Learn about Purchasing Methods

Learn about purchasing methods at Columbia University. 


There are a variety of ways to purchase goods and services, depending on the type of good and/or service, the cost, and the relationship the supplier has with Columbia.

We strongly encourage the use of suppliers with University-Wide Purchasing Agreements (UwPA). Visit our Goods and Services Catalog to find out if there is a UwPA supplier for the good and/or service you are trying to buy.

P-Cards can be used for items less than $2500. P-Cards are used to purchase goods only.

For the full list of items that cannot be purchased on the P-Card, visit the Purchasing Card Policy.

Items using a UwPA that have no purchasing thresholds and do not require Central Purchasing approval can be purchased using a requisition. The requisition triggers an auto sourced purchase order, which is immediately sent to the supplier.

Requisitions for a central purchase order should be used in the following cases:

  • For items/goods over $500 that:
    • are not using a UwPA
    • where a P-Card is not used
  • For all services or contracts to be reviewed by Central Purchasing

If the requisition is approved by Purchasing, a central purchase order will be created and sent to the supplier.

Some services do not require a requisition and can be purchased, then paid for, using an Accounts Payable voucher. This is called a "Voucher Only" purchase.

Please consult the Goods and Services Catalog for goods and services that can be paid for with a voucher. Certain voucher services will require additional documents, such as a Scope of Work or Performance Agreement. These are submitted with the invoice as part of the AP process in ARC.


Refer to the Procurement Mechanism excel spreadsheet listing the various payment methods for goods and services.


View the Purchasing Process Quick Guide (training guide) for guidance on the steps and key considerations involved in purchasing methods and creating a requisition (with or without a preferred UwPA supplier) through ARC.


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