How Universities Can Save Time on Manual Expense Reporting

Universities share many of the same attributes as larger enterprises, especially in departmental size, diversity, and tightly controlled budgets. As universities grow and expenses increase, maintaining control of expense reporting can be challenging. Articulating and enforcing policies to control costs while staying compliant is critical for schools today. One way to accomplish these requirements is automated expense management.

Today, we’ll cover how schools can reduce costs, save time, and improve efficiency by eliminating manual expense reporting.

The pitfalls of manual expense reporting

Universities have several obstacles in regards to submitting, processing and paying expenses. There are a few examples that illustrate the hassle that manual reporting often creates in higher education, including the following:

  • Paper-intensive processes. Normally a manual reporting process goes something like this: maintain receipt, create an Excel spreadsheet, enter correct budget general ledger code data, staple receipt to a printed spreadsheet version, then fax or mail to another department for approval. This process is labor-intensive, mundane, and a huge waste of time and resources.
  • Difficult migration and integration. Not all automated expense software is created the same. Finding a solution that connects across third-party systems is tough to find, especially ones tailored to the higher education sector. Adopting a robust solution for universities is key.
  • Data entry errors. Errors are easy to make, especially with manual entry. Punching in the wrong number can have huge implications against the correct general ledger (GL) code (financial codes used by the Office of Financial Management for regulatory purposes).
  • Delayed reimbursement for travel expenses. The inability to easily create expense items during travels often delays the submission and reimbursement of travel costs. This can be especially frustrating when department heads, staff, or professors travel for lectures, work, or other on-the-job requirements outside of their home campuses.
  • Fraud. Ellucian reports that fraud is estimated to create $2.8 billion in losses every year in the U.S. Manual reporting leaves gaping holes in security, since tracking manual input is nearly impossible.

It’s not hard to see why manual reporting is time-consuming and expensive. Luckily, there are solutions for that.

The benefits of automation

Automating any menial task is going to be a major relief to any organization. For schools — typically relying on lots of paper and legacy solutions that don’t talk to each other — this couldn’t be further from the truth. Who doesn’t want increased efficiency?

If you need more convincing, here are four major pros to automating your expense management system:

1. Lower costs. Manual expense reports require many hands, eyes, and a lot of time. All of these things add up in terms of cost. With automated expense reporting, cost and time is significantly reduced for staff inputting and sending reports.
2. Saved time. It takes time to track and organize receipts, make the expense report, send the expense report to a manager, get the report approved, wait for reimbursements, and then do it all over again. With automated expense reporting, everything is updated and sent in real-time, making the approval process much faster.
3. Easier accessibility. The world is digital and so are modern enterprise solutions. For your school, going digital means everything is quick and easily available right at your fingertips. Automated expense reporting enables your staff to access receipts and track expenses anywhere, at any time.
4. Error-free reporting. Trying not to make any mistakes while inputting data is a pain. When mistakes are made, a manual process usually requires you to wait until the next month to submit your corrected expense report. With automation, that process is reduced to minutes.

Risking your school’s credibility, legal status, or security simply isn’t worth it. By integrating a software suite that includes modern expense management system, you can reap the rewards associated with automation.

Best practices for expense management

Higher education institutions must also address their unique circumstances in regard to funding and compliance. A greater understanding of project start and end dates can help prepare budgets accordingly based on time and need to be required to initiate transitions or new projects. Improving the approval process for expense management is key too. This can be easily achieved with workflow automation software to get your university’s process management under control.

For higher education, hold-ups or mistakes during processes can be costly and disastrous to staff and faculty. When money is involved, it’s critical to adopt an automation platform to smooth the reporting process. Automated expense management can only improve coordination between people and departments in a university.

When choosing an automated reporting system to integrate into your software suite, it’s important to keep the following considerations in mind. First off, you want to make sure you are choosing a mobile platform; this helps you submit expenses on the go. You also want one with a visually-friendly UI, as a drag-and-drop tool lets you process information without coding. It goes without saying that this interface and the dashboards associated with your data should be intuitive and easy to read. Finally, a tool that helps you orchestrate dynamic workflows is a huge plus. You’ll really start to kick the organization into high gear by choosing a business process management (BPM) platform.

Once your school has a better understanding of per diem and employee requirements, travel dates, and how processes work together, you can regain control of your budget. By being proactive in financial management and using the tech to your advantage, expense management becomes pretty simple. As they say, “Work smarter, not harder.”

Ready to digitally transform your university? Our enterprise software solution specializes in delivering solutions that drive operational efficiency, connecting your current systems all on one platform. Learn more about our robust low-code workflow management solution at

About ProcessMaker

ProcessMaker is a low-code business process management and workflow software.  ProcessMaker makes it easy for business analysts to collaborate with IT to automate complex business processes connecting people and existing company systems. Headquartered in Durham, North Carolina in the United States, ProcessMaker has a partner network spread across 35 countries on five continents. Hundreds of commercial customers, including many Fortune 100 companies, rely on ProcessMaker to digitally transform their core business processes enabling faster decision making, improved compliance, and better performance.

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