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Where Does the Money Go?

Across higher education institutions, the following nine categories are the commonly used categories of expenditure types:

  1. Instruction is the largest expense category for the university. It includes all programs and activities that deliver instruction in our academic programs.
  2. Academic Support is for programs and activities that support instruction and the academic landscape. Departments like the libraries, information technology, dean’s offices and advising are examples of areas on campus that provide academic support.
  3. Student Services primarily funds student-centric activities. Examples include the registrar’s office, financial aid office, dean of students, and admissions.
  4. Research relates to research projects and direct support services for research, such as pre- and post-award activities.
  5. Scholarships are financial aid that includes all forms of student financial support ranging from need-based financial aid to graduate student fellowships.
  6. Administrative Support is for the general administration of the campus. Examples include the accounting, budget and human resources offices.
  7. Operations of Maintenance and Plant is for the operating and maintenance of facilities and includes the campus police department.
  8. Public Service is for educational activities that are intended primarily to serve the general public.
  9. Auxiliary enterprises are self-supporting activities on the campus with the main purpose to provide services for students, faculty and staff. The higher education industry and State of Colorado have defined and recognized select service lines at universities such as athletics, bookstore, parking operations, and housing and dining services as auxiliary enterprises. Note: Non-auxiliary enterprise activities, which are also self-supporting activities, also occur on campus and are captured within the above eight categories.

Just as any other organization operating today, we track our resources by natural classification, meaning by type of expense. For example, we record expenditures as salary, supplies, benefits, travel, depreciation, etc.

Who decides where the money goes?

Most day-to-day resource allocation decisions are made within each campus department. For example, equipment purchases and personnel hiring decisions are decided at the department level.

As needed, resource allocation decisions can flow through all levels of the campus organization. Typically, most decisions are made on a local level, thus not involving all levels of organization.

There is occasional need to provide common guidelines and parameters for resource allocations that are decided at a central campus level. For example, the campus may set an annual salary pool increase limit. Within that limit, salary decisions will then be made at the department level.

There are also external bodies that determine how resources may be allocated (as well as the appropriateness of expenditures). For example:

  • Regent policy provides guidelines for faculty and exempt personnel salary adjustments.
  • The State of Colorado Department of Personnel sets classified salary adjustments with concurrence from the State legislature.
  • The federal government must approve the campus’ fringe benefit rates.
  • Financial aid regulations and other external entities govern compliance standards for CU-Boulder’s financial aid eligibility and other federal and state funding sources.

Decisions to change resource allocations can result from market changes, cash flow shifts, better alignment with strategic direction and qualitative improvements. These decisions are made across all levels of the organization, with departments at the core of the process.

In addition, constituent groups from governance committees, task forces and ad hoc working groups provide input and feedback on resource decision-making.

How does CU-Boulder stack-up against our peers in spending to operate the campus?

The following is data from the most recent year available. On a per-student basis, CU-Boulder spends near the peer average for instruction, the campus and the core mission. We spend much less than all others on administration. In all other expense categories, we spend well below the peer average.

Annually, the campus publishes all forms of financial information, including how we match up against our peers.

Where can I learn more about campus finances?

Please see the below links for additional information about campus finances:

IPEDS report – the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. The federal Department of Education’s annual collection of data from all higher education institutions, including reporting on financial information.

Annual Sponsored Research Report – prepared by the Office of Contracts and Grants. Outlines annual activity for the research enterprise.

Annual Campus Budget – prepared by the Budget Office in Budget & Fiscal Planning.

Annual Financial Report – prepared by the Office of University Controller in conjunction with the Boulder campus Accounting and Business Support office.

Academic Program Review – prepared by the Institutional Analysis Office in Budget & Fiscal Planning outlines metrics by academic area, including finances.

Accreditation Self-Study – a once-every-ten-year review of the institution that includes a study of finances.

Flagship 2030– the institution’s strategic plan that includes future resource needs.

Note: The above list is not meant to be comprehensive, rather a starting point to learn more about the institution’s sources and uses of resources.

Last revision 05/04/16

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