Why You Should Consider an Education Group Purchasing Organization (GPO)

The headlines these days are not exactly encouraging. Budget deficits in California are calling for wide spending cuts at schools and colleges. Sunsetting of federal dollars looks to reduce budgets by 8% in Colorado and a loss of $2.8 billion in Chicago schools alone. School districts in Michigan and elsewhere are laying off staff. As labor costs continue to rise, while goods and services are more expensive, schools need to make difficult decisions.

Schools, colleges, and universities are seeking new ways to stretch their budgets and implementing strict cost controls to weather the storm ahead. Partnering with an education group purchasing organization (GPO) can help.

What Are Group Purchasing Organizations for Education and Their Benefits?

GPOs solicit and negotiate contracts on behalf of their members, using the power of bulk buying to reduce costs and streamline procurement, which yields a wide range of benefits.

Achieve Significant Cost Savings

The biggest benefit of working with a GPO is the cost savings. By aggregating the purchasing power of hundreds of schools and colleges, GPOs can secure considerable discounts directly from manufacturers and vendors.

These savings apply across a vast range of categories—from basic classroom and office supplies to large capital equipment purchases. For a small school, saving 30% through better pricing quickly translates to hundreds of thousands in savings. For a large state university system, total cost reductions can reach into the millions per year.

Streamline Procurement Operations

Procuring all the supplies, services, and equipment a typical educational institution requires is an enormous labor and resource-intensive undertaking. Faculty, administrators, and procurement teams have to competitively solicit suppliers, collect quotes, run bids, negotiate with vendors, and manage contracts and renewals for a wide variety of items.

Joining a GPO helps schools outsource much of this procurement workload. Instead of handling the entire, complex contracting process themselves, members can simply use existing GPO agreements to secure the best possible pricing and terms. A few clicks can secure deeply discounted products or services without the hassle of managing suppliers on their own. This allows overburdened procurement staff to refocus their time on more strategic initiatives and handle the volume of purchasing that needs to be done.

Increase Contracting Expertise

GPOs typically maintain large teams of professionals who specialize in sourcing, contracting, compliance, and purchasing in specific sectors. Working as an extension of the member’s procurement staff, they know market pricing and what terms and conditions are negotiable, resulting in better overall deals.

Small schools without dedicated purchasing experts can benefit enormously by leveraging experienced GPO contracting personnel. While large universities may have sizable procurement departments, GPO knowledge and resources can supplement their capabilities.

Ensure Procurement Compliance

Keeping current on evolving regulations, policies, codes, and statutes that govern education procurement is extremely challenging. Failing to follow every requirement can create significant problems. Education group purchasing organizations (GPOs) ensure all their contracts and purchasing programs conform to applicable bid and compliance regulations so members avoid audit penalties or lawsuits. This protects members while still delivering a convenient and quick way to manage purchasing.

Reduce Off-Contract Spend

Many educational institutions struggle with maverick or off-contract spending—situations where staff purchase items outside established contracts. Off-contract spending diminishes negotiating leverage and creates budgetary risk. The breadth of products and services accessible through GPOs significantly shrinks the need for off-contract spending.

Procurement teams can provide departments and others with spending authority with a catalog of items from approved vendors, allowing individuals to maximize their purchasing power with little effort on their behalf.

Enhance Financial Control

The consistent discounted pricing delivered through GPO contracts simplifies budget planning cycles. Guaranteed pricing terms often stretch over multiple years per contract, making it easier to more precisely forecast expenditures.

Meet Sustainability Goals

Educational institutions emphasize environmental responsibility. Many GPOs make sustainability central to their sourcing and contracting. Agreements may mandate reduced packaging waste, energy conservation, green cleaning solutions, recyclable content, or bans on certain hazardous chemicals.

This makes it simpler for schools to find contracts supporting their sustainability initiatives without having to add contract stipulations individually at their level.

Expand Supplier Diversity

GPOs also open up access to a greater selection of small, minority, women, veteran, and other diverse business enterprises. This provides economic opportunity to diverse groups and helps academic institutions fulfill their supplier diversity initiatives.

E&I Cooperative Services

E&I Cooperative Services is the only member-owned, non-profit purchasing cooperative serving education procurement. E&I Cooperative Services offers more than 150 contracts and strategic services to its 6,000 members, with no obligation to participate, no minimum spending requirements, and no membership fee.

Contact E&I Cooperative Services today to see all the ways members benefit.


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