Financial Management

BUDGETING & ACCOUNTING

Program Budgeting

The Education Abroad Office (EAO) will work with the Faculty Leader(s) to create an inclusive program budget. Leader(s) should not advertise the cost of the program prior to finalizing the budget with the EAO and the department/college. The EAO will send the budget to chairs/deans, as appropriate, at these four points in time:

  1. Initial proposal budget
  2. Budget to “lock in” and advertise the cost, based on a firm minimum enrollment target
  3. Budget based on actual enrollment (# of students who submitted deposits)
  4. Final report on actual expenses
Education Abroad will advertise the budget to students on the program's MyWorld brochure "Budget Sheet," showing all billable (billed by UNL) and non-billable (paid by the student out-of-pocket) costs. The Budget Sheet will also be used by the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to adjust the student's cost of attendance. The EAO will not accept commitment deposits from students until the approved budget has been advertised to students.

Paying for Goods & Services on Education Abroad Programs

The Education Abroad Office (EAO) uses the term "vendor" to refer to any individual, organization, institution, or company providing a good or service to an education abroad program. Please review the four payment options below. Faculty leaders may use any or all of these options, depending on the program model, the country's financial system, and the nature of the expenses incurred. The EAO staff can offer suggestions about the most feasible option for each expense.

The EAO strongly encourages the use of an on-site coordinator (Payment Option #1) whenever possible, in line with best practices in the field of education abroad. The EAO will use Option #2 for a limited number of vendors and when a strong argument can be made for this option. Option #3 is useful for any expense that cannot be easily prepaid, but the record-keeping and reconciliation process can be time-intensive for faculty leaders during and after the program. When appropriate, Option #4 allows students to control their own expenses and interact with local vendors.

 

Payment optionProcessPayment Methods
1. On-site coordinator
pays vendor(s)

(UNL pays on-site coordinator)
  • UNL signs agreement with on-site coordinator to provide specific services for the group.
  • On-site coordinator pays individual vendors
    (hotels, transportation companies, etc.)
  • UNL pays on-site coordinator a fee according to the terms of the agreement.

(UNL to on-site coordinator)

  • Check (vendors in the U.S.)
  •  Wire transfer
2. UNL pays vendor directly
  • Faculty Leader makes arrangements with vendor.
  • Vendor sends UNL an itemized invoice.
  • EAO and University Services Business Center review and process the invoice.
    Note: EAO cannot make reservations and can only pay a limited number of vendors directly.
  • Check
    (vendors in the U.S.)
  • Wire transfer
  • Group Travel Card
3. UNL Faculty Leader pays vendor directly
  • Optional/Encouraged: EAO requests Travel Advance for Faculty Leader, based on on-site budget available.
  • Faculty Leader picks up advance check from Bursar and deposits it in personal bank account.
  • Faculty Leader withdraws funds, records exchange rate and bank fees and retains/translates all original receipts. If a receipt is not available, Faculty Leader requests vendor’s signature.
  • Faculty Leader submits Employee Expense Voucher (per guidelines) to the EAO upon return.
  • EAO reviews, signs, and submits the Employee Expense Voucher to the Bursar’s Office (if an advance was taken) or Accounting (if no advance was taken).
  • Cash
  • Faculty Leader's personal credit/debit card
4. Student pays vendor directly 
  • Expenses that are unpredictable, variable by student, optional, or logistically easier for the individual student to pay out-of-pocket are excluded from the program budget and the billable cost for the student.
  • Students will be given an estimated out-of-pocket budget.
  • Cash
  • Student's personal credit/debit card

Payment Method Considerations

  • Check: Generally only feasible for vendors based in the U.S. Itemized invoice required. Processing time is approximately 2 weeks from the date the invoice is submitted to Accounting.
  • Wire transfer: Generally the best option for vendors based outside of the U.S. Itemized invoice required. Fees include $10 wire fee, fees charged by receiving bank, and exchange rate differential. Processing time is approximately 2-3 weeks from the date the invoice is submitted to Accounting.
  • Group Travel Card (Visa credit card): Itemized invoice required. The credit card number must be conveyed by the EAO director to the vendor via phone or fax (not via email). Final amount charged will vary, based on exchange rate used on date of payment. Payment processing time is immediate, but the EAO director may experience delays contacting vendors in different time zones.
  • Cash: Itemized receipt required for reimbursement. Some vendors will only accept cash, and cash may be the easiest and/or least expensive way to pay for some items. There are limits to the amount of cash that may be carried across borders. Carrying large amounts of cash is not recommended and cash should be carefully secured to deter theft.
  • Personal credit/debit card: Itemized receipt required for reimbursement. ATMs are widely available in most countries, particularly in major cities. Most personal accounts have daily ATM withdrawal limits, and banks will assess ATM fees and international fees. Credit/debit cards may be targeted for theft/fraud, but most banks have alert systems in place.

 Travel Advance

Once on-site funds are determined, you may request a travel advance of at least $500 to cover the group's expenses that must be paid in country. Travel advance funds will be made available to you shortly before departure (typically no more than 3-5 business days).

After you leave the US, vendor payments are still being made, and changes such as student withdrawals are still possible, which will affect the amount of funds available in the program budget. There is also the potential for changes due to unforeseen circumstances at any time throughout the program.

On-Site Budgeting & Re-budgeting

For the duration of the program, remain aware of the on-site funds available in the program budget. Unless you have been notified by UNL Education Abroad or your College leadership, no additional funds exist to cover over-spending. UNL Education Abroad strongly discourages on-site re-budgeting of your program. On-site re-budgeting refers to adding details such as excursions, meals, etc. to your program while the program is in progress. This is often the result of a perceived surplus of funds at the time that the program is starting. Program participants are aware of expected out-of-pocket expenses. If you would like to add an activity, ask program participants if they are willing to pay for it out-of-pocket, or make the activity optional.

Receipts & Expense Vouchers

Accurate Receipting

To be eligible for reimbursement for your program account, every expense that you incur, either before or during the Education Abroad program, must be properly receipted according to the standards of the University Accounting Office. Any expenses not properly receipted will not be covered.

Additionally, every expense you incur must be considered an “allowable” expense in order to be fully reimbursed. If you are unsure if an expense is “allowable” you should check with UNL Education Abroad (and UNL Accounting policies) prior to making the purchase. UNL Education Abroad cannot be held responsible for any incurred expense that is not considered allowable and is not approved by our office prior to purchase.

Please note that UNL Accounting cannot accept handwritten proof of payment on a pre-printed invoice. Obtain an official receipt showing payment method and a zero balance.

Important Tips for Handling Payments and Receipts

  • Work with UNL Education Abroad to pre-pay as many expenses as possible so that you have fewer receipts abroad.
  • For the most part, the “What’s Allowable and What's Not?” guidance applies to education abroad programs. One notable exception is that “Entertainment (movies, plays, etc.)” is allowable if the entertainment is part of the cultural programming for the group.
  • Be sure to keep an accurate receipt log, especially if your receipts are in a foreign language. If your receipts are in a foreign language you are not fluent in, translate receipts immediately, before you forget what you purchased.
  • Do not lend/share/mix travel advance money with your co-leader. Either one leader should make all payments or each leader should keep separate records. If there are multiple leaders and each one will submit an expense voucher, the vouchers must be submitted together for review.
  • Do not lend travel advance money to students except in the case of a serious emergency and, ideally, in consultation with the EAO.
  • Students are instructed to bring adequate funds for out-of-pocket expenses. It is not recommended that you distribute program funds to students as cash. However, if you must do this, have each student sign and date that he/she received a specific amount to be used for a specific purpose.
  • You may pay for meals or other items for individuals other than a co-leader or students if there is a clear business purpose. If you do this, be sure to include the name(s), role(s), and an explanation.
  • When adding a tip to a bill write the amount and the word “tip” on the receipt; otherwise, you will not be allowed that extra amount. Be fair and reasonable, but do not exceed 20%.
  • If you purchase personal items while also buying items for the program, remember to recalculate a new total for reimbursement, including any applicable taxes.
  • Do not buy souvenirs or any other “durable” goods that will last beyond the program. These are ineligible for reimbursement.
  • If a formal receipt is not available (ex. street vendor or guest lecturer), have the vendor sign a Receipt for Goods/Services slip provided by the Bursar’s Office. This is for use only when a formal receipt is unavailable, not when a receipt has been misplaced or not obtained. UNL Accounting will accept these in lieu of a formal receipt when one is not available, but if abused this might not be an option in the future.
  • If you incur an expense and do not receive a receipt, ask the vendor to provide you with one. The best policy is to obtain as much documentation as possible regarding any expenses that you incurred
  • Be sure to bring back proof of the actual exchange rate. Without written documentation of the rate you received while abroad, an Internet rate will be used, which could cause you to lose a substantial amount of money.
  • Only expenses that occur before or during the trip are considered travel expenses. Anything that occurs after the trip, even if program related, should be submitted as a separate document (non-travel expense voucher).
  • Don’t cover any text on the Faculty Leader’s receipts with tape or highlighter. This can cause the ink to disappear and you may not be reimbursed.
  • Spend responsibly! Aside from truly unexpected or emergency expenses, overspending cannot be covered by the Education Abroad Office.

UNL Education Abroad Office Review

The UNL Education Abroad staff will review all receipts to ensure that they align with the program budget, while UNL Accounting will review all receipts to ensure that they meet University policies and guidelines on allowable expenses.

Submit all receipts to UNL Education Abroad as soon as possible upon your return. Expense vouchers are due to University Accounting 60 days after the date of your return to the U.S., and UNL Education Abroad will need additional time to process the receipts and form. Please submit all receipts to UNL Education Abroad no later than 20 days after your return to the U.S.

The University has the legal right to garnish your payroll for the entire amount of the travel advance if they do not receive your reconciliation within the established time period or for any non-allowable or non-approved expenses. To assist UNL Education Abroad in reviewing the reimbursement request, please submit all receipts in chronological order, ideally taped to a notebook with notes and translations on the notebook pages. Refrain from using staples, taping multiple receipts on top of each other, writing on the back of receipts, or folding receipts. UNL Education Abroad will notify you if any questions arise upon reviewing the receipts. You will then be informed of the final balance and asked to come into UNL Education Abroad to sign the Travel Expense Voucher.

After University Accounting receives your receipts, they will forward any questions they have to the Faculty Leader. After all questions have been successfully resolved, Accounting will close your travel advance (if applicable) and process a check for any amount reimbursable to you. Or, if you need to return money, UNL Accounting will request a check from you.