ARC Tool Kit

ARC is the University’s web-based financial system, and includes modules for general accounting, procurement, and project costing (tracking financial information over a project life). Click here for additional information about ARC.

You can use the links on the left to navigate this tool kit for everything you need to know about system access, training, and support. Please contact the Finance Service Center if you can’t find what you need here.

ARC Basics

ARC Overview

This summarizes the ARC Overview lesson of the Reporting Overview course.  If you have already taken the Introduction to ARC course, this offers a quick review of relevant reporting tools


What is ARC?

ARC, Accounting and Reporting at Columbia, is a PeopleSoft Financials Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that gives the University the ability to manage and track all of its diverse financial activities. In order to accomplish this, ARC, relies on the following basic building blocks:

• The General Ledger and Sub-ledgers

• Funding Sources and Fund Balances

• The Chart of Accounts and ChartFields

• ChartStrings:  Ways of Organizing ChartFields

The General Ledger refers to the central ledger that receives all the summary information from its subsystems (or sub-ledgers).

The sub-ledgers are modules in ARC or external systems that feed into ARC (called integrating systems). At Columbia, sub-ledgers are transaction systems that feed summarized transaction information to the General Ledger.


Funding Sources and Fund Balances

Because the University receives certain funding that carries restrictions, the University must keep track of how those restricted funds are spent and how much are left at any given time. 

To make this as transparent as possible, the University segregates and tracks the different types of funding sources according to various levels of restrictions. Major categories of funding sources, called "Funds" include: 

• Unrestricted Funds

• Faculty Practice Funds

• Endowment and Similar Funds

• Gift Funds

• Plant Funds

• Government and Non- Government Grants

• Agency Funds

Within each category of Fund, the University may receive distinct sources that need to be tracked separately.  For example, within Gift Funds, we may have distinct gifts from Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones that each carry different restrictions. ARC establishes a separate “Project” for the Smith gift and another for the Jones gift to track their expenses separately. Each specific funding source will have a Project in ARC, and each Project is associated with a category of Fund.

Each Project tracks revenues, expenses, and the fund balance. The fund balance is the cumulative difference between revenues and expenses over the life of the project. In any given year, revenue minus expense equals the change in the fund balance. The change in fund balance is added to the beginning balance, and the result is the ending balance for the year.

Since the Project ChartField represents the specific funding source and is required on all transactions, separate projects are generally set up where a separate fund balance must be tracked and carried forward. For more information on fund balances, please refer to the job aid Chartfield Statements – Fund Balance Review.


The Chart of Accounts

The Chart of Accounts refers to how ARC organizes financial information. ChartFields are the individual components that describe each element of a financial transaction (what department, funding source, etc). All together there are 11 ChartFields, including "Fund", "Project", "Department", and "Account", where  "Account" refers to categories of revenue and expenses.  Each ChartField has a defined purpose and contains the list of values a user can choose from to organize and label financial transactions and balances.  ChartFields can be thought of as column headers in Excel, where each transaction is a row that puts a set of values in each column.

ChartFields can be organized by ranges, attributes, and trees:  

Ranges  each ChartField has conventions for assigning names and ranges to group similar values together

Attributes categorize ChartFields for security, reporting, programming and other purposes.  A set of attributes is attached to each ChartField value (similar to attributes attached to FAS Accounts) – for example, each Project has an “Owning Department” attribute

Trees are used to organize ChartField data into hierarchies which can be used for security, reporting and managing organizational structure

Inquiry, query and report access by ChartField allows users to view all financial activity recorded on a specific Project, Activity, Initiative and/or Segment.

Summary Reports by ChartFields are special reports in the Financial Data Store that utilize "Ownership" of a project, initiative, or segment. Owners can see all activity for these ChartFields, across departments.  For example, if four different departments transact on a project, the owner of the project will be able to view the activity for the project across all of the departments that transact on it.

Together, the values chosen for each of the 11 ChartFields form a ChartString.  A ChartString is simply the combination of ChartFields chosen for any given transaction.  

A ChartString is needed for every procurement transaction and journal entry in ARC.


Below is a list of  the 11 ChartFields that make up Columbia University’s Chart of Accounts.  The digit next to each ChartField on the diagram represents the ChartField length. For example, Business Unit values are 5 characters long (e.g. COLUM). 



Each ChartField tells us something about a transaction: ChartField

Characters (length)


Required on transaction

General / Undefined Value

Business Unit


(e.g. COLUM - Columbia University)

The legal entity that owns the transaction and for which financial statements are produced.

Required on all transactions




(e.g. 40000 - TUITION)

Used to capture the natural classification of the transaction. (i.e.: What we purchased or received).

Accounts begin with numbers 1-7:

1 = Assets 

2 = Liabilities 

3 = Fund Balances 

4 = Revenue 

5 = Salaries and Fringe 

6 = OTPS 

7 = Internal Transfers 

Required on all transactions




(e.g. 0102102 - PRE Office of the President)

Where the transactions took place in the University.

Hierarchical breakdown to track financial activity within the organizational structure.

Required on all transactions


PC Business Unit


(e.g. CAPTL – Capital Projects)

High level project type. There are three PC Business Units to select from:

  • Capital
  • Sponsored Project
  • General

Required on all transactions




(e.g. CP001005 - AR AUDITORIUM)

Associates expenses with a revenue source (Fund source).

Required on all transactions





(e.g. 01 – AR AUDITORIUM)

Work break down structure for the associated Project (Fund source).

Required on all transactions

Note: For fiscal year projects the activity will always be 01.




(e.g. 10001 - Payroll Suspense)

What program or activity took place.

Captures expenses and/or funding sources for either (a) shared or (b) commonly defined programs across departments, schools, or campuses.

Only required for revenue, expense, and internal transfer transactions

00000 - Undefined Initiative



(e.g. 01000001 - PRE House Administration)

By/for whom activities are conducted;generally a  person or thing (e.g. faculty member).

Only required for revenue, expense, and internal transfer transactions

00000000 – Undefined Segment




Where the transaction took place.

Building Number or Country Code

Only required for Capital projects but should be used when applicable




(e.g. 01 – General Unrestricted Fund)

The category of funding source; indicates the level of restriction on the funds used.

This ChartField will default from other ChartFields

01 – General Unrestricted Fund



(e.g. 010 – TUITION)

The University mission the transaction relates to.

Categorization of revenues, expenses, and internal transfers for all Profit and Loss (P&L) transactions.

This ChartField will default from other ChartFields