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Northwestern University

Computer Replacement Policy


The Comptuer Replacement Funding Program periodically replaces computers in the departments and programs of the College. This program supplements funds available for computer purchases from department budgets, faculty discretionary accounts, research grants, and other sources.

The Dean’s Office provides computer replacement funding according to the policies and procedures below. Weinberg College has funded the program each year, starting in FY09. The program is assessed each annually and adjusted to fit the evolving needs of the college subject to the financial resources available.

Starting in FY22, the program has been changed from a computer replacement to a computer replacement program. This change was designed to ensure flexibility for staff and faculty to support remote and flexible work (as permitted) and minimize the need for more than one computer to be issued per person. Exceptions based on defined teaching, research, or business need will be evaluated on case by case basis to determine if funding can be approved.

Replacement cycle

The program provides for replacement of eligible computer on an annual basis, based on a four-year lifecycle for computer computers. Reimbursement is for one computer computer per eligible faculty or staff member every four years. To be eligible for reimbursement, computers need to be purchased according to Weinberg computer policies, which includes Northwestern IT support requirements such as purchased from a preferred  vendor and meeting the minimum specification standard.

The current computer replacement policy requires the return of the older computer to Northwestern IT in order to qualify for funding. Northwestern IT can assist with repurposing the computer that’s being replaced within a department if it’s still supportable (less than 5 years old), otherwise they can assist with donating to Student Enrichment Services or recycling if it has no remaining utility. If a computer is repurposed within the University, it will be done so in an “as-is” condition with no support to be provided by Weinberg College or Northwestern IT. Redeployed computers must be wiped to ensure that sensitive data is not accidentally transferred in case of a redeployment. Replacement computers are not eligible for sale or transfer to individuals.

Faculty and staff eligibility

Eligible faculty and staff

Ineligible faculty and staff

Shared appointments

If a faculty or staff appointment is shared with a Northwestern department outside of Weinberg College, the Dean’s Office will provide pro-rated funding, anticipating the other portion of funding to come from the other Northwestern department(s). If an individual is 50% or more part-time at Northwestern, but paid entirely from within Weinberg College, he/she is eligible for full funding. If an appointment is shared between two or more departments within Weinberg College, a primary department is designated for computer funding.

Funding software purchases

The Dean's Office funds software licenses on Weinberg College’s standard software image separately. For details, see Purchasing and Updating Software.

The budgeted cost per computer is not calculated to include the cost of printing or specialized software. These items may be funded from department accounts (for shared use), faculty discretionary accounts (for individual use), or from the budgeted cost itself if a less expensive computer is selected.

Allocation of funds

Department chairs should consider the varying computing needs of eligible faculty and staff in allocating funds. It may be appropriate to spend more than the individual allocation for the computers of a few high-end users, to spend significantly less than this for the computers of other users, and to allocate remaining funds for printers. Technical support representatives from Northwestern IT can make recommendations on computer purchases for the department.

Purchasing policies

Weinberg College and Northwestern IT maintain hardware and software purchasing policies and technical support policies. They are designed to provide faculty and staff with a range of choices and to enable technical staff to provide high-quality computer support at reasonable cost.

These policies apply to all Weinberg College/University computers, regardless of funding source.

To be eligible for computer support from Northwestern IT, computer computers must be from a preferred vendor (Dell, Apple, Lenovo), and meet the minimum standard requirements.

Program procedures

Each year, Weinberg College calculates the average cost per computer bundle, including hardware and the software operating system, for a variety of appropriate business-class computers (computers and desktops from Apple or Dell). The average cost per computer is not calculated to include the cost of printing or specialized software.

Qualifying computer purchases should be made using the department or program computer maintenance account.  Other funds may be used to make other non-reimbursable computer purchases.  Departments may also choose to leverage pre ordered computers available from Weinberg College as the replacement, saving time by skipping the ordering and reimbursement process. 

The Department Chairs may initiate computer purchases at any point during the year, following standard computer purchasing policies. We encourage departments to make replacement purchases in the winter, spring, and early summer of each year, and to avoid making replacement purchases during late summer and early fall when the support focus is on new faculty.

After each purchase, department should then request reimbursement for the purchase via the computer Replacement Request or Reimbursement Request form. If purchases comply with the standards outlined in this policy funding will be approved. Transfers will occur annually during the fiscal year-end close process. The amount of funding will be lower of:

(a) the average cost per computer * the number of eligible computers purchased in the fiscal year, or

(b) the actual cost of eligible computers purchased in the fiscal year

Last updated: November 4, 2022


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