Purpose: To provide an overview of the environment in which the financial systems, policies, procedures and practices of the University of Colorado Boulder operate.

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Fiscal Philosophy and Financial Goals

Fiscal responsibility in a university setting emphasizes accountability and stewardship. Although CU Boulder is a non-profit, we are expected to have adequate fiscal resources to sustain operations. Thus, the university’s fiscal goals are twofold:

  1. To safeguard and manage financial assets by accounting for funds received and ensuring these dollars are effectively used to support the education, research and public service goals of our campus; and
  2. To comply with state, federal and sponsor requirements

Stewardship Obligation of the Univiersity

Each of the university’s individual campuses has a stewardship obligation to:

  • Properly and accurately record all receipts and disbursement of resources
  • Account for all financial resources received and used
  • Ensure that all financial transactions comply with applicable rules and regulations, administrative policies, and are recorded in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)
  • CU Boulder’s financial environment is decentralized, which means financial responsibility is shared at central and departmental levels. Responsibility for sound financial management resides with every employee or affiliate who spends or manages university funds. This ensures that our financial reports present a complete picture of the university’s activity through the year.

The Financial System of the University

As a State of Colorado public institution, the University of Colorado maintains and operates a comprehensive financial management system in order to meet its stewardship responsibilities. The management of the university’s finances involves two major systems: the PeopleSoft Finance System and Human Capital Management System.

The Finance System is the official accounting system of record for all financial transactions. It integrates financial information from other university systems such as procurement, travel and effort reporting.

The Human Capital Management System (HCM) is the system of record for core HR, payroll and benefits, and other HR-related activities. 

The university’s Finance and HCM Systems provide financial information to all levels of administration for use in planning, budgeting, management, analysis, decision support and other administrative purposes.

All university business transactions and operations must be conducted using these systems and their associated processes.

The university’s Finance System must be used to account for all University of Colorado business and only University of Colorado business. Similarly, it is illegal to use the university’s procurement systems to make non-university purchases.

University business must be kept separate from non-university business because:

  • Using the Finance System to account for non-university business activity erroneously reports the non-university business revenue and expenses as those of the university.
  • It is not proper to allow non-university parties to receive the advantages or discounts that the university receives, such as tax exempt status.
  • Depositing university funds into a non-university account could be interpreted as an act of embezzlement.

All revenues and receipts from university business must be deposited into a university account. Funds received must never be:

  • Deposited into an outside bank account.
  • Held for petty cash
  • Spent directly for goods and services.

Note: There are two exceptions to this policy:

  1. Agency Funds (those in Fund 80) may be deposited in a non-university account. Refer to Chapter 4 for more information on Agency Funds.
  2. Gifts that need to be deposited with the CU Foundation. Refer to Chapters 4 and 15 for more information on Gifts.

In most situations, it is very clear whether an individual is engaged in university business or personal (non-university) business. However, students, faculty and staff may be involved with some activities in which the distinction is not so clear-cut. Such as:

  1. When private contributions are solicited for a gift for an individual employee (e.g., retirement gift, baby shower gift, etc.). Such solicitations should direct individuals to make checks payable to the person in charge of the event and not to the University of Colorado. Any checks made out to the university must be returned to the maker. These checks may not be deposited into a university account.
  2. When an employee is serving as the treasurer for an organization and collects dues or other payments on behalf of the organization, these checks should be deposited into an off-campus account in the name of the respective organization.

Note: When a similar situation involves a student group, the group can accept checks made out to the University of Colorado, provided the group has opened an agency account through the Center for Student Involvement.

Pertinent Regulations

Financial management policy and practices at CU Boulder are guided by campus and university policies and procedures, State of Colorado law, federal laws and regulations, sponsor requirements and professional accounting standards.

Authority for both program activity and fiscal control rests with Organization and Fiscal Principals.

  1. Every campus program or project has an associated account combination in the Finance System and are assigned to a specific campus unit.
  2. The Organization Principal for each campus unit assumes responsibility for the sound fiscal management of all funds assigned to that unit.

Within the scope of day-to-day operations, Boulder campus administrative and business processes are largely guided by regulations and procedures issued by the Campus Controller’s Office (CCO). 

As part of the multi-campus University of Colorado System, the Boulder campus is subject to policies and procedures that have been established for the entire system. Administrative Policy Statements (APS), developed in the offices of the university’s President and Vice Presidents and maintained by the Office of Policy and Efficiency, provide system-wide guidance, procedures and requirements for university operations. These policies address academic, research, fiscal, human resources, property/facilities, information technology and general matters, and are based on external and internal mandates, laws and regulations.

Of particular importance with respect to financial management is Fiscal Roles and Responsibilities APS #4014. This policy establishes the roles and responsibilities for key levels of management involved in university operations so that the fiscal impact of university operations is planned, controlled and accurately accounted for in the university’s financial records. This policy applies to all funds received by the university from any source and spent by the university for any purpose. 

The Office of University Controller (OUC) issues an Accounting Handbook to provide guidance on how to comply with specific aspects of the APSs. It is followed by all of the campuses.

Procurement functions for all campuses of the university system are consolidated in the Procurement Service Center (PSC), which publishes procedures and guidelines for purchasing, travel and accounts payable for use by all campuses.

Functions associated with human resource management, payroll and benefits are administered centrally by Employee Services. However, each campus maintains a Human Resources office to manage the local hiring needs and employee relations. 

The Colorado Office of State Controller (OSC) manages the financial affairs of the State by providing financial information, issuing fiscal policies, ensuring timely recording of the state budget and providing accounting consulting services to state agencies (such as CU). The OSC publishes the Fiscal Procedures Manual that addresses issues associated with the opening and closing of a fiscal year. Additional topics covered in this manual include capital construction, state-required reports and accounts receivable. In accordance with the provisions of Colorado State Senate Bill 10-003, the university has adopted its own Fiscal Procedures and is no longer subject to the State Fiscal Rules as issued by the State Controller; however, we refer to the state Fiscal Procedures as foundational guidance and adhere to the state’s published dates.

The OSC also publishes Higher Education Accounting Standards to address uniform financial reporting among Colorado’s institutions of higher education.

The university conducts sponsored activities supported by funds from federal government grants and contracts, and other sponsoring agencies. Therefore, financial policies and practices must reflect pertinent government regulations such as those contained in or issued by:

  1. Office of Management and Budget 2 CFR 200 Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, also known as Uniform Guidance.
    Note: Uniform Guidance combined and updated other relevant circulars, such as Office of Management and Budget Circulars A-21, A-110 and A-133. 
  2. Cost Accounting Standards - Part of the Federal Code of Regulations, the Federal Acquisition Regulations establish Cost Accounting Standards. CFR Title 48, Chapter 99, Subchapter B, Part 9905 specifically addresses the standards for educational institutions.
  • Cost Accounting Standard 501 addresses consistency in estimating, accumulating and reporting costs.
  • Cost Accounting Standard 502 states that there must be consistency in allocating costs incurred for the same purpose.

At the highest level, financial management practices at the University of Colorado Boulder adhere to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). In addition, finance operations are guided by the interpretation and application of rules and regulations issued by the:

Boulder Campus Operating Environment

The Boulder campus is a highly decentralized organization, under the direction of the Chancellor. Campus leadership works together to implement the Chancellor’s strategic plan and execute tactical operations necessary to carry out the mission of CU Boulder.

Starting with the Chancellor, the campus is organized into academic, administrative, and advancement areas. Each area is further divided into smaller units.  For example, research institutes, colleges, schools, and associated departments within each. The organizational chart for each area can be found through the Chancellor’s webpage.

CU Boulder operates independently from, yet in sync with, the other CU campuses. We are all aligned under the leadership of the CU President and each campus’ mission supports the greater vision for the university as a whole.

Some Closing Thoughts about the Fiscal Environment on the Boulder campus:

All operating departments on the Boulder campus are charged with utilizing the fiscal resources allocated to them to achieve their stated objectives. Thus, the responsibility for implementing fiscal controls resides at the departmental level. The financial transactions associated with each department’s programs and activities are accumulated by the university’s Finance System and the resulting fiscal impact is summarized in the university’s audited Annual Financial Report and associated Supplementals for each campus.