The Purchasing Guide helps university faculty and staff determine the best method to procure goods or services. Purchase guidelines for unique categories such as employee household relocations, food, and construction services are also included.

How Do I Purchase at the University?

There are 4 ways to purchase goods and services at the university:

Purchase Order

  • Purchase Orders can be created in eSHOP or SAP. Use the interactive Purchasing Decision Tree to help you decide which method to use to create a Purchase Order.
  • Prime suppliers should receive first consideration for purchase.

Dollar Thresholds Effective July 1st, 2018

Dollar AmountWho Can Make the Purchase
$0 - $4,999
  • Departments can make purchases
  • Competitive quotes are not required
$5,000 - $9,999*
  • Departments can make purchases but are encouraged to obtain competitive quotes
  • Quotes should be attached to purchase order in eSHOP/SAP
  • A PO in this dollar range will route through Procurement for approval
$10,000* - $149,999
  • Departments contact Procurement Services with purchase need
  • Procurement Services determines the best method for procurement:
    • Purchase Order (or);
    • Formal Bid
  • Competitive quotes are required
  • A PO in this dollar range will route through Procurement for approval
$150,000 and greater A PO in this dollar range is the result of a formal bidding process

* Federal Uniform Guidance changes effective July 1, 2018:

  • For “micro purchases” ($5,000 up to $9,999): competitive quotes are desirable but not always required if management is able to determine that pricing is reasonable.
  • For “small purchases” ($10,000 up to $149,999): requires that pricing or rate quotes must be obtained from an adequate number of sources.

Purchase Order Restrictions

The following items should not be purchased with university funds:

  • Alcoholic beverages or controlled substances
  • Flowers, holiday decorations, or personal objects (such as facial tissue, greeting cards, invitations, paper cups or plates, pictures, radios, coffee pots, heaters, refrigerators, microwave ovens, art objects, etc.)
  • Food items, except for laboratory research or teaching projects
  • Gifts, donations, or contributions to individuals or organizations

Formal Bid

A formal bid is required for all purchases $150,000 or greater per Board of Regents Policy (Section RP- (b)). Formal bidding, subject to Board of Regents Policy (Section RP- (f)) shall not be required for the following types of purchases which include, but are not limited to:

  • Unique or non-competitive articles or services
    • public utility services
    • telephone services
    • books
    • pamphlets
    • periodicals
    • specially designed business, research or scientific equipment and related software
  • Contracts for professional services
  • Purchases necessary in emergency situations
  • Maintenance or servicing of equipment with the manufacturer or manufacturer's authorized service agent
  • Purchases from:
    • any purchasing cooperative
    • U.S. government or any agency thereof
    • State of Nebraska or any political subdivision
    • any governmental or public entity created by an inter-local agreement
    • any private or public postsecondary educational institution

Please allow additional approval time for formal bids requiring Board of Regents approval.  Approval thresholds are outlined in Signature Authority and vaires based on the type of purchase. 

Contact the Sourcing Specialist assigned to the commodity you are considering for purchase by referencing Commodities & Prime Suppliers.


Purchases requiring the use of a contract are covered under Contracts.


The purchasing card program is administered by the P-Card Office in Accounting. For more information regarding purchasing using the P-Card and other card programs, please contact:

P-Card Office

mail icon

phone icon 402-472-2906

Unique Purchase Guidelines

Emergency Purchases

Contact the Director of Procurement Services for emergency P-card purchases over $5,000.

Outside regular university working hours the department should:

  • Fully document the purchase
  • Present documentation to Procurement Services as soon as possible

Household Moves

For more information, please contact Teresa Fleming at

Firearms & Ammunitions

The purchase of weapons and ammunition are guided by the University Police Weapons Policy. Procurement of firearms and ammunition must be processed with a purchase order issued by Procurement Services with prior approval of the UNL Police Department.

For assistance with firearms & ammunitions, contact these Sourcing Specialists.


Contracts are established for use by University Dining Service for the following products: groceries, produce, dairy, and breads. If needed other categories of food where volume would indicate usage adequate to establish a prime vendor contract can be pursued. Departments can purchase food and related items by contacting the appropriate Sourcing Specialist. These uses are as follows:

  • Laboratory research and teaching projects
    • Documentation of research projects to be provided with purchase order
  • Resale
    • This includes all food purchased for resale to students or the general public
    • General ledger codes 571210 & 571211 must be used when processing these purchases
  • Non-Travel Related Meals (This includes receptions when approved as official functions and conferences.)
    • Visiting faculty, guest speakers, or consultants – meals and receptions
    • Faculty and staff retreats or training sessions with external presenter(s)
    • Recruiting new faculty and staff members – meals and receptions
    • Advisory board meetings
    • Student orientation or other student recognition events
    • Student organizations – meals and receptions
    • Meals and receptions with students in attendance
    • Site or accreditation visits
    • 4-H camps
  • Grocery store purchases
  • Purchases may be made from university approved vendors using a P-card or store charge card where available
  • Non-Valid University Food Purchases – The following may NOT be purchased by staff and faculty using university funds:
    • Catering from a grocery store or supermarket
    • Food at a restaurant, coffee house, gas station, donut or bagel shop
    • Alcohol
    • Tobacco
    • Non-Pepsi products
  • Food purchases prohibited for the following university events:
    • Employee recognitions
    • Retirement receptions
    • Department receptions and meetings with no external speaker
    • Faculty or staff meeting with no external speaker
    • Research grant receptions

For assistance with food purchases, contact these Sourcing Specialists.

Construction Services

Facilities Planning & Construction handles construction-related matters such as:

  • New construction
  • Renovations
  • Remodeling

For assistance with construction and remodeling projects, contact these Sourcing Specialists.

Laboratory Animals

The Purchase of Laboratory Animals policy covers the procedures for ordering laboratory animals for teaching or research projects at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

For assistance with laboratory animal purchases, contact these Sourcing Specialists.

Non-Competitive Purchase

The purchase of goods and services from a non-competitive source requires additional procedures and documentation. Please refer to the Non-Competitive Purchase Policy for further details.