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IPEDS Finance Data FASB and GASB - What's the Difference?

As data users attempt to compare institutions that cross accounting models, it becomes difficult to put them on the same scale. Some accounting differences cannot be adjusted for, but an understanding of them may help.

Basically three formats are used to collect data from public and private institutions. In this document they will be referred to as Old Form, FASB, and New GASB. The Old Form was used by all institutions until 1997 and public institutions continued to use this version through as late as fiscal year 2003. FASB refers to the format that was implemented by private institutions in fiscal year 1997 as a result of the changes in accounting standards adopted by the Financial Accounting Standards Board. New GASB is the format that phases in for public institutions, over a three-year period beginning in fiscal year 2002, as a result of the changes in accounting standards adopted by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. New GASB will apply to all institutions using government accounting standards by fiscal year 2004. The major areas affected by the changes in accounting standards over time are revenues, expenses/ expenditures, and scholarships and fellowships.

Revenues

A general concept underlying the reporting under the Old Form (as compared to FASB and New GASB) is the scope of the funds included. The Old Form included only current funds, namely unrestricted, restricted, and auxiliary funds. It did not include plant funds, loan funds, and endowment funds. FASB and New GASB include all funds. Thus the Old Form does not include such revenues as contributions to endowments, interest from student loans, and capital appropriations (such as when a government agency funds the building of a new facility), whereas FASB and New GASB would include these. Many institutions collect student fees to pay bond indebtedness, which, under old standards, would be accounted for in a plant fund (these are not included in the Old Form, but are included in reporting under FASB and New GASB).

In the Old Form, tuition and fees and auxiliary enterprise revenues were reported as a gross amount. All charges, no matter how they were paid, were included in the revenue amount. Under FASB, tuition and fees as well as auxiliary enterprises are reported net of scholarships and fellowships used to pay these fees, otherwise referred to as allowances. The amounts of allowances applied to tuition and fees and to auxiliary enterprises are reported in the scholarship section. Adding this amount back to the revenue amounts should result in the gross amount, which is somewhat comparable to the amount reported in the Old Form. New GASB also uses this concept. It is referred to as discounts and allowances on the New GASB form.

Revenues under the New GASB format are divided into operating, non-operating, and other revenues. For several of the categories, such as grants and contracts, a simple addition of the amounts from each section (e.g., state operating grants and contracts and state non-operating grants) would give a comparable value to the category (state grants and contracts) as it was collected in the Old Form or in FASB. For appropriations, it is somewhat different, however, since capital appropriations would not have been included in the Old Form. FASB does include capital appropriations in the appropriations revenue amount.

The Old Form included a schedule requesting hospital revenue by source. This schedule is not included in either New GASB or FASB. Also, sales and services of educational activities is not a separate revenue category in the New GASB form, but rather these amounts are included in other sources - operating. Investment income was not reported separately in the Old Form, but it is a separate revenue item in FASB and New GASB. Additions to permanent endowments appear as a revenue source in the New GASB form, but do not appear separately in the FASB, where they are included in private gifts, grants and contracts or contributions from affiliated entities, depending on the source. These amounts do not appear anywhere on the Old Form, since they are considered endowment fund activity, and are not within the scope of the Old Form.

Expenditures/Expenses

The basic functional expenditure categories reported on the forms have not changed with the exceptions of depreciation and operation and maintenance of plant. FASB does not consider operation and maintenance of plant as a separate function, but rather allocates these expenses to the other functions such as instruction, research, public service, and academic support). Operation and maintenance of plant is a distinct functional category on the Old Form and on the New GASB. This difference causes an otherwise comparable FASB institution to have higher expenses in functions such as instruction than a New GASB or an Old Form reporter.

Depreciation is a new concept for higher education institutions since the FASB change. It is included in the FASB form and the New GASB form. Depreciation (a system of allocating the cost of long-lived assets over the time they are expected to be used) is calculated and expensed for items such as equipment, vehicles, and furnishings, as well as buildings. Essentially no expenses related to building purchases or construction appear in the Old Form because they were outside the scope of the form (plant fund). Equipment, vehicle, and furniture purchases appear as expenditures in the year they occurred in the Old Form. This change makes it extremely difficult to crosswalk from the Old Form to either FASB or New GASB.

Scholarship and fellowship expenditures were reported on the Old Form as a gross amount of awards granted. FASB presents net grant aid to students (total scholarships and fellowships minus the amount used to pay tuition and fees and other institutional charges). The same amounts that affect tuition and fees and auxiliary enterprises also affect this expense category. New GASB reports the net amount in a category called scholarships and fellowships expenses, excluding discounts and allowances. Again the gross amount can be found on the scholarships and fellowships section of the form (Part C for FASB and Part E for New GASB).

Expenses for interest on debt were generally not included in the Old Form, except through mandatory and non-mandatory transfers, which included principal payments as well. Neither type of transfer is found on FASB or New GASB. Interest does appear as an expense on FASB and New GASB. The Old Form did not include plant funds, where debt service usually takes place.

Scholarships and Fellowships

Part E of the Old Form displayed student scholarships and fellowships by source. This data is essentially the same on the FASB and New GASB forms, with more detail added. Institutional scholarships are further broken down as funded and unfunded on the FASB form (Part C). The amount of the scholarships applied to tuition and fees is reported, as well as scholarships applied to auxiliary enterprise revenues (such as room and board or bookstore charges). These amounts may be different among FASB schools due to the variance in accounting method for Pell grants. When the new FASB accounting standards were adopted, institutions could choose to treat Pell grants as pass through funds (the institution is simply a conduit for the funds) or as federal grant revenue and expense (or allowance). New GASB reporters use Part E to report scholarships and fellowships. Discounts and allowances applied to tuition and fees, and discounts and allowances applied to sales and services of auxiliary enterprises are also reported on this part. All New GASB reporters treat Pell grants as federal revenue and include them as discounts and allowances (if used to pay for tuition and fees or other institutional charges) or as net grant aid to students (if paid to the student to offset other expenses).

Other Changes

Some data items are no longer collected. While the Old Form included data on endowments, the FASB and New GASB forms originally excluded this data. However, in response to numerous requests to reinstate these questions, they were added to the FASB and New GASB forms as an optional item for fiscal year 2003; they will be mandatory thereafter.

As mentioned previously, hospital revenues are not broken down in the FASB and New GASB forms. They are reported only on the revenue portion of the form used for the institution as a whole, Part D on the FASB form and Part B on the New GASB form.

Replacement value was required for fixed assets on the Old Form, but is not required on the new forms. Instead, the value of the assets as recorded in the institution's accounting records is required instead. The previously collected data were based on estimates, whereas the new data are audited, and deemed to be more reliable.

New data items were added to the FASB and New GASB forms that were not collected on the Old Form. Assets, liabilities, and net assets are requested on the new forms. The section on ''Changes in Net Assets'' is another new part of the forms, included in both the FASB and New GASB forms. These additional data collection items will allow new areas for trend comparisons and peer analysis once the new GASB phase-in is complete.

Conclusion

A direct crosswalk cannot be made from the Old Form to either the FASB or New GASB forms. There also in not a direct crosswalk between FASB and New GASB, although comparisons are somewhat easier between FASB and New GASB. The changes in scope and data collected cause some major and some minor obstacles to comparing data before and after the accounting changes for private and public institutions. The changes described above should help to bridge some of the gaps between the types of data collected and aid the reader in understanding where direct comparisons cannot be made.

For more information, contact the IPEDS Finance Survey Director Colleen Lenihan.

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education