University of Illinois System
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Service Centers

Within the University of Illinois System, departments and researchers use a variety of products and/or services to perform their activities or projects. Sometimes these products or services are not readily available from external sources, or cannot be obtained conveniently and efficiently. Therefore, the U of I System may need to establish service centers to provide these products and services. When these products or services are provided within the U of I System these units function as non-profit businesses, also called service centers.

What is a 3E Service Center?

3E Service Centers are established to:

  • Provide a good/service or groups of goods/services on a recurring basis
  • Provide goods/services primarily to internal customers within the University of Illinois System
  • Recover the costs of providing the good/service through charges or fees to users
  • Add value such as assigned staff and supplies necessary to provide the good/service

3E Service Centers are not established to:

  • Generate a profit
  • Compete with the general public
  • Provide service to the general public as its primary function
  • Build a surplus intended for any purpose or discretionary purpose

Service Center Classifications

Service centers are classified under a 3E fund type code and differ from other self-supporting activities such as:

  • auxiliaries (3J and 3M fund types) which primarily serve students, faculty, and staff
  • departmental activity accounts (3Q fund type) that are established for services provided primarily to non-system users

Many times the 3E service centers service both “internal” and “external” users, although external customers are not the primary function of the service center. Generally, a service center is classified as a 3E fund type if the majority of revenue is generated from internal customers.

Internal Users

Internal users of service centers are those users whose ultimate source of funds is within the University of Illinois System, or whose funds flow through the U of I System (i.e., sponsored programs).

Examples of internal users who purchase services to support their work at the U of I System include academic, research, administrative, and auxiliary areas. 

External Users

External users are organizations or individuals whose ultimate source of funds is outside of the U of I System. External users include the general public and students and any members of faculty or staff acting in a personal capacity.

Affiliated hospitals or other universities are considered external users unless the U of I System has subcontracted with them as part of a grant or contract. Although service activities are established principally to serve the internal users, services are occasionally requested by external entities.

Service centers should recognize that their primary purpose is to provide services or goods for the system community; therefore, sales to external entities should not be a primary focus and should remain a minimal proportion of total sales.

Where the external party is another educational institution, the service may be provided if doing so does not disadvantage University of Illinois System users of the facility. The system rate is charged, increased by the Facilities & Administrative (F&A) rate, also called indirect cost rate, appropriate to the activity.

Service Center Examples

Examples of Service Centers could include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • machine shops
  • microscopy facilities
  • visualization laboratories
  • carpools
  • chemical analysis labs
  • sediment analysis labs
  • research resource labs
  • animal research labs
  • toxicology research labs, etc.