There’s an Easier Way To Do Procurement for K-12 and Higher Education

By: Kevin Schmidt
June 10, 2024

At first glance, an elementary school in Oregon wouldn’t have that much in common with an elite liberal arts university on the other side of the country. But if you’re responsible for procurement, you probably know better. Constant budget challenges, security risks, and evolving expectations are putting a lot of pressure on faculty and staff. 

Technology and technology providers can minimize many of these problems, but many people assume that finding and implementing the right solution would require time and money that they simply don’t have. However, that’s not entirely true…

What Are Purchasing Cooperatives?


A purchasing cooperative, also referred to as a co-op, is a group of organizations or individuals to combine their purchasing power and negotiate more favorable terms. There are many different types of cooperatives that cater to nonprofits like charitable or government agencies, and many focus on a specific geographic region. 

What Is E&I Cooperative Services? 

E&I Cooperative Services is the only member-owned, non-profit procurement cooperative focused exclusively on higher education. Because E&I has a large portfolio of competitively solicited contracts at the ready, members can move through the procurement process very quickly —- while locking in exceptional pricing for the technology they need. 

Here are a few facts at a glance

  • Over 6,000 organizations are currently members
  • It provides access to over 200 competitively solicited contracts
  • Membership is free

How Purchasing Cooperatives Help You Avoid the RFP Process and Meet Compliance


So…with cooperative purchasing, you basically get insider pricing on world-class technology and related services without having to do extensive research or negotiate fiercely, and membership is often free. You can go right from A) needing a solution to B) getting a great one for a great price. 

Unfortunately, cooperative purchasing has a bit of a PR problem. Can you spot it? 

It sounds too good to be true. 

But these organizations do live up to their promises, and the math actually works. Here’s how: 

  1. A cooperative purchasing organization is typically funded through fees, rebates, and commissions
  2. They use those funds to conduct research and vet potential suppliers and service providers
  3. When a potential vendor “passes the test,” they’ll negotiate on their members’ behalf, in compliance with organizations like the NIGP
  4. Members can then access contracts and services that have been pre-negotiated 

Not every cooperative purchasing organization offers free membership, and many have minimum purchasing requirements or charge administrative fees to access their contracts. However, E&I’s member roster is so attractive that vendors are willing to foot the bill. Not only that, but many of these vendors will also throw in additional specials and discounts from time to time.

The Benefits of Purchasing Cooperatives for Procurement

In addition to the obvious (members get to save time and money buying things they need), cooperative purchasing offers a number of benefits. 

  • It helps create a level playing field, where smaller organizations can get the same purchasing power as a much larger one
  • Smaller organizations can reduce the administrative costs associated with purchasing  
  • Cooperative purchasing organizations are constantly updating their solicitation process to maintain compliance with state bidding laws, so members can shop with confidence
  • In addition to favorable pricing, purchasing organizations like E&I that specialize in certain industries can help vendors customize their services to what their members need 

Why Would Vendors (Like Marco) Want In? 


If you’ve read this blog closely — although there’s no shame in skimming — you’ve seen that vendors are often footing the bill to give clients less expensive and more customized deals than they could by themselves. Why on earth would we do that?

Well, speaking for Marco, we get special access to a large group of potential clients without having to spend a significant portion of our budget on marketing and other costs. And especially when it comes to K-12 and higher ed, these are very attractive potential clients that we already have customized solutions for. So yes, we want in!


Marco’s E&I Contract

We recently were awarded an E&I contract for printers, copiers, and managed print services

That’s good for us, and we believe it’s very good for K-12 schools, colleges, and universities that are hoping to save money, increase security, reduce frustration, reduce waste, or meet green initiatives. As the only print provider in the U.S. that includes print security at no additional charge — as well as a committed partner with PrintReLeaf — we already believed we were providing a great deal for schools. But it’s been extremely validating to get E&I’s go-ahead.

It’s also a nice cultural fit. We provide print devices and services to businesses of all shapes and sizes, and while we price our services so that we’re still accessible to smaller businesses, we get that nonprofits and schools will perhaps always have additional budget challenges. Yes, we’re now a large national provider, but it wasn’t that long ago that we were just a 2-person typewriter shop in St. Cloud, Minnesota. We know what it’s like to be the little guy or gal. And whenever we can, we try to give them a boost. 

Want to learn more about our new contract and what that might mean for your school? Get the details below! 

View Our Contract

Topics: Copiers & Printers, Managed Print