The University of Pittsburgh receives funding from a variety of sources that carry with them fiduciary responsibilities. Inherent in these responsibilities is the requirement to operate the institution under guidance set forth by the Board of Trustees; to follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles; and to comply with related federal, state, and local regulations. Proper stewardship of University funds is the responsibility of all University employees involved in financial transactions. This document describes the structure of the University’s accounting system and provides the framework for accounting policies and procedures.

Structure of the Chart of Accounts

The University of Pittsburgh's account number structure is based on a 32-digit number comprised of 7 discrete segments (separated by periods): XX . XXXXX . XXXX . XXXXX . XXXXXX . XXXXX . XXXXX

Entity Department Subcode Purpose Project Reference Future Use
2 digits 5 digits 4 digits 5 digits 6 digits 5 digits 5 digits


A University “account” is a unique combination of Entity, Department, Purpose, and Project. These four segments are defined in PRISM at the time the account is established by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. The remaining two segments (Subcode and Reference) are identified by the department when transactions are processed on the account. The Subcode segment is used to track financial activity by financial statement element (asset, liability, net asset, revenue and expense). In addition, individual schools may use the optional Reference segment to track one or more subsets of activities within a given account or across all of their accounts. The segment identified for future use is populated with zeros at this time.

The following table illustrates the numbering scheme that is used when creating an account in the PRISM financial system:

Entity or Fund Type Entity Dept. Subcode Purpose Project Ref. Future Use
Operating (Hard Money) 02 xxxxx xxxx 00000 000000 xxxxx 00000
Operating (Institutional Aid) 02 xxxxx xxxx 07xxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
Operating Balance Sheet 02 xxxxx xxxx 1xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
Cost Centers 03 xxxxx xxxx 00000 000000 xxxxx 00000
Cost Center Balance Sheet 03 xxxxx xxxx 1xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
Discretionary (Gifts & Endowment Income) 04 xxxxx xxxx 2xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
Endowment Income 04 xxxxx xxxx 84xxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
Discretionary (RDF) 04 xxxxx xxxx 3xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
Sponsored Projects 05 xxxxx xxxx 00000 xxxxxx xxxxx 00000
Plant (Unexpended & ROI) 06 xxxxx xxxx 6xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
Plant (Investment in Plant) 06 xxxxx xxxx 7xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
Government Student Loans 07 xxxxx xxxx 4xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
University Student Loans 47 xxxxx xxxx 4xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
Quasi-Endowment 08 xxxxx xxxx 5xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
Annuity & Life Income 25 xxxxx xxxx 5xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
Realized Gains on Endowment 28 xxxxx xxxx 5xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
True Endowment 48 xxxxx xxxx 5xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
Agency 09 xxxxx xxxx 9xxxx 000000 xxxxx 00000
FASB Entries 24 000xxx xxxx 0000x 000000 xxxxx 00000


PRISM Chart of Account (COA)

2 characters – required

Entities are the University's core reporting units. Each entity is a set of accounts established to group together similar sources and uses of funds into a self-balancing “fund group.” In Fiscal Year 1996, the University implemented Financial Accounting Standards (FAS) 116 (“Accounting for Contributions Received and Contributions Made”) and 117 (“Financial Statements of Not-For-Profit Organizations”) which, among other things, required not-for-profit organizations to report contributions and net assets (previously called fund balance) in three separate categories based solely on donor imposed restrictions - unrestricted, temporarily restricted, and permanently restricted. While fund accounting is no longer necessary for FASB reporting purposes, its custodian or stewardship focus is still required for management purposes. Therefore, when the University implemented a new financial accounting system (PRISM) in 1997, it established thirteen entity segment values to facilitate FAS 116 and 117 reporting, while at the same time continuing to follow traditional fund accounting.

02 Operating
Represents core University operations that are funded primarily by tuition, the state appropriation, and education and general sales and services. Departmental “hard fund” budgets are allocated annually as part of the University’s Planning and Budgeting Process and are comprised of unrestricted funds.

- Example: Tuition (includes student aid), state appropriations, education and general sales and services, scholarships and fellowships, and athletics.

02 Operating Balance Sheet
Assets and liabilities associated with core University operations and requires a 1xxxx Purpose segment.
03 Cost Centers
Cost Centers represent self-supporting business enterprise activities that generally charge other University departments and sponsored projects. The following types of activities represent cost centers at the University:

  • Specialized Service Facility - Provides highly complex services primarily to sponsored research.
    - Example: Central Animal Facility and DNA Sequencing Facility.
  • Central Support Services - Provides administrative support for University departments and sponsored programs. The service provided might be available from commercial sources, but for reason of convenience, cost, or control, the service is provided more effectively within the University.
    - Example: Telecommunications, Motor Pool, Computing Services, University Marketing Communications, Mailing Services, Inventory Stockrooms, and Central Copying Services.
  • Informal and Professional Educational Programs - Courses offered for non-degree credit and non-credit programs offered for professional certification or self-improvement.
    - Example: Continuing Education Programs, Conferences and Seminars, and Dental students providing services.
  • Auxiliary Enterprises - A necessary business function that contributes to and relates directly to the University’s missions, goals, and objectives. Auxiliaries provide a product or service to individual students, faculty, or staff. These services are provided in exchange for a fee.
    - Example: Student Housing, Food Services, Parking and Transportation, Bookstore, and Property Management.
03 Balance Sheet
Assets and liabilities associated with cost center operations and requires a Purpose segment (1xxxx).
04 Discretionary
Restricted and unrestricted funds received by academic units outside of the University’s Planning and Budgeting Process.

  • Gifts (purpose 2xxxx excluding 22xxx, 27xxx, and 28xxx) - Funds restricted by donors and other external agencies for specific purposes, programs, departments or schools. There is minimal reporting to the donor with no time limit for fund usage. Discretionary gifts are not part of a competitive process.
    - Example: Alumni Fellowship Fund and certain Athletics Funds.


Guidelines: Sponsored Projects vs. Gifts


  • Endowment Income (purpose 22xxx, 27xxx, and 28xxx) - Represents the earnings generated from endowment principal for expenditure as specified by the donor.
  • RDF/TRM (purpose 3xxxx) - Research Development Funds and Tuition Remission accounts are internal funds used for seed money to provide support prior to obtaining additional external funding or to further enhance the research environment of the University.
05 Sponsored Projects
Binding agreement with project sponsor (federal, state, and local government; private companies; and foundations) which either party may terminate for non-performance. A principal investigator (usually faculty) is designated as the technical expert for the project. Funds are used for a specified research purpose and are administered and approved by the Office of Research. These funds may include indirect costs.


Guidelines: Sponsored Projects vs. Gifts


- Example: Microscopic structures, Brain Activations, CWS, SEOG, and Pell Grants (for both revenue and expenses).

06 Plant
Represents the University’s investment in fixed assets, construction projects in progress, unexpended funds that have been set aside for capital construction projects, long term debt, and funds set aside for the retirement of indebtedness.
07 Government Student Loans
Government funded revolving student loans.

- Example: Federal Perkins Loans – formerly National Direct Student Loans (NDSL) and Stafford Loans – formerly Guaranteed Student Loans (GSL).

08 Quasi-Endowments
The principal of an endowment received from a donor for which the donor has specified no restrictions. The department restricts the funds for a particular purpose. This entity is also used for endowment stabilization reserve account adjustments and board designated purposes.
09 Agency
Resources held by the University (the Agent) for organizations or entities (the Principal) external to the University (e.g., a student, staff or alumni association; a professional or scientific organization in which faculty or staff are officers or editors) that are not subject to the University’s control. The manner in which the funds are administered is, however, subject to the University’s internal controls.
25 Annuity/Life Income Funds
For endowment principal accounts of life insurance policies, gift annuities, annuity trusts, and unitrusts. For life insurance policies, the donor pays the premium with the University listed as the beneficiary.
28 Realized Gains on Endowments
For realized gain accounts for investment managers (used only when a new investment manager is hired).
47 University Student Loans
Revolving loan funds established by gifts from outside donors or board designated funds.
48 True Endowments
For endowment principal accounts and investment manager asset accounts. Once the principal has been received from the donor, the investment is transferred to an investment manager of a brokerage firm. The interest generated from the principal is awarded according to donor restrictions and is recorded in an 04 Discretionary Endowment Income account (purpose 22xxx and 28xxx).

5 characters – required

In general, the department segment represents the smallest reporting unit that the University uses to measure budget and actual financial results. In most instances, it identifies the organizational unit responsible for the daily financial management of an account. However, it may also identify a particular event, program, cost center or other special purpose cost grouping within a school or administrative office. In addition, there are many general University accounts with department values that are not associated with any organizational unit but are instead used to record general University accounting transactions.

This segment has 3 reporting attributes that enable the University to summarize and report financial activities across the various entities: Senior Officer, Responsibility Center, and Function.

4 characters – required

This segment is used to track financial activity by financial statement element: asset, liability, net asset, revenue and expense.

The subcode values adhere to the following numbering convention:

Subcode Financial Statement Element
1xxx Assets
2xxx Liabilities
3xxx Net Assets (Fund Balance)
4xxx Revenues
5xxx Compensation Expenses
6xxx – 9xxx Other Expenses


PRISM Subcode Listing and Guidance


5 characters – required for all accounts except for entity 02 operating accounts, entity 03 cost center accounts, and entity 05 sponsored project accounts (which require the default value 00000).

This segment is used to account for funds that have been restricted or designated for specific purposes by donors, management, or the Board of Trustees. Individual accounts utilizing the Purpose segment are established to enable responsible administrators of these funds to separately monitor and report financial activity. This also enables management to meet its fiduciary responsibilities.

The numbering convention for the Purpose segment is as follows:

Entity Purpose Restrictions
02 07xxx Institutional Aid accounts
02 & 03 1xxxx Unrestricted balance sheet accounts
04 23xxx, 24xxx, 25xxx, 26xxx  & 29xxx Restricted gift accounts
04 22xxx, 27xxx, 28xxx & 84xxx Endowment income accounts
04 3xxxx Research Development Fund accounts
06 6xxxx & 7xxxx Plant accounts
07 & 47 4xxxx Loan accounts
08, 25, 28 & 48 5xxxx Endowment accounts
09 9xxxx Agency accounts

6 characters – required for entity 05 accounts. Defaults to 000000 for all other entities.

This segment is used to account for sponsored projects. A sponsored project (grant, contract, cooperative agreement, etc.) is any externally funded research, scholarly, or public service activity that has a defined scope of work, or set of objectives, which provides a basis for sponsor requirements or expectations.

The numbering convention for the Project segment is as follows:

Project Agency Type
01xxxx National Science Foundation
07xxxx Department of Education
1xxxxx Department of Health and Human Services (includes NIH)
40xxxx Other federal agencies and federal pass-through awards
60xxxx State and local government
70xxxx Private agencies (includes foundations and companies)

5 characters – optional. Defaults to 00000 but may be overridden.

This segment is optional and is used solely at the discretion of the department to track distinct subsets of activities within a given departmental account or across many accounts. The values of this segment are only meaningful at the individual school or department level. Consequently, there are no descriptions associated with reference segment values. In addition, no reporting is performed on this segment at the consolidated level.

PRISM Reference Values

5 characters – defaults to 00000. Not available for use.

This segment is reserved for future needs.


Account Aliases (Restricted Use)

An account alias is an easily recognized code representing a frequently used General Ledger account combination. It is used to eliminate data entry errors by allowing a user to type in a 3- or 4-character code rather than a 32-digit account. Examples of current account aliases are GME (General Funds –BNY Mellon) and STAX (sales tax).

PRISM Account Reporting Attributes

These attributes are not components of the 32-digit PRISM account structure but they are still associated with and assigned to accounts in the PRISM system.

2 characters

A Responsibility Center is a budgeting and financial reporting unit such as a school, branch campus, executive office or support unit designated by the University. The Responsibility Center code is a reporting attribute that is assigned to the Department segment of the University’s account number. It enables the University to summarize all financial activities of a Responsibility Center.

Listing of the hierarchy of these reporting units: Responsibility Center (RC) Table

2 characters

The Senior Officer code is a reporting attribute that is assigned to the Department segment of the University’s account number. It groups multiple Responsibility Centers and summarizes financial activities at the senior executive level.

The Senior Officer codes are as follows:

  • 00 Chancellor
  • 01 Executive Vice Chancellor
  • 02 Senior Vice Chancellor and Provost
  • 03 Senior Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences
  • 04 School of Medicine Division
  • 05 General University
  • 06 Senior Vice Chancellor Engagement
  • 07 Senior Vice Chancellor Research
  • 08 Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Legal Officer
  • 09 Senior Vice Chancellor Philanthropic and Alumni Engagement
  • 10 Chief Information Officer
  • 11 Director of Athletics
  • 12 Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer
  • 13 Human Resources

3 characters

The Function Code is a reporting attribute assigned to the Department, Purpose, or Project segment of the University’s account number that is used to classify expenditures according to their predominant function. It is a combination of two previously distinct function codes: the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) Purpose Code and the OMB Uniform Guidance (UG) Code. The Function Code is a three-digit code where the first digit identifies the NACUBO function and the last two digits identify the UG function. There are 10 NACUBO functions and 15 UG functions that have been combined to form 23 valid combined function codes.

Although the functions listed for both reporting attributes bear some resemblance, there is a distinct difference in the purposes they serve. The NACUBO functions are expense classifications established and defined by the NACUBO to improve comparability of data among institutions of higher education. They are used by Budget and Financial Reporting to prepare a footnote to the University's Audited Financial Statements titled "Functional Expenses" in conformity with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). They consist of the following:

  • Instruction
  • Research
  • Public Service
  • Academic Support
  • Libraries
  • Student Services
  • Institutional Support
  • Auxiliary Enterprises
  • Operation and Maintenance of Plant
  • Scholarships and Fellowships

In contrast, the UG functions are used by Cost Accounting to prepare the University's Indirect Cost Proposal. This is a cost study and computation required by Federal OMB Uniform Guidance in support of the University’s claim for indirect cost reimbursement. The UG functions are expense categories established and described in the Uniform Guidance that provide a uniform method of grouping costs into various direct and indirect cost pools for the primary purpose of calculating indirect cost reimbursement rates on sponsored projects.

They consist of the following:

  • Instruction
  • Organized Research
  • Other Sponsored Activities
  • Other Institutional Activities
  • Operation and Maintenance of Plant
  • General Administration
  • Sponsored Projects Administration
  • Deans/Departmental Administration
  • Libraries
  • Student Services Administration
  • Specialized Service Facilities
  • Scholarships and Fellowships

Function codes and definitions