Doctor of Philosophy
Edward N. Coffman
The reasons why managers make certain accounting method choices have been explored by accounting researchers for some time. For over ten years, much of this research has been driven by positive accounting theory, which is based on the underlying assumption that managers act rationally to maximize their own personal wealth when making accounting method choices. This study is an initial attempt to extend positive accounting theory research to a not-for-profit setting; specifically, the choice of accounting method for endowment investments by colleges and universities is examined.
The three objectives of this study are: 1) to determine if the findings of previous research in positive accounting theory hold in the college and university industry, 2) to determine if other institutional characteristics are associated with the accounting method used for endowment investments, and 3) to provide information to policymakers regarding the accounting for long-term investment by not-for-profit organizations.
Data were obtained from 162 four-year colleges and universities. Two regression models were developed to explain the variation in the accounting method used for investments. The first model contained five variables related to positive accounting theory and the second model contained five variables related to other institutional characteristics.
The results of the first model indicate that the choice of accounting method for endowment investments is related to the factors suggested by positive accounting theory. Government regulations and bonus plan provisions factors were significant and of the expected sign. The political costs factor was also significant but not of the expected sign. The debt covenants factor was not significant.
The results of the second model indicate that the choice of accounting method for endowment investments is related to other institutional characteristics. Specifically, the model found that location, asset allocation in equity investments, and the institution's auditor had a statistically significant influence on the choice of accounting method.
The research indicates that there are systematic differences in the choice of accounting method for not-for-profit organizations similar to those explained by positive accounting theory for for-profit organizations. Additional institutional characteristics were also found to influence accounting choice, which warrant further research.
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