University begins new accounting program

USF implemented a new accounting program Tuesday that separates the university from statewide accounting systems. The system will also help manage the university’s financial affairs.

The new program is called the Fundamental Accounting System, or FAST, and is replacing the state’s accounting program Florida Accounting Info Resource. USF, along with other Florida universities, is changing its accounting programs because it is no longer acting as a state agency.

“It will allow us to act as an independent enterprise,” said Eric Harmon, the business manager in USF’s division of Information Technology.

Although the deadline to switch systems is July 1, 2004, USF has implemented FAST a year early, Harmon said.

“USF, being that we are go-getters, said we would try to beat the curve. … Part of it was also just being practical,” Harmon said. “What if, for any reason, our system didn’t work? Now we will have a plan to fall back on.”

Harmon said the new system will not affect students or faculty, but will mainly save time and labor for the administrative staff.

FAST will offer several advantages over the old system, said Harmon. The first, he said, is that FAST will be an accrual-based accounting system, which means it will recognize revenue and expenses immediately. This will allow for more flexibility and a better overall picture of USF’s finances.

Harmon said the second advantage is that the system is Web based. This offers the opportunity for e-commerce and allows the university to do business with vendors via the Internet.

Harmon said because the system is Web based, it allows the university to eventually add an online portal program. The portal program would help to reduce the number of log-on identifications and passwords used by administrative staff. It would also block users from accessing restricted departments.

Harmon said a third advantage is that FAST can process more data. This allows data to flow more smoothly through the system and reduces the amount of wasted labor and paperwork. Harmon said this allows for real-time data entry. When information is entered into the system, it will automatically be posted on FAST, Harmon said.

A final, and key, advantage, Harmon said, is that FAST allows administrative staff to do profit and loss statements based on individual departments, or individual activities within a department at any time instead of waiting for monthly statements. This allows the university to assess financial situations quicker and more efficiently, Harmon said.

Although the new system has been implemented, the work is not complete.

“For the next six to 12 months, we’ll be learning lots of things by trial and error. There will be hassles and gnashing of teeth,” Harmon said.

Due to dwindling budgets, the university has been trying to be proactive in looking for other sources of revenue.

“This system allows us to do this,” Harmon said.