Santa Clara University


Allowable Costs

Under federal cost principles (OMB Circular A-21), in order for a cost to be charged to a sponsored agreement, it must be:

  • Reasonable: Would a "prudent person" judge this to be a reasonable expense to this sponsored project?
  • Allocable: Can the goods or services be shown to benefit this sponsored project?
  • Consistent with institutional costing practices: Are costs incurred for the same purpose in like circumstances treated consistently (either as a Direct Cost or as a Facilities & Administrative Cost)?
  • Allowable: Are the costs permitted for reimbursement under the terms of the award set forth by the sponsor?

It is SCU's policy to apply the federal cost principle to all sponsored projects, regardless of funding type.

Direct Cost

Normal Treatment

Salaries, Wages, and Benefits:

  • Faculty
  • Graduate Students
  • Undergraduate Students
  • Technical Staff
  • Administrative & Clerical Staff

Personnel costs are allowable as a direct cost to a sponsored project to the extent supported by actual effort performed on the project and approved in the award budget. Periodic effort certifications will be used to document the actual effort performed. An individual's base salary must be used to compute the cost charged to a sponsored agreement.

Please note that faculty may not receive more than their regular annual salary as a result of participation in sponsored projects during the academic year. A faculty member on a 9-month contract may be paid summer salary (supplemental pay over and above the 9-month academic year salary) for effort contributed to a sponsored project during the 3-month summer period. See Faculty Salaries to see how faculty salary is computed for sponsored projects during the academic year and summer.

Administrative and clerical costs are generally recovered through indirect costs and are, therefore, unallowable.



Business Meals and Meeting Costs/Entertainment Costs

Generally unallowable, unless specifically approved by sponsor.


Scientific: Allowable when necessary for and will be used primarily or exclusively for the project(s) to which the costs will be charged.


General purpose (desks, computers, file cabinets, etc): Unallowable unless specifically approved by funder in agreement. If a computer or other supplies are needed specifically for a project and will be dedicated solely to the project, it may be allowable.

Materials & Supplies

Project Supplies: Allowable so long as can be identified as "exclusively for the support of" the sponsor d project.

General Office Supplies: anything that could likely be used for purposes other than the specific sponsored project are unallowable (e.g., staplers, pens, etc.).

If a computer or other supplies are needed specifically for a project and will be dedicated solely to the project, it may be allowable.

Memberships (scientific or professional societies)

Unallowable unless specifically approved by funder.


Allowable if project requires large mailings.

Professional Services (Consultants)

Generally allowable. Check sponsor guidelines for details.

Publications (books, subscriptions)

Unallowable unless approved by funder.

Scholarships and Student Aid

Generally unallowable.

Subrecipient Costs

A subrecipient agreement is established when programmatic effort under a sponsored agreement is to be carried out by another institution. Although most sponsors generally allow such arrangements, they need to be specified in the approved proposal. Transferring programmatic effort to another institution after the award has been issued generally requires prior approval by the sponsor.

Telephone/Internet Charges

Local Telephone (including monthly instrument charges) and costs of internet connections: Unallowable

Long Distance Telephone: Allowable if specifically tied to the sponsored project.


Allowable if specifically benefitting the project.

Foreign Travel using federal funds: US Flag Carrier rules apply. May require sponsor prior approval.

*Information adapted for use from "Sponsored Research Administration: A Guide to Effective Strategies and Recommended Practices," co-published by the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) and Atlantic Information Services, Inc. (AIS), 2011.