This policy addresses program revenue account balances and appropriate reserve levels, and the methodology for calculating these levels, at UW System and UW System institutions.


The purpose of this policy is to ensure the financial health and stability of each UW System institution and the UW System as a whole and to communicate an accurate fiscal condition more broadly and clearly. The policy balances prudent fiscal management with adequate levels of resources to carry out the universities’ missions, programs, strategic goals, and objectives in an effective and efficient manner.

The policy ensures that:

  1. Individual institutions have the necessary flexibility to manage program revenue accounts to meet cash flow needs throughout the year, financial commitments, plans, and goals.
  2. Reporting of program revenue cash balances is at a level that provides the Board of Regents, Legislature, and public with a complete, consistent and transparent understanding of end-of-year balances.
  3. Institutions have the flexibility to continue to invest in and cultivate creative academic programs to reach all students seeking higher education.
  4. Institutions have the flexibility to invest in facilities that provide a world-class education.
  5. The University of Wisconsin is not incentivized to undertake unnecessary end-of-year spending in order to meet restrictive carry-forward caps.

Definitions and Methodology for Calculating

Program revenue balances shall be calculated subsequent to year-end reconciliation. Overall balances by fund type will be calculated starting with the prior year’s ending cash balance, adding revenues received, and deducting expenditures made during the fiscal year. This produces the budgetary fund balance at the end of a given fiscal year. Balances will not reflect accruals for advance deposits received for future academic terms, accounts payable, or accounts receivable.

Year-end program revenue balances shall be calculated for:

Unrestricted Funds

  1. Tuition (Academic Student Fees and Extension Student Fees)
  2. Auxiliary Operations
  3. General Operations
  4. Other Unrestricted Program Revenue
  5. Federal Indirect Cost Reimbursement

Restricted Funds

  1. Gifts
  2. Nonfederal Grants and Contracts
  3. Federal Grants and Contracts
  4. Other Restricted Program Revenue

A description of UW appropriations included in each category of program revenue balances will be provided to aid in understanding the information presented (See attachment for RPD 21-6 pdf ).

Year-end balances in (1) Tuition (Academic Student Fees and Extension Student Fees), (2) Auxiliary Operations, (3) General Operations, and (4) Other Unrestricted Program Revenue shall be expressed in dollars for the UW System as a whole and for each UW institution. Year-end balances will be calculated as a percentage of the total expenditures by that fund for the fiscal year. Tuition balances shall be expressed as a percentage of the combined expenditures for GPR (less GPR-funded debt service) and Student Fees (tuition).

UW System Administration year-end balances will be reported as an institution. UW system-wide balances, which are those maintained for the support of all UW institutions, will be reported in dollars and as a percentage change over the prior year-end balance. Allocations from systemwide accounts to institutions will occur before an institution calculates its program revenue balance.

Federal Indirect Cost Reimbursement year-end balances shall be expressed in dollars for the UW System as a whole and for each UW institution and as a percentage change from the prior year-end balance.

Reported year-end balances in (1) Tuition (Academic Student Fees and Extension Student Fees), (2) Auxiliary Operations, (3) General Operations, (4) Other Unrestricted Program Revenue, and (5) Federal Indirect Cost Reimbursement shall be categorized by the methodology used in the Legislative Audit Bureau’s Report 13-17. The categories are obligated, planned, designated, reserves, and undocumented.

When categorizing Auxiliary Operations balances, negative division-level balances shall be removed from the balance calculation and reported separately but not categorized.  The remaining positive balances with Auxiliary Operations shall be categorized as obligated, planned, designated, reserves or undocumented.

Year-end balances for restricted funds (Gifts, Nonfederal Grants and Contracts, Federal Grants and Contracts, and Other Restricted Program Revenue) will be reported in total dollars for the UW System as a whole and for each UW institution.

Policy Statement

It is the policy of the Board of Regents that the UW System and UW System institutions maintain appropriate balances to protect the institutions in cases of sudden shortfalls in revenue, to provide for extraordinary events, and to protect against unbudgeted future expenses or losses. Institutions with negative balances for (1) Tuition and (2) Auxiliary Operations shall submit a savings plan on how they will eliminate the negative balance and within what time frame.

The Board of Regents recognizes there are many instances where accumulation of balances is a prudent practice in order to achieve strategic priorities over a multi-year period (establishing new academic programs, purchasing major equipment, funding start-up packages for new faculty, etc.). Institutions with overall balances above 12% of total fiscal year expenditures shall submit justifications for the entire balance along with a defined multi-year spending plan for each of the following four categories: (1) Tuition (Academic Student Fees and Extension Student Fees), (2) Auxiliary Operations, (3) General Operations, and (4) Other Unrestricted Program Revenue. For Auxiliary Operations, the 12% threshold is calculated prior to removing negative division-level balances. Total balances above the 12% threshold should be obligated, planned, or designated by the Chancellor for specific purposes.

The 12% threshold is established to determine an amount which will require a report and Board approval. It is not established as cap on end-of-year balances.

Oversight, Roles, and Responsibilities

UW System Administration will provide the Board of Regents with estimates of year-end program revenue balances for use in determining UW System’s annual budget and setting tuition rates for the subsequent academic year. Actual year-end balances categorized by each institution and the System as a whole shall be reported annually after the fiscal year-end reconciliation and for formal approval by the Board of Regents at the October meeting.

For those institutions with negative balances, the Board of Regents will determine by vote whether the institution has an adequate plan in place to eliminate the negative balance within a reasonable period of time. For those institutions with overall balances above 12% of total year-end expenditures, the Board of Regents will determine by vote whether balances are adequately justified. The Board of Regents will determine by vote whether the justification and multi-year spending plan submitted by UW System Administration for the entire UW system-wide balance is adequate. Justification for the balances should include:

  1. the specific projects or initiatives for which the funds are being held;
  2. the amount of funds held for each project or initiative;
  3. the total amount of program revenue funds the institution plans to accumulate for each initiative or project;
  4. the total amount of funds expected to be expended on each project or initiative; and,
  5. the timeframe in which those funds will be expended.

A negative fund balance shall not be used by any institution as a justification for the request and approval of additional funds.

Related Regent Policies and Applicable Laws



History: Res. 10280, adopted 10/11/2013, created Regent Policy Document 21-6. Res. 10347, adopted 04/11/2014, amended RPD 21-6. Res. 10371, adopted 06/06/2014, amended RPD 21-6 to address legislative modifications. Res. 11553, adopted 12/10/2020, amended RPD 21-6.

See Also:

SYS 314, Financial Management of Auxiliary Operations (formerly F43)

[UW System Administrative policies are included for reference and are separate from Regent Policy Documents adopted by the Board.]