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Where Does the Money Come From?

All incoming revenues support the successful work of our faculty, staff and students. These resources come from varied sources and are called current fund revenue.

Current fund revenue falls into two categories: restricted revenues and unrestricted revenues.

Restricted revenues come from donors or outside organizations for specific purposes.

There are four types of restricted revenues.

  1. Gifts and donations are received from external parties for specific purposes. The university does not provide goods or services to donors in return for gifts.
  2. Contracts and grants are provided to the university in exchange for a service or deliverable, typically related to faculty-led research. An example is research funding received from NASA.
  3. Endowment income comes from university investment earnings. Endowments establish a principal balance that provides annual income to support operations, chairs, scholarships, etc. The CU Foundation, CU-Boulder’s fundraising entity, manages our endowments and investments.
  4. Federal financial aid programs like Pell Grants provide funding for CU-Boulder students who are eligible to participate. NOTE: CU-Boulder is also a direct lending school in which we provide federal loans to eligible students; however, this activity is counted outside of the current funds operations. Federal financial aid that helps eligible students pay for college and funding is connected to the students’ need not the university’s need.

Contracts and Grants Federal Research Funding FY 2009 - FY 2013


Unrestricted revenues are the majority of university resources and are divided into five major categories.

  1. Student tuition and fees is the largest revenue category for the campus and represents what students are billed to attend the university. By State of Colorado statute, the Board of Regents, the university’s governing body, annually sets tuition and fees.
  2. State government funding is provided by the State of Colorado. The university receives this State funding to support general operations and financial aid. The amount received from the State is determined annually and is influenced by the State legislature, the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the State’s economic condition and the overall State budget pressures. Currently state funding is 4.4% of our total budget.
  3. Sales and services of educational activities are incidental revenues that are not directly associated with instruction. Examples include film rentals, recreation center classes and journal publications.
  4. Other sources include fees, fines, rental income and internal sales¹. There are many support services for students, faculty and staff. Application fees, library fines and room rentals are examples of this category. Due to the breadth of campus operations, campus departments may buy goods and services from other campus departments. For example, a student group may purchase catering services from the student union.
  5. Auxiliary enterprise revenues are those from activities conducted to provide the campus community with facilities and services. These include residence halls, intercollegiate athletics, bookstores, parking operations, student health services and recreation centers. Auxiliary enterprises are distinct from the campus; they operate as separate business units and are reported separately in the annual financial statement. They support themselves from their revenues. There are limits on the ability to take assets from auxiliary enterprises; typically only allowable if there is an exchange transaction for goods and services. Even so, auxiliary revenues are primarily considered unrestricted funds.

CU-Boulder vs. AAU Peers In-State Funding

AAU peers = public members of the American Association of Universities. The AAU is a group of over 60 Research I universities; membership is by invitation only. Visit the AAU website for more information on the AAU.

This chart shows you how CU-Boulder’s tuition and fees for in-state students, and the portion covered by the state, compares to our peers. CU-Boulder 2012-13 tuition and fees for an Arts & Sciences major is about $13,000, of which the state contributes about $3,000. At North Carolina, tuition and fees is about $30,000 with the state contributing about $23,000 of that.

Source: Compiled by the University of Virginia, from a November 2012 query to all public members of the American Association of Universities. All members providing data by February 2013 are listed.

Accounting for restricted and unrestricted revenues

The distinction between restricted and unrestricted revenues is maintained through separate accounts and is reported separately in CU-Boulder financial statements. The below graph highlights the split of budgeted unrestricted and restricted campus resources for the past eight years.


1 Internal sales are netted out of the campus’ annual financial statements since internal sales of goods and services are not considered to be new revenues from external sources to the university. However, internal sales are integral to the university’s operations and are included in both campus- and department-level management reporting.


Last revision 11/27/13


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