers, goods, and services that could reduce costs. Such spend analysis can also uncover ways to consolidate suppliers to maximize purchasing power and create additional savings in both cost and time.

The Future of Cooperative Agreements in Education

In 2024, many of the remaining federal stimulus dollars go away. Personnel costs are increasing significantly for educational faculty, administrative staff, and support staff. In several states, government budgets are shrinking as inflation has driven up costs, resulting in less available budget, even for critical areas like education.

Enrollments are declining at many colleges, universities, and public K–12 schools. The Center for Reinventing Public Education reports that nearly 40% of the nation’s largest school districts are concerned about staff reduction or even closures due to lost enrollment.

As school districts, colleges, and universities face growing budget constraints and resource challenges, the use and benefits of cooperative agreements are poised to grow. The scalability and adaptability of these agreements make them an attractive option for institutions of varying sizes and complexities to overcome funding challenges and optimize procurement spend.

About E&I Cooperative Services

E&I Cooperative Services is the only member-owned, non-profit sourcing cooperative that focuses exclusively on education. E&I helps its 6,000 member institutions make informed, analytics-driven decisions and offers a broad portfolio of competitively solicited cooperative purchasing agreements.

Contact E&I Cooperative Services today to learn about the benefits of becoming a member.


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