Chart of Accounts Basics

Princeton’s multidimensional Chart of Accounts (also “COA” or “chart”) serve as the common language for financial transactions, whether they are created directly in Prime Financials or generated by another financial source system such as Concur. The COA is comprised of multiple fields, each of which records a different element of information about a transaction. Therefore, a given transaction is not defined by a single field, but by the combination of fields. The pages in this section will take a deep dive into the University’s chart structure.

Chartstring versus ChartField

Each individual segment or field of the University’s multi-dimensional COA is defined as a ChartField. Any combination of those ChartFields is defined as a chartstring.

  • ChartField: A distinct category of financial information used to classify financial transactions in Prime Financials. The University uses seven distinct ChartFields.

  • Chartstring: A combination of ChartFields that allows for more precise and dynamic levels of reporting detail.

Components of the Princeton Chartstring

Now let’s take a look at how these components come together to make up the University’s chart. Below is a table illustrating the University’s COA structure. For each of the seven ChartFields, you can see whether it is required on financial transactions and its format.

Chartstring layout






The Department ChartField reflects an organizational unit that is responsible for revenues and expenses, and typically contains people and a budget. For more information, see the Department page.



The Fund ChartField represents the source of funding, how the transaction is supported. For more information, see the Fund page.



The Account ChartField reflects the natural classification of the transaction, specifying what the money is being spent on, or what type of revenue is being received. For more information, see the Account page.



The Program ChartField tracks organizational activities or an individual’s non-sponsored activities. It aggregates expenses and revenues around a common purpose. For more information, see the Program page.


Required for Capital Projects (Funds M0001, M0002); otherwise optional

The Site ChartField tracks financial transactions surrounding a particular building or physical property location. For more information, see the Site page.


Required for Sponsored and Capital Project Funds (G0001, G0002, M0001 or M0002); otherwise optional

The Project ChartField tracks financial transactions relating to a particular sponsored research award or capital project. For more information, see the Project and Activity page.


Required when project is used only

In order to aid in project costing, the Activity ChartField tracks specific financial tasks or phases of a project. For more information, see the Project and Activity page.

How to Read a Chartstring

Many basic questions can be answered by a chartstring:

  • Who is the spending the money? See: Department

  • How is the transaction being supported? See: Fund

  • Is the support from an externally sponsored award? See: Project-Activity

  • What are we spending the money on? See: Account

  • What activity is the spending supporting? See: Program

To achieve optimum flexibility in reporting and fiscal management, care must be taken to ensure that each ChartField is used for one purpose only. Defining each ChartField for a single purpose aids in the clarity of the COA and supports robust reporting capacity.

ChartFields and Security

In addition to providing the backbone of financial reporting, the Chart is also used to enable users’ financial security within Prime Financials and other financial systems (e.g. Concur, Labor Accounting, Information Warehouse). Users can approve and/or view financial transactions based on the ChartField(s) to which they have access.

These financial transactions include:

  • Transaction Entry and Approval: Requisitions or non-PO payment requests, Concur expense or statement reports, Prime Journals, and Labor Accounting distributions

  • Financial Report Review: Review of balances, sponsored research project activity, transactions and billing on financial reports