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Chart of Accounts (COA)

ChartField Definitions
Contact Information


The Chart of Accounts (COA) is the backbone of the financial system. It provides the organizing framework for both financial and management reporting within the financial system. The COA structure is a string of informational fields that identifies, segregates, and categorizes transactional and budget data.  The Chart of Accounts is comprised of individual chart fields or segments that, when linked together, provide special identification characteristics.

ChartField maintenance is the activity of managing the structure of the Chart of Accounts and establishing the valid values used to record financial transactions. Individual valid values are called ChartFields and are used in unique combinations called Chart Strings to capture data for management and financial accounting. For a complete description of this financial organizational structure, definitions of ChartFields, and other reference material, refer to the resources below.

ChartField Definitions

Fund defines self-balancing sets of accounts that record cash and other financial resources, with related liabilities, fund equity and other corresponding changes. Also plays a key role in governing budget/spending controls in compliance with the concepts of fund accounting and all-funds budgeting.

The lowest level at the University where you manage a staff and/or control, secure, or report on a budget/activity performance.

Account specifies the balance sheet, expenditure or revenue Account on financial transactions.  Each account is one of the following types: Asset, Liability, Fund Equity, Expenditure or Revenue.

Used for sponsored projects (or those activities with similar multi-year needs) and plant projects as well as endowments, gifts, designated funds, student loans and agency activity.

A subdivision of Projects.  For Grants and Contracts, establish values from 01 – 99 to represent the sequential years of the Grant or Contract. For non-grant projects the field may be used to reflect identification of faculty members when applying designated or endowment chart strings.

Program Code
Field used to unite cross-department/cross-project activities.



For information about grant specific values, refer to these training materials:

Contact Information

Questions about…

Chart of Accounts for non-grant chart strings?

Contact Accounting Services at 847-491-5337

Chart of Accounts for sponsored projects chart strings?

Contact Janet Maher, Accounting for Research and Sponsored Programs, at 847-491-0113 or j-maher@northwestern.edu