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Three colleges join forces to make bulk commodity purchases

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College is joining two other Vermont private colleges in a consortium to reduce costs associated with purchasing supplies and services common to all three institutions.
The chief financial officers of Middlebury College, Champlain College and Saint Michael’s College will direct the creation of the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium (GMHEC). The group’s focus is to find ways to increase effectiveness and efficiency when purchasing supplies, and other business and administrative services common to all three institutions.
“We are simply envisioning ways to improve our efficiencies and help drive down administrative costs in areas common to all three colleges,” said David J. Provost, senior vice president for finance and administration at Champlain College, in a press release. “A consortium will allow us to pool our purchasing power and significantly reduce costs at each college.”
Patrick Norton, vice president for finance and treasurer at Middlebury College said it was too early to put an estimate on how much money could be saved.
“However, by leveraging the combined buying power of the three colleges, and by sharing common administrative services, the expectation is that we will realize some savings, increase efficiency, and increase the quality and depth and breadth of supplies and services,” he told the Independent.
Norton wouldn’t say exactly what kinds of things could be bought in bulk for all three colleges, but he agreed that commodities like paper, cleaning supplies, food and fuel could be on the shopping list. On the services side, he agreed that the GMHEC could consider everything from garbage pickup and travel planning to legal services and media buys.
“Yes, those are the types of supplies and services will be considered,” he said in an email response to questions. The GMHEC is due to be formed by the end of June as a “separate 501c3 nonprofit housed in Vermont that will contain consortium employees including purchasing buyers to negotiate good prices for high quality goods and services.”
“The consortium has the potential to slow rising administrative costs by leveraging the combined buying power of the three colleges, and by sharing common administrative services. Our intention is to create a successful consortium that will address the issue of cost over the long term,” Norton said.
Similar consortia exist in other areas of the country including Boston and Amherst, Mass., and Claremont, Calif. These partnerships have proven to be beneficial forums for sharing ideas and collaborating.
Both Champlain and Saint Michael’s have about 2,000 traditional undergraduate students and Middlebury has 2,450 students. 

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