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Essentials of College and University Accounting

Learn basic accounting and reporting principles and practices



During this online course, you will learn the basic principles and practices involved in accounting and reporting for the financial activities of a college or university. The approach will be to begin by examining the underlying theory and financial principles involved. Please note - the workbook is only available online through the platform. No print versions are available. PDF reader required.

  • The introduction is followed by a Module on Current Operations, which looks at the activities which form the core of the institution’s mission: instruction, research, and public service. 
  • The next Module, Financial Aid and Lending Activities, addresses accounting and reporting for student financial aid, including loans, and other lending activities. 
  • Endowment and Similar Activities takes us into the realm of institutional investments, gifts, endowments, and similar vehicles invested by the institution to generate a return that can be used as a source of perpetual revenue over the long term. 
  • The next Module, Capital Activities, addresses accounting and reporting for the Plant Fund, which houses the transactions for new construction, renovations, and purchases that meet the criteria for a capital asset. We also discuss depreciation issues in this section. 
  • Following this, we will cover the financial statements of either public or private institutions. Because the financial statements have some major differences, we will go through the financial statement display. 
  • Finally, we spend some time in comparing the accounting and reporting differences between public and independent institutions. 
This course is aimed at a mixed audience of public and independent college and university staff. There are more similarities than differences between the two types of institutions when it comes to accounting and reporting, but there are some major differences.

Materials Provided

Module One: Introduction

  • Audio & PowerPoint
  • Full Workbook

Module Two: Current Operations

  • Audio & PowerPoint
  • Chapter Two of Workbook
  • Chapter Two Problems
  • Chapter Two Solutions
  • Glossary of Terms

Module Three: Student Financial Aid and Lending Activities

  • Audio & PowerPoint
  • Chapter Three of Workbook
  • Chapter Three Problems
  • Chapter Three Solutions
  • Glossary of Terms

Module Four: Endowment and Similar Activities

  • Audio & PowerPoint
  • Chapter Four of Workbook
  • Chapter Four Problems
  • Chapter Four Solutions
  • Glossary of Terms

Module Five: Capital Activities

  • Audio & PowerPoint
  • Chapter Five of Workbook
  • Chapter Five Problems
  • Chapter Five Solutions
  • Glossary of Terms

Module Six: FASB Financial Statements

  • Audio & PowerPoint
  • Chapter Six: Financial Statements (FASB/GASB)
  • Glossary of Terms

Module Seven: GASB Financial Statements

  • Audio& PowerPoint
  • Chapter Six Financial Statements (FASB/GASB)
  • Glossary of Terms

Module Eight: FASB/GASB Differences Financial Statements

  • Audio& PowerPoint
  • Chapter Seven: Differences Between FASB & GASB
  • Glossary of Terms


NACUBO thanks Sue Menditto, director, accounting policy, NACUBO for leading the charge to update the course and Karen Craig, project specialist, NACUBO, for her tireless efforts in compiling and editing the material. In addition, NACUBO extends its sincere appreciation to the review committee for their time, dedication and thoughtfulness in developing this comprehensive tool for the higher education community:
  • Dale Larson, vice president business and finance and chief financial officer, Dallas Theological Seminary
  • Jeffrey West, associate vice president, financial and business services, University of Utah 
  • Ken Wilson, director, Case Western University

Strategic Finance Leadership Organizational Effectiveness Analytics Planning and Budgeting Distance Learning

What You Will Learn

After completing this course, you will be able to—

  • Explain strategic planning, its relationship with higher education leadership, and its importance for college and university effectiveness
  • Describe how to use analytics to develop, communicate, and affect institutional strategies
  • Discuss the drivers behind higher education expenses and strategies for improving resource generation
  • Apply best practices of communication for more effective presentations

This course includes the following modules:

Module 1: The Finance Leadership Role in Strategic Planning

As you journey through Module 1, you will learn and understand what strategic planning is, its relationship with higher education leadership, and its importance for college and university effectiveness. You will evaluate institutional strategic planning and how it relates to the mission of your institution.

Module 2: Making Data-Informed Decisions to Support Institutional Mission and Strategy

Module 2 is focused on the importance and effectiveness of building institutional data literacy and capabilities to leverage analytics—including financial metrics—to develop, communicate, and affect institutional strategies.

Module 3: Revenue and Resource Allocation in Support of Mission and Strategic Goals

In Module 3, you will learn about the history of college cost discussions, the role that planning and budgeting have in revenue generation and resource allocation, drivers behind higher education expenses, and strategies for improving resource generation and use at colleges and universities.

Module 4: Strategic Financial Leadership and Institutional Success

In the final module of the course, you will learn about strategic leadership and its benefits, as well as the importance of leadership presence in higher education. You will analyze persuasive communication and learn to apply best practices of communication to present financial information to different stakeholders.

A companion workbook for each module helps you apply what you are learning at your college or university.

Course Information

  • Prerequisites: None
  • Level: Basic
  • Type: Self-study
  • Length:4 hours


Technical Requirements

  • Microsoft Office
  • PDF Reader

CPE Information

There are no CPEs offered for this event.

NACUBO is registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) as a sponsor of continuing professional education on the National Registry of CPE Sponsors. State boards of accountancy have final authority on the acceptance of individual courses for CPE credit. Complaints regarding registered sponsors may be submitted to the National Registry of CPE Sponsors through its website

Registration Rates

Registration assistance: 800.462.4916 or

Cancellation Policies

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