Office of Academic Affairs

Purchasing Guidelines

(updated 8/25/2014)



Department chairs 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 employees 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 portion of the Business Services 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 (Kay Schirm) 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 Kay Schirm.  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.  The College has a consortial agreement with other Iowa colleges to purchase office supplies through Staples.  Online ordering is efficient and convenient, with next day delivery for most orders placed by 2 p.m.  Departments are billed directly, eliminating the need for invoices, vouchers, and receipts; also, purchases are not subject to sales tax, which results in a savings to the department and the College.  Whenever possible, purchase items tagged with the blue “on contract” label, as the College has negotiated special pricing on these items.  Whenever possible, please try to wait to place an order until the total order is more than $50.  Generally departments shouldn't be placing orders more often than once a week. 


Office supplies can also be purchased through the College’s Bookstore.


Copy paper for desk-top printers must be ordered through the Mail and Service Center, where it is sold by the ream.  Building supervisors are responsible for ordering paper for printer/copiers.


Academic Programs Assistants can help place orders, or department chairs may place orders using this website:  https://www.staplesadvantage.com.  (This is a corporate website; do not order through Staples.com.)  Department chairs will need a user name and password to place an order; contact Business Services to set up an account and help in using the website.


Office supplies, printer paper, and printer cartridges purchased for home offices are not reimbursable.


Computers and Technology-Related Equipment

The College has developed a policy regarding the purchase of computer hardware and software which ensures that all new hardware and software is compatible with the campus network. This policy also ensures that the College maintains licensing documentation.


All hardware and software purchases for campus use and supported by institutional funds, including faculty development and restricted funds, must be made through the Information Technology Office, which will find the lowest prices and best service arrangements. 


Those who purchase personal technology-related items for campus use should consult with Information Technology in advance regarding such matters as network compatibility.  Additionally, any personally-purchased software installed on a college-owned computer must adhere to the licensing regulations stipulated by the software manufacturer.


Capital Purchases

Each year, in conjunction with the regular operating budget planning for the following year, the Dean’s Office will solicit a list of priority capital needs from department chairs.  Items in this category can include equipment, non-expendable items, furniture, and renovation projects valued at $1,000 or more.  The Dean’s Office will compile a master list of needs for Academic Affairs to be considered in connection with needs from other divisions of the College.  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 the dean.  In particular, extraordinary needs that arise making it challenging to stay within the approved budget need to be discussed with the Dean when they occur.



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


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