The Office of University Controller developed this website to help make financial report information easier to understand.

After reviewing this website, you will understand where CU gets its money and how CU spends that money.


Every year, CU produces an audited financial report with a vast amount of information that is very important to a number of constituencies: rating agencies, the State of Colorado, federal funding agencies, the Board of Regents, and the public. However ... providing a vast amount of information is not the same as providing easily understandable information. So the Office of University Controller decided to present the data in easy-to-understand language and charts.

You could call this ‘financial statements made easy' ... or ... ‘financial statements for the non-accountant' ... or ... ‘the ABCs of CU's annual financial report'. Whatever you call it, this is our commitment to helping interested people better understand the University of Colorado's financial position. Through this website, you will see where CU holds its resources, what the claims against those resources are, and what's left over in the end.

Along the way, we'll tell you where the University gets its money and how it spends it - in the short term and over the long haul. All of the numbers in this website are taken from CU's audited financial statements.

A few definitions

Basic Terms/Concepts

Accounts Receivable - assets due the University, primarily the receivables due from students (for tuition and fees); from federal, state, and private sponsors (for research); and from patients (treated by School of Medicine faculty)

Accrued Expenses - expenses reported in the period in which they occur but for which payment is made in a subsequent period. The vast majority of the University's accrued expenses are salaries and benefits earned but not paid as of the end of the fiscal year due to the State's pay date shift (shifting the final pay date for all State employees from June 30 to July 1 of each year).

Assets - resources held by the University

Capital Assets - the University's buildings, land, equipment, library books, and other tangible assets that are used to teach students, conduct research, and handle daily operations

Compensated Absences - the dollar value of paid time off earned but not yet used by University employees (sick leave, personal leave) plus employer-related payroll taxes

Current Assets - assets expected to be used within one year (like inventories) or that will convert to cash within one year (like current investments and current accounts receivable)

Current Liabilities - liabilities that will be paid within one year

Deferred Outflows - a consumption of resources applicable to a future reporting period (these are essentially assets)

Liabilities - claims against the University's resources (assets)

Net Position - assets plus deferred outflows less liabilities (essentially, the difference between resources and claims against those resources). Net position can either be positive (usually a good thing) or negative (probably a bad thing).

Noncurrent Assets - assets that exceed the one-year time frame



Noncurrent Liabilities - claims that exceed the one-year time frame

Nonoperating Revenues and Expenses - those amounts that are not directly related to the University's primary missions but are still important drivers of its financial results (major nonoperating revenues are the federal Pell Grant, gifts, and investment income ... major nonoperating expenses are investment losses and interest expense on the University's outstanding debt)

OPEB (other postemployment benefits) - health and other benefits provided to individuals after their University employment has ended but reported as a liability in the financial statements as the benefits are earned by the still-active employees

Operating Expenses - costs incurred in fulfilling the University's primary missions (classified by function, e.g., instruction, research, health services)

Operating Revenues - revenues (money) received from what the University does as its primary missions: teach, conduct research, auxiliary enterprises, and health services

Revenue Bonds - bonds payable from revenue sources specified in the debt agreements, normally issued to fund capital improvements. Revenue sources include auxiliary services (parking, dining, housing, athletics, etc.), research services, tuition (limited to ten percent of the University's total), capital student fees, and indirect cost recoveries (funds received, typically from the federal government, to pay for certain costs of managing funded research activity)

Unearned Revenue - payments for services that have come to the University in advance of the University providing those services (e.g., summer tuition and fees paid for courses that are not completed by June 30, and payment on grants and contracts prior to the research being conducted/work being performed). Unearned revenue is treated as a liability since the University has not yet performed the work (teaching, research, etc.) needed in order to “earn” that revenue.

Our starting point is where CU holds its resources and the claims against those resources. In the Annual Financial Report, this is reported in the Statements of Net Position, popularly known as the Balance Sheet.

Balance Sheet: Assets

Remember: The resources held by CU are called assets, the claims against those resources (assets) are called liabilities, and the difference between the two is called net position. Net position can either be positive (usually a good thing) or negative (probably a bad thing).

Assets and liabilities are broken into current and noncurrent. The ratio of current assets to current liabilities is one indicator of financial health. A ratio greater than 1 demonstrates an ability to pay obligations as they become due ... and is therefore favorable. The University maintained a ratio greater than 1 for the past 10 years. Take a look.

Now that we've reviewed the different types of assets, let's take a look at CU's total assets over the last 10 years ... These represent the sum of what the University owns - some of these assets (such as buildings) are recorded at historical cost - and others (such as investments) are recorded at fair value. Increases in total assets over time are generally indicative of a growing institution.

Assets by year have increased steadily from 2.3 billion in 2004 to over 5 billion in 2013

Next, the Balance Sheet presents the claims on the University's assets - otherwise known as liabilities.

Balance Sheet: Liabilities

Revenue Bonds 

Revenue bonds account for about 65% of the University's liabilities and are payable only from revenue sources specified in the debt agreements. Revenue bonds are normally issued to fund capital improvements. They are not issued to fund daily operations.

Accrued Expenses

The vast majority of accrued expenses are salaries and benefits earned but not paid as of the end of the fiscal year. Here's why: In order to balance the budget a number of years ago, Colorado shifted the final pay date for State employees from June 30 to July 1. The "pay date shift" continues to this day.

Compensated Absences

This amount primarily represents the $ value of paid time off earned but not yet used by CU employees.

Employer-related payroll taxes are also included in the liability.



Other postemployment benefits (OPEB for short) are benefits provided to individuals after their employment has ended. The concept underlying the OPEB liability is that the liability should be reported in the financial statements as the benefits are earned by currently active employees.


Unearned Revenue 

You might be wondering why revenue (income) is here as a liability. That's because the University has an obligation to fulfill ... and this revenue depends on services yet to be provided.


Balance Sheet: Net Position

Net Position =
Assets + Deferred Outflows - Liabilities

Net position is the difference between assets and deferred outflows less liabilities. Deferred outflows show consumption of resources (assets) applicable to a future reporting period.

Net position is broken down into:

1. Net investment in capital assets

CU's capital asset balance less debt issued to fund those capital assets - this is typically over 50% of CU's total net position but doesn't reflect spendable reserves.

2. Net position restricted for nonexpendable purposes

Endowments received as gifts: only the investment earnings on the gift can be spent and then only on scholarships, endowed chairs, and the like.

3. Net position restricted for expendable purposes

Entire gift can be spent, not just the investment earnings. Funds can be spent only in accordance with restrictions established by external third parties.

4. Unrestricted net position

Balances designated for use by leadership to address University needs.

What Makes Up Total Net Position

Total Net Position: $3,022,562k. Bar Chart: Net investment in capital assets=1,579,724, Total restricted for nonexpendable purposes=32,861, Total restricted for expendable purposes=390,116, Unrestricted=1,019,861

Now let's take a look at where the University gets its money (revenues) and how it uses those revenues to operate on a daily basis (expenses).

Income Statement

The Income Statement is broken into 3 distinct sections.

Any Surprises here?

You may have noticed that State appropriations are not among the major sources of nonoperating revenue.

In total, CU receives approximately five percent of its funding from the state. Absent changes in the state's fiscal structure, this amount is expected to remain low.

As of Nov 1, 2013, the Governor's FY 2014-2015 budget plan proposes an increase in higher education funding as well as new resources for resident student financial aid.

So what's the bottom line about CU's bottom line?


Much work has been focused on ensuring CU's continued fiscal health. This is most clearly indicated in the unrestricted net position balance: A small positive or a negative unrestricted net position balance is often indicative of an institution in fiscal duress. However - you've seen here that the University has a healthy (positive) unrestricted net position. This is very important as it helps maintain a safety net in the event of funding cuts, unforeseen expenses, or negative economic conditions. In addition, positive unrestricted net position is viewed favorably by rating agencies ... and this is important when CU issues debt since a higher credit rating typically means lower borrowing costs.

We hope that you now feel more informed about CU's resources, about how CU spends money, and about how it stands from an overall financial position. Stay involved with CU. We promise to continue to do what we can to make our financial activities and information transparent and understandable to you.


In the introduction, we stated our goal to present the University of Colorado's financial information in an easily understandable manner through the use of this website. So, how did we do? Is there something you think should be more fully explained? Please use this feedback form to let us know!

Transparency and clarity go hand-in-hand. We've taken an initial step to providing clarity to CU's financial statements. Now it is your turn to help us make additional strides in this ongoing effort. Thanks for your time and we look forward to reporting back to you next year!

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