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A-21: Cost Principles for Educational Institutions

Seal of the Office of Management and Budget
Seal of the Office of Management and Budget

Towson, MD (February 2, 2011): The Office of Sponsored Programs & Research will continue its schedule of workshops this spring which focus on the White House Office of Management and Budget Circular A-21. This circular, Cost Principles for Educational Institutions, establishes minimum principles for determining costs appropriate to grants, contracts, and other agreements. Towson University complies with A-21 cost principles and must “flow them down” when making a subaward to other educational institutions. This workshop series provides training to increase the grantsmanship knowledge of Towson faculty and staff.

As the January workshop was cancelled due to inclement weather, this article provides a brief summary of A-21. The workshop will be repeated on March 25 and August 26, 2011.

Costs for a grant, contract, or other agreement must be:

Allowable: The cost must not be specifically prohibited. The J Section of A-21 gives a list of unallowable costs, including items such as alcoholic beverages, donations, goods or services for personal use, and lobbying.

Allocable: The cost must be shown with a degree of certainty to be incurred by the project, and be of benefit the project.

Reasonable: Costs should not exceed a “prudent person’s” evaluation of the funds needed in the circumstances under which the cost was incurred.

Consistency: This principle states that federal funds should be treated consistently with non-federal funds, and intuitions must follow their policies in administering both.

These are the basics of understanding A-21. The workshop also details proper justification for costs when making a budget, and provides an overview of the difference between direct and indirect costs. In addition, cost sharing and PI responsibilities are discussed.  Case studies are examined to understand common cost principle pitfalls. Interactive exercises provide an illustration of the principles discussed in the workshop and instruction for Investigators who need to understand these principles for future sponsored funding activity.

Each workshop will be announced in the Alive Line newsletter, which is published by the Office of Sponsored Programs & Research each Monday, and in the Daily Digest. Faculty and staff may register via email; details will be in the announcements closer to the workshop dates.

Office of Sponsored Programs & Research
212E Administration Building

Phone: 410-704-2236
Fax: 410-704-4494
E-mail: ospr@towson.edu

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