For Researchers

Facilities & Administrative Costs

Facilities and Administrative costs (F&A), formerly called “indirect costs” or “IDCs,” are actual costs to the university incurred when research, education, or outreach projects are performed at ISU. The F&A rate is negotiated at regular intervals with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and includes facilities and administrative components across the university.

The Controller’s Department requested a four-year extension of the Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Cost Rate Agreement for Iowa State University with the federal government.  The extended agreement – dated June 29, 2020 – is effective for the period July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2024, and will continue to be used after the end of FY 2024 until a new rate agreement is established.

Effective 7/1/2018 through 6/30/2024

Organized Research: 53%

Instruction: 53%

Other Sponsored Activities: 33%

Off-Campus Activities: 26%

Effective 7/1/2016 through 6/30/2018

Organized Research: 52%

Instruction: 53%

Other Sponsored Activities: 33%

Off-Campus Activities: 26%

The F&A rates noted above are applied to the modified total direct cost base (MTDC) of the project. Modified total direct costs include all direct costs except the costs of equipment, capital expenditures, patient care, tuition, rental costs of off-site facilities, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and subcontracts in excess of $25,000.

All sponsored projects are required to charge the full F&A rate, regardless of the sponsor, unless one of the exceptions below applies. This requirement to charge the full F&A rate rule applies to applications and proposals submitted to government agencies, private companies, industrial groups, foundations, or other organizations.

For proposals that meet one of the following pre-approved circumstances, the explanation of the proposed rate must be submitted on the GoldSheet and appropriate documentation must be included to substantiate the exception. All other reductions/waivers not included in the list below must be approved through the department/center/institute and college/VP unit prior to submitting the request form to the Office of Sponsored Programs Administration. Use the form for submitting an F&A waiver request.


The following exceptions will not be considered a “waiver” and will allow for the normal PI incentive to be distributed to the Investigators:

1. In applications submitted to an external sponsor the published sponsor rate may be used without submitting a waiver request when the sponsor has a written policy that limits F&A recovery for all sponsored-project recipients that it applies equally to all potential awardees. Documentation of the sponsor policy must be included with the GoldSheet. Unilateral declarations or letters from sponsor administrators about their F&A rates will not be accepted. Corporations are expected to pay the full F&A rate.

2. In most cases, the policy of permitting 8% of total direct costs (TDC) F&A from Iowa state government, county, and community agencies will be continued, unless a higher F&A rate has been agreed to, or when proposed projects will be funded wholly or partially from federal sources. In those cases, the maximum allowable F&A rate should be used.

3. To support the training of ISU graduate and undergraduate students, an 8% TDC F&A rate may be used on all projects designated as “training grants.” For this purpose, training grants are defined as awards made specifically to or for the benefit of an ISU student or students independent of the investigator for whom they work, i.e., the award is not paying the student(s) salary to work on a specific research project under the direction of the investigator.

4.To support the university’s service mission, industry specialty agreements for field trials, animal product trials, technical evaluations, and human subject trials may use an F&A rate of 15% TDC. For purposes of this policy:

  • Field trials are defined as the evaluation of agricultural material (e.g., seeds, plants, chemicals) where sponsor provides the material and/or evaluation protocol.
  • Animal product trials are defined as the evaluation of materials (e.g., drug, medical device) or animal feed where sponsor provides the material and/or evaluation protocol.
  • Technical evaluations are defined as the evaluation of non-biological or non-animal related material (e.g., equipment, software, samples, prototype) where sponsor provides the material and/or evaluation protocol.
  • Human subject trials are defined as the evaluation of non-pharmaceutical products (e.g., nutritional supplements, food products) or other testing (e.g., exercise effects, apparel, devices) where sponsor provides the product and/or evaluation protocol.
  • The Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer (OIPTT) is responsible for evaluating whether a project is considered eligible for the industry specialty agreement rate. Projects deemed by OIPTT as eligible industry specialty agreements will not require an F&A waiver. Additional information on industry-funded specialty agreements can be found here. Contact OIPTT at

5. In very exceptional cases of great importance to the university, a master agreement can be negotiated that may include the waiver of part of the F&A rate. The Office of the Vice President for Research, in collaboration with college or center/institute officials, will be responsible for negotiating the F&A rate used in all master agreements. F&A rates negotiated as part of master agreements are considered “full and allowable” F&A by the university. Contact the OSPA Pre-Award Team at if in doubt about the existence of a master agreement.

6. To support new faculty who transfer awards to ISU, the transferred-to-ISU project may use the previous institution’s full F&A rate if lower than ISU’s full F&A rate, if allowed by the sponsor.

Other projects may be considered for a waiver as determined by the Office of Sponsored Programs Administration.

PIs, their departments, centers, institutes, or colleges do not have the authority to approve reduced F&A rates with companies, industrial groups, and other organizations.


All requests for reductions or waivers require approval by routing the Request for Facilities and Administrative Cost Reduction or Waiver form. The requested reduced F&A rate must be based on the total direct costs of the project. In all cases in which a reduced rate has been approved through this waiver process, the PIs will not be eligible for the return of PI incentive funds.

Any questions may be directed to Andrea Rich, Assistant Director, Office of Sponsored Programs Administration at 515-294-5225 or