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College of Liberal Arts

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Our college’s breadth, depth and adaptability make it ideally suited to the needs of a diverse state with a growing, dynamic economy and a rich history. The liberal arts prepare students to understand and learn from that history, to analyze problems from multiple viewpoints, and to draw upon knowledge from a range of cultures past and present. It prepares them to be creative and flexible leaders, citizens and workers, dedicated to making the world a better place for everyone.

The value of the liberal arts extends beyond our majors. Every student who attends the university, regardless of major, will take classes in our college during their undergraduate years as part of their core curriculum — classes in rhetoric and writing, the humanities, American and Texas history and government, and courses in a variety of behavioral and social sciences.

This is what distinguishes a liberal arts education at a public research university: the exposure to leading scholarship and teaching in a variety of disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences, and the opportunity to explore ideas across those disciplines in classrooms, laboratories and in our communities. 

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  • Cash advances are short-term loans offered by the university to:

    Eligible university-employed recipients
    - Who have UT-based research funds, and
    - A UT business-related need to receive those funds
    - In advance of travel and/or survey and study programs
    - Being conducted in direct connection with their UT-based research - a mouthful, but - that's what it is!

    What cash advances are not: A flexible way to pay local research affiliates in foreign countries, without 1) the responsible party being on location, or 2) a detailed, signed payment receipt/form from all workers. Federal law via IRS policy expressly disallows this type of activity (for cash advance programs), regardless of the high integrity and good stewardship our researchers repeatedly demonstrate with university funds.

    University stakeholders are exploring ways to make international research easier to conduct - stay tuned as this develops - we will get any updates out far and wide, of course. In the meantime, please keep the Office of Research and its Research Support Office in the loop as we navigate this complicated process together. 

  • Federal Requirements

    The university's Cash Advance Request process is onerous. 
    And it looks a lot like every other university's cash advance process.

    • We investigated cash advance programs on other university sites and found that they all link to the same federal policy ours does, along with descriptions of similarly onerous processes. In some cases, they were a little more stringent or limited, in others, cash advances weren't allowed at all - which likely means they aren't categorized 'R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity,' as UT Austin is. Add to that, none of them are nearly as big as we are, so it became apparent that a simplified, efficient cash advance program on the scale at which we operate is a tall order. Tall, but not insurmountable (says the optimist).

    It's easy to blame these requirements on UT. It's worth noting that the university incurs considerable cost in maintaining the cash advance policy, via staff retained to specialize in this area and resources needed to support it. It is not something UT 'does to us' towards overreach into activities; they are mandated to be as involved as they are. Suggestions for changes would need to be directed to the source of this policy. 

    Here are the things about cash advance requests that we cannot change:

    • Travel status required for recipient of travel cash advance
    • A significantly detailed cash advance request form
    • Detailed spending plan (for travel)
    • Costing basis & IRB Protocol (for participants)
    • Approval routing via department, account holder, central college team, and university
    • Lead time required by all levels of approval
    • 30-days or less cash advance distribution requirement
    • 3+ days in advance promissory note & required signature
    • Itemized receipts & invoices from recipient
    • Service/worker payment receipts/forms (signed by workers/participants)
    • 6 month max per cash advance request
    • 2 week reconcile turn-in timeframe at conclusion of trip
    • 60 day finalized reconciliation IRS deadline
    • 30-day excess funds payback requirement
    • Non-compliant reconciliation amounts converting to taxable income


    All of the above are required as part of the university's cash advance process in order for UT to remain a qualified institution with what the IRS calls an Accountable Plan. Without this plan in place, ALL cash advance requests would be processed via the non-compliant route, which means all reimbursements would be categorized as income and added to the traveler's W-2 without exception. And to add insult to injury, we'd still have to jump through all the usual hoops to process the reconciliation - we just wouldn't get the benefit of a tax-exempt reimbursement.

  • Areas We (CoLA) Can Improve

    Clear Communication of Responsibilities - Expectations
    The Way Policy and Process are Accessed - Visibility
    How the Process is Carried Out - Transparency
    Full Disclosure of Routing and Approval Paths - Timing
    A Means for Tracking Progress and Following Up - Accountability 

  • Steps the RECIPIENT Can Take to Speed Things Up

    Generally, plan as early as is reasonably possible

    Doublecheck account is active (not in credit-status) & has sufficient funds (in the correct category)

    Add more lead time for unusual circumstances that require additional approvals

    For travel, request travel authorization(s) in advance of request for cash advance

    If participant study, include IRB details and incentive costing basis in initial request

    Use forms for travel or for participants - as guide to ensure nothing is overlooked in the initial request

    You don't have to wait until 30 days out to submit request -deadline impacts disbursment of funds

    Don't rely solely on UT's 7 business-day deadline - give dept/unit/college time to process

    Know what questions to ask your admin: Who has signed the form, who are we still waiting on?

    Be responsive to receiving, signing, and returning of cash advance promissory note

    Know where to go for additional help:  Research Support Office Award Services (LA Research)

  • Ways the PROCESSOR Can Increase Efficiency

    Doublecheck account is active, has sufficient funds (in appropriate subaccount), is not in credit-status

    Follow up with recipient asap with requests for additional or missing information

    Communicate clear timeframe, deadlines and expectations to the recipient 

    Submit travel authorization as early as possible, so it doesn't hold up cash advance request

    Process your own documents instead of relying on Central Business Service team

    Don't wait until 30 days out to submit request -that deadline impacts disbursment, not submission

    Don't rely solely on UT's 7 business-day deadline - give college time to review/approve

    Upon routing (power)form forward for approvals, note expected turn-around deadlines

    Use calendaring reminders to keep track of overall timeline and expected approvals

    Log into DocuSign, proactively check routing history of form(s) to see who has and hasn't signed

    Follow up proactively, directly with individuals who are overdue with signatures (CC LA Research)

    Keep recipient (PI) of cash advance informed proactively on the progress of the request

    Communicate any delays or issues to the recipient and also Research Support Office Award Services