Purchasing Guidelines

Departments are responsible for making purchases within the approved budgets and in accordance with College policies.  Whenever practical, please take the time to secure competitive bids/quotes and to explore multiple options for best pricing in relation to quality and service. 

For academic departments, department chairs are responsible for staying within the College approved budget.  To this end, faculty should be communicating purchase needs with the department chair prior to making purchases.  Communicating with the department chair prior to ordering ensures that funds are available for the purchase and that the purchase is in accordance with College policies and is reimbursable or can/will be ordered.  If there are any questions concerning a purchase, including how a purchase should be made or whether the purchase follows College policies, please contact the Office of Academic Affairs.

Purchasing Methods

It is recommended that purchases be made using the following options:

  • College Credit Cards
  • Orders resulting in Invoice
  • Voucher for Reimbursement

College Credit Cards 

College credit cards have been issued to individuals who have authority to make purchases on behalf of the College.  Please check with your department supervisor if you are unsure of who has a College credit card in your department/division. 

For academic departments: Department chairs should be in contact with the Assistant Dean if they would like to acquire a credit card for departmental purchases.  

Purchase Order (or EXPO) Process 

Some vendors require a Purchase Order (PO) for a sale of goods or services. Cornell allows approved purchases of less than $500 to be made by using the employee’s telephone extension as their EXPO number. By using this number, it allows the tracking of the package when it arrives on campus and is generally accepted by vendors.  Rarely is more than this verbal number required for purchase.

For purchases of $500 or more, a Requisition should be completed which is found on the Purchasing website.  The Excel document has three tabs (EXPO, PO, REQUISITION).  The file opens to the Requisition and everything entered on that sheet will transfer to the other two. 

Upon completion of the Requisition, it should be emailed to Business Services who will reply to you with the PO number. You can enter this number on the PO tab of the spreadsheet and email or fax it to the vendor (if they require a form).  Likewise, you can open the EXPO tab and enter your phone extension if you need to send the order to the vendor.

Invoice vs. Voucher

There is always confusion as to when a voucher is necessary.  To clarify: 

  • INVOICES - Most college expenditures result in an invoice being sent to us from off campus.  If received in the Business Office, it will be sent to the appropriate department.  It should be signed by the authorizing individual along with the account number to be charged, returned to Business Services.  A check or EFT will be processed to the vendor.  If the invoice comes directly to the employee (or is attached to an order they pick up from a vendor) it is their responsibility to see that the invoice is turned in to A/P for payment.  ALL THAT IS NEEDED FOR PAYMENT OF AN INVOICE is the authorizing signature and account number ON THE INVOICE.  It isn't necessary for a voucher to be filled out and attached to the paper invoice. 
  • VOUCHERS - A voucher (found on the Printable Forms section of Business Services website) is used for payments and reimbursements where no external invoice exists.  It is to be accompanied by receipts or other documentation that attests to the purchases or expenses (mileage, supplies, etc.).  Credit card statements and credit card receipts are not sufficient documentation.  The voucher requires the signature of the department head (along with account numbers) and must be received by the Business Office within 30 days of the purchase to be reviewed for payment.  Employees of the College are reimbursed by ACH/EFT. Forms for ACH/EFT payment are available on the Business Services website under Printable Forms. 

Cornell utilizes self-mailer checks.  Account numbers and invoices numbers are included on the check stub. If you have an enclosure to accompany payment, it should be inside an addressed #10 envelope so the check can be enclosed when completed.

Office Supplies

Office supplies, including printer and toner cartridges, must be ordered through the online purchasing system.  Cornell College has partnered with locally owned OfficeExpress to be our sole provider of office supplies and copy paper.  This partnership enables streamlined ordering and billing and negotiated special pricing for Cornell College.  Purchases are not subject to sales tax, which results in further savings to the department and Cornell College.  Most orders are delivered on the same or next day from when the order is placed.  Delivery is always free and there is no minimum order amount required. Invoices are paid directly through Accounts Payable, eliminating the need for Departments to submit invoices.

For academic departments: Academic Programs Assistants will place orders using this website. Please contact Cornell Business Services to set up an account and discuss purchasing policies.

Employees who are new to ordering office supplies and need to be set up with an OfficeExpress account, please contact Business Services.

Copy paper for desk-top printers must be ordered through the Mail and Service Center, where it is sold by the ream.  Office supplies, printer paper, and printer cartridges purchased for home offices are not reimbursable.

Software and Hardware Purchasing Policy


Ensure all hardware and software purchases meet clearly documented needs of Cornell, are compatible with the campus environment, and will enhance overall cost effectiveness.

The review process is intended to ensure:

  • Hardware & software will provide the intended solution identified by campus stakeholder’s documented needs.
  • Hardware & software will operate effectively in the college environment.
  • Maximized purchasing power through consolidation & licensing management systems.
  • Proper review of licensing agreements for all software.
  • Consistent contract management, service levels, & terms.
  • Clear stakeholder expectations for maintenance, licensing, network connectivity, etc., of all hardware and software.

Hardware and Software Purchasing Process


  • Software may not be purchased by any other department other than IT.
  • Prior to purchasing any hardware or software, a hardware/software acquisition form should be submitted to initiate the review process. The form will be linked to the purchase requisition.
  • When Business Services receives a purchase order, it will verify that a hardware/software acquisition form has been reviewed by IT. If so, it will process the purchase order. If the review process has not been completed, the Purchasing department will wait until the review is finished.
  • Credit card purchases for hardware & Software may only be purchased by IT.
  • IT will work with the department to determine if:
    • The hardware\software will be compatible with the networking infrastructure for the college.
    • IT will be able to provide technical support for the hardware\software being acquired.
    • There is already a license agreement in-place to cover the software.
    • The agreement(s) will conflict with existing agreements.
    • The agreement(s) will need to be part of the campus hardware\software license management program.
    • Another hardware/software vendor may provide better pricing or arrangements.
  • If there are concerns, or discrepancies, IT will work with the department to resolve, or document those situations. VPs will be asked to "sign-off" on non-conforming purchases, made despite potential conflicts with the items listed above. 

Capital Purchases

Each year, in conjunction with the regular operating budget planning for the following year, Business Services will solicit a list of priority capital needs from divisional VPs.  Items in this category can include equipment, non-expendable items, furniture, and renovation projects valued at $1,000 or more.  Business Services will compile a master list of needs as submitted, to be considered in connection with needs from other divisions of the College by President’s Council and the Budget Committee. 

For academic departments: Please submit your capital needs through department chairs during the normal budgeting process (usually in January for the following academic year).  Generally items/projects valued at less than $1,000 should be built into regular operating budget planning.  If your department is unsure where a particular item/project should be requested during the planning process, please be in contact with the Dean or Assistant Dean.

Extraordinary Needs

Extraordinary needs that arise throughout the year for new equipment or equipment repair should be brought to the attention of your department’s Vice-President.  In particular, extraordinary needs that arise making it challenging to stay within the approved budget need to be discussed between the department Vice President and the Vice President of Business Affairs and Treasurer prior to the proposed expense.


If you have questions about these guidelines or procedures, please be in touch with the Office of Business Services. 

As a reminder, expenses incurred that have failed to follow College guidelines/policies and/or that are made without prior approval (ensuring sufficient funds) can be denied reimbursement.