The Story Behind the Numbers

A Companion to the 2018 Annual Financial Report

The University of Colorado Annual Financial Report is full of numbers, developed and reviewed by many accountants. For those of you who do not have an accounting background, the Office of University Controller developed this companion website to help make financial report information easier to understand.

A Little Background 

Every year, the University of Colorado produces an Annual Financial Report.

This year’s Companion to the Annual Financial Report steps through some of the reasons we prepare an annual report, and why you might want to look at it.

Why Do We Prepare an Annual Financial Report?

Every year, CU prepares audited financial statements.

We do this because we have to.


The State of Colorado requires it,
because we’re included in the State’s financials.


The federal government requires it,
because we get grants and student financial aid.

Lenders and bond rating agencies require it,
because we issue debt.

But we also do this because we want to.


We receive almost $4 billion in annual revenue and we’re a major economic driver for the State of Colorado.


And preparing an annual financial report is simply a best practice for a major enterprise like us.


It’s good business to do a periodic check of our financial position … and to have an external party look at some of our controls and audit our balances.


preparing an annual report lets us compare ourselves with other institutions, which is a useful thing to do.

Why Should You Look at our Annual Report?

Our 2018 annual report provides numbers for two years: the 2018 fiscal year (July 2017-June 2018), compared with the previous fiscal year.

In the Management Discussion & Analysis (MD&A) section of the report, we consider our performance for three years: the 2018 fiscal year, compared with the two previous fiscal years.

This means that when you look at CU’s annual report, you not only get a snapshot of our financial position at a particular moment in time … you also get to see some trends. The more annual reports you look at, the longer the period you can see trending data.

So what does the report tell us this year?

When you look at our 2018 Annual Financial Report, you’ll see that CU is strong … it’s growing … it’s healthy … and it’s valued.

Signs of Strength

This is a natural extension of being able to compare ourselves with other institutions.

CU uses revenue bonds to borrow money so that we can enhance our educational, research, and other facilities. These bonds are paid back from specific revenue sources.

Most people have a credit score that determines the interest they pay on borrowing. For an institution like CU, a bond credit rating is like an individual credit score.

And CU’s bond credit ratings are strong. In fact, they’re the second highest rating that can be achieved from two rating agencies, exceeded only by the rating reserved for the federal government and a few other well-funded organizations.

Furthermore, CU’s rating outlook is stable. The CU System is the preeminent higher education institution in the state, with excellent strategic positioning, a significant research enterprise, and an important role in providing medical education for Colorado.

Signs of Growth

CU continues to grow. In tuition, in research, and in gifts.

CU’s total enrollment increased 3.4 percent last year and is expected to continue to rise. There’s been a corresponding increase in tuition and fee revenue.

CU saw another record year for philanthropy.

For the first time, CU broke the $1 billion threshold in sponsored research funding.

CU’s long-term investment pool is $1.67 billion – and it has grown steadily.

Signs of Health

CU’s growth is healthy growth.

CU’s operations continue to grow … our expenses are in line with our growth … and we’re able to repay our debt.

In addition, CU benefits from the support of the CU Foundation.

Finally, CU’s proportionate share in the statewide pension (PERA) liability is decreasing, and the Colorado General Assembly has taken action to reduce the overall liability.

Signs of Value

CU’s value is recognized.

At a time when the value of higher education is often questioned, and student population is in decline at many other institutions, we have more students coming to us. And we have the capacity to accommodate this growth in enrollment.

In addition, our alumni and other donors are showing that they recognize the value of our education, research, and service through the increasing size and number of their gifts to CU.

Snapshots of the Present, Pictures of the Future

As mentioned above, our Annual Financial Report provides a snapshot of CU’s financial position at a moment in time.

If you’d like to get a picture of CU’s future, we recommend you take a look at the Strategic Vision developed by the University of Colorado Board of Regents.

The Regents have developed metrics and goals to track progress toward this vision in four key areas: Affordability & Access, Student Success, Fiscal Sustainability, and Reputation & Impact. For more information, see

Questions & Feedback

Did you find this website helpful? Do you have a question or comment about the 2018 Annual Financial Report?

Let us know!