Note 1 – Organization and Summary of Significant Accounting Policies

The University of Alabama (the “University”), in Tuscaloosa, Alabama is one of three universities of The University of Alabama System (the “System”) which is a component unit of the State of Alabama. These financial statements include individual schools, colleges and departments, and certain affiliated operations determined to be a part of the University’s financial reporting entity. The financial statements of the University are intended to present the financial position, the changes in financial position, and the cash flows of only that portion of the business-type activities of the financial reporting entity of the System that is attributable to the transactions of the University. They do not purport to, and do not, present fairly the financial position of the System, its changes in financial position, or its cash flows. The University is recognized as an organization exempt from Federal Income tax under Section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code as an organization described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The University, as a public institution, prepares its financial statements in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, as prescribed by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (“GASB”).

GASB Statement No. 35, Basic Financial Statements and Management’s Discussion and Analysis for Public Colleges and Universities, establishes standards for external financial reporting for public colleges and universities and requires that resources be classified for accounting and reporting purposes into the following three net position categories:

  • Net Investment in Capital Assets: Capital assets, net of accumulated depreciation and outstanding principal balances of debt attributable to the acquisition, construction or improvement of those assets.
  • Restricted:

Net position subject to externally imposed stipulations that they be maintained permanently by the University. Such assets include the corpus of the University’s permanent endowment funds.

Expendable – Net position, which when used by the University, is subject to externally imposed stipulations that can be fulfilled by actions of the University pursuant to those stipulations or that expire with the passage of time.

  • Unrestricted: Net position which is not subject to externally imposed stipulations. Unrestricted net position may be designated for specific purposes by action of management. Substantially all unrestricted net position is internally designated for academic, research, public service and capital programs.

For financial reporting purposes, the University is considered a special-purpose government engaged only in business-type activities as defined by GASB Statement No. 35. Business-type activities are those that are financed in whole or in part by fees charged to external parties for goods or services. Under the accrual basis, revenues are recognized when earned, and expenses are recorded when an obligation has been incurred.

Auxiliary enterprise revenues primarily represent revenues generated by Intercollegiate Athletics, residence halls and the UA Supply Store. Revenues received for capital activities are considered neither operating nor nonoperating activities and are presented after nonoperating activities on the accompanying statements of revenues, expenses, and changes in net position.

All internal sales between University departments from sales and service units (fleet services, telecommunications, etc.) have been eliminated in the accompanying financial statements.

The preparation of financial statements in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities and disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the dates of the financial statements, and the reported amounts of revenues and expenses during the reporting periods. Actual results could differ from those estimates. The estimates susceptible to changes include those used in determining the allowance for uncollectible accounts, useful lives of capital assets, the valuation of investments (including endowed real estate), reserves for self-insurance, and reserves for general and professional liability claims. Although some variability is inherent in these estimates, management believes that the amounts provided are adequate.

Implementation of New Standards: During 2018, the University adopted GASB Statement No. 75, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Postemployment Benefits other than Pensions. This statement revises existing standards for measuring and reporting retiree health benefits provided by the University to its employees. The University is required to recognize a liability equal to the net retiree health benefit liability. The implementation of GASB 75 resulted in an adjustment to net position of approximately $222.8 million (refer to note 10) as of October 1, 2017.

The University also adopted GASB Statement No. 81, Irrevocable Split-Interest Agreements, during fiscal year 2018. The objective of this Statement is to improve accounting and financial reporting for irrevocable split-interest agreements by providing recognition and measurement guidance for situations in which a government is a beneficiary of the agreement. The implementation of GASB 81 resulted in an adjustment to gifts of $2.0 million and an adjustment to additions to permanent endowments of $744,000 in fiscal year 2018.

Reduction for Return of Gift: During fiscal year 2019, the University returned all gifts and accumulated earnings received by The University and the Law School Foundation from a donor. On June 7, 2019, The Board of Trustees of The University of Alabama approved a resolution to execute the return of these gifts, including accumulated earnings, to the donor. During the year ended September 30, 2019, the University returned $20.0 million of gifts received by the University and $1.5 million of gifts received by the Law School Foundation. The University returned approximately $496,000 of related earnings and income on the gifts received by the University, and approximately $85,000 of related earnings and income on the gifts received by the Law School Foundation. The effects of this are included in additions and other adjustments to permanent endowments in the accompanying statements of revenues, expenses and changes in net position.

Other significant accounting policies of the University are as follows:

Cash and Cash Equivalents: For purposes of the statements of cash flows, the University considers all highly liquid investments with an original maturity of three months or less to be cash equivalents, including restricted cash and cash equivalents. Cash equivalents representing assets of the University’s endowment, life income, investments for capital activities (including unspent bond proceeds) and other long-term investments are included in the noncurrent investments category.

Investments: The University’s investments are reported at fair value. The majority of the University’s investment portfolio is invested in separate investment pools sponsored by the System. Fair value for the investment pools is provided by the System, based on the fair value of the underlying investment securities held by each investment pool. Fair value of the underlying securities held in each investment pool is based on quoted market prices or dealer quotes, where available, or determined using net asset values provided by underlying investment partnerships or companies. Fair value for equity securities, debt securities, mutual funds and U.S. government and agency obligations held by the University is determined from quoted market prices or market prices of similar instruments. Real estate held as investments is reported at fair value based upon appraisals, entry price at the date of donation, and other valuations typically based on management assumptions or expectations. Investments received by gift are reported at fair value at date of receipt. Net investment income, including realized and unrealized gains and losses, is reported as nonoperating revenues (expenses) in the statements of revenues, expenses and changes in net position.

Investments are reported in four categories in the statements of net position. Investments recorded as endowment and life income are those invested funds that cannot be used to fund current operations and thus are included in noncurrent assets. Investments held for future capital projects are included in noncurrent assets. Other long-term investments are those invested funds with maturities greater than one year or are considered by management to be of a long duration that are not an investment of the endowment and life income fund or the plant fund. All other investments are included as short-term investments.

Loans Receivable: Loans receivable represent all amounts owed on promissory notes from debtors including campus-based and federal student loans.

Inventories: Inventories are carried at the lower of cost or market and consist primarily of the UA Supply Store inventory.

Accounts and Notes Receivable: Accounts receivable are largely comprised of tuition charged to students and amounts due from federal, state and local governments, or private sources, in connection with reimbursement of allowable expenditures made pursuant to the University’s contracts and grants. Accounts receivable are recorded net of estimated uncollectible amounts. The University has certain notes receivable, principally from campus student organizations, for construction.

Capital Assets: Capital assets are recorded at cost at the date of acquisition, or estimated acquisition value at date of donation in the case of gifts, less accumulated depreciation. Renovations to buildings, infrastructure, and land improvements that significantly increase the value or extend the useful life of the structure are capitalized. Routine repairs and maintenance are charged to operating expense in the year in which the expense is incurred.

The University capitalizes certain software and development costs associated with obtaining and developing internal-use computer software. Training costs and data conversion costs are expensed as incurred.

Prior to fiscal year 2018, interest costs for certain qualifying assets acquired with the proceeds of tax-exempt borrowings were capitalized and amortized over the life of the related asset. In 2018, the University early adopted GASB Statement No. 89, Accounting for Interest Cost Incurred before the end of a Construction Period. This statement simplifies accounting for interest cost incurred before the end of a construction period by requiring it to be expensed instead of capitalized.

Depreciation of buildings and building improvements and infrastructure (20-50 years), land improvements (20 years), library collections (10 years), and inventoried equipment (5-15 years) is computed on a straight-line basis.

Pledges: The University receives pledges and bequests of financial support. Revenue is recognized when a pledge representing an unconditional promise to give is received and all eligibility requirements, including time requirements, have been met. In the absence of such a promise, revenue is recognized when the gift is received. Pledges are recorded at their gross, undiscounted amount, net of a reasonable provision for doubtful accounts. Endowment pledges do not meet eligibility requirements and are not recorded as assets until the related gift is received. Due to uncertainties with regard to their realization and valuation, bequest intentions and other conditional promises are not recognized as assets until the specified conditions are met.

Charitable Remainder Trusts: The University is the beneficiary of various charitable remainder trust funds. Under the terms of the agreements, the University has the irrevocable right to receive the remaining assets of the trusts upon the death of a specified beneficiary or beneficiaries in exchange for a stipulated amount to be paid periodically to the donor or their designee until the death of the beneficiary. Following the death of the beneficiary, the remainder is transferred to the University as either unrestricted or restricted funds depending on donor-imposed purpose restrictions. The assets received at the inception of a charitable remainder trust agreement are recorded fair value at the date of gift. These assets are held by the University. The fair value of charitable remainder trust assets is approximately $5.5 million and $6.4 million at September 30, 2019 and 2018, respectively. Any change in value related to these trusts is recorded as an increase or decrease in the related deferred inflows of resources in the statements of net position.

The liability associated with these agreements is recorded at the present value based on IRS mortality tables and prevailing interest rates. The liability is reduced for distributions made to the beneficiaries and is adjusted annually for revaluations of expected future payments to the beneficiaries based on changes in life expectancy. The present value of the liability associated with these agreements is approximately $3.0 million and $3.5 million at September 30, 2019 and 2018, respectively.

Beneficial Interest in Perpetual Trusts: Perpetual trusts are trusts under which the University will receive income distributions in perpetuity, but will never receive the corpus of the trust assets (principal). Income received from perpetual trusts is recognized as unrestricted or restricted expendable gift revenue depending on donor restrictions.

Endowment Spending: The State Legislature adopted the Alabama Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (“UPMIFA”), effective January 1, 2009, which permits The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama (the “Board”) to appropriate an amount of realized and unrealized endowment appreciation as the Board determines to be prudent. UPMIFA also prescribes the guidelines for the expenditure of donor-restricted endowment funds in the absence of overriding, explicit donor stipulations. UPMIFA focuses on the entirety of a donor-restricted endowment fund, that is, both the original gift amount(s) and net appreciation. UPMIFA includes a robust set of guidelines about what constitutes prudent spending, explicitly requiring consideration of the duration and preservation of the fund. The University’s policy is to retain the endowment realized and unrealized appreciation with the endowment after the spending rate distributions in a manner consistent with the standards of prudence prescribed by UPMIFA. The Board approved a spending rate for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017 of 5.0%, which is based on a moving three-year average of the market (unit) value. However, effective October 1, 2017, the Board adopted a spending rate of 4.5%, based on a moving five-year average of the market (unit) value, and return of gains for underwater endowments.

Prepaid Expenses and Unearned Scholarships: Prepaid expenses are composed of future expenses that have been paid in advance and include prepaid postage and other miscellaneous expenses. Unearned scholarship expense results from the Fall academic term spanning across the fiscal year-end. The University prorates scholarship expense to recognize only the amounts incurred in each fiscal year.

Unearned Revenues: Unearned revenues consist primarily of tuition and housing revenues, which are subject also to a prorated adjustment so noted in the aforementioned paragraph. Intercollegiate Athletics ticket revenue related to future fiscal years is also a component of unearned revenue.

Federal Refundable Loans: Certain loans to students are administered by the University with funding primarily supported by the federal government. The University’s statements of net position include both the notes receivable and the related federal refundable loan liability representing federal capital contributions and related activity owed upon termination of the program.  The Federal Perkins Loan Program expired June 30, 2018.  The University will continue operating the program and remit any excess cash annually for the pro rata federal and institutional capital contributions.  At September 30, 2019, approximately $2.3 million is payable to the Department of Education for its portion of the excess cash available at June 30, 2019.

Compensated Absences: The University accrues liabilities for employees’ annual and sick leave balances. The accrual rates are formulated calculations based on length of service, job classification, and hours worked. Adjustments to the accrual are recorded annually.

Deferred Outflows of Resources: Deferred outflows of resources consist of bond deferred refunding amounts, pension obligations, and OPEB obligations. Pension obligations include differences between expected and actual experience, employer contributions to the Teachers’ Retirement System subsequent to the Plan’s measurement date, changes in proportion of the allocated pension liability and differences between employer contributions and proportionate share of contributions, and changes in actuarial and other assumptions. OPEB obligations include employer contributions to the Alabama Retired Education Employees' Health Care Trust subsequent to the Trust's measurement date, changes in proportion of the allocated OPEB liability and differences between employer contributions and proportionate share of contributions, and differences between expected and actual experience.

Deferred Inflows of Resources: Deferred inflows of resources are composed of both pension and OPEB obligations, as well as the University’s remainder interest in its irrevocable split interest agreements. Pension obligations include differences between expected and actual experience, changes in proportion of the allocated pension liability and differences between employer contributions and proportionate share of contributions, and net difference between projected and actual earnings on pension plan investments. OPEB obligations include changes in actuarial and other assumptions, net difference between projected and actual earnings on OPEB plan investments, and changes in proportion of the allocated OPEB liability and differences between employer contributions and proportionate share of contributions.

Scholarship Allowances and Student Aid: Student tuition and fees are presented net of scholarships and fellowships applied to student accounts, while stipends and other payments made directly to students are presented as scholarships and fellowships expense.

Grant and Contract Revenue: The University receives grant and contract revenue from governmental and private sources. The University recognizes revenue associated with sponsored programs in accordance with GASB Statement No. 33, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Nonexchange Transactions, based on the terms of the individual grant or contract. Federal Pell grants are recorded as nonoperating revenues in the accompanying statements of revenues, expenses and changes in net position.

Nonoperating Revenues (Expenses): Nonoperating revenues and expenses include State educational appropriations, private gifts for other than capital purposes, Federal Pell grants, investment income, net of unrealized appreciation or depreciation in the fair value of investments and interest expense.