Cost Objects: Cost Centers & WBS Numbers

To request a new or update an existing cost center, contact your business center or financial staff. 

A cost object number is a unique identifier that describes a source of funds, similar to a bank account number. When UNL’s funding is distributed to departments for use, each portion of funding is identified with a cost object number. As a whole, the University has thousands of cost objects, but each cost object is assigned to a department that is responsible for properly managing those funds.

The phrase “cost object” refers to two types of numbers:

  • Cost centers are 10-digit numbers used to track income and expenses for state aided, revolving and auxiliary funds.
  • WBS numbers are 13 digits and are used to track income and expenses for grants and contracts, and funds from the University Foundation.

Cost centers are used to segregate financial activity based on type of operation. They are smart numbered so you can see what type of cost center it is and who owns it by looking at the different digits of the cost center number.  The numbering schemes identify the campus, fund type, sub-program and department responsible for the funding. Below is an illustration of the numbering structure for a cost center and a WBS.

COS Diagram 1

WBS Diagram 1

Cost Object Ownership: Subprograms and departments

Sub-programs and departments are used in the smart numbering of cost objects and identify who owns the cost object. 

The sub-program is a 2 digit code that equates to the college or vice chancellor. The department is also a 2 digit code that is used to identify a specific department. The department code is always used in conjunction with the sub-program code. For example, department 12 can exist in multiple sub-programs so you cannot just look for department 12. You must look for department 12 within a specific sub-program

0512 = College of Arts & Sciences, English

4312 = Business & Finance, Budget

The complete sub-programs and department list is available in Sapphire. Viewing this list requires TrueYou authentication.

Request a New Cost Center

Business staff are responsible for requesting cost centers. If your department needs a new cost center, please contact your business center or financial staff. 

Resources for more information about cost objects:

UNL Funding and Cost Objects - This video (8:50) introduces the UNL's main funding sources and explains how funds are identified with the cost object numbering system.