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Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Cost and IDC Rates

The cost of conducting research consists of two broad types of costs – direct costs and facilities and administrative costs (F&A), also known as indirect costs. Direct costs are those research costs that can be identified easily and with a high degree of accuracy specifically with a sponsored project. F&A costs are costs incurred for common or joint objectives as a part of sponsored activities but that cannot be identified with a particular sponsored project. Cornell and CALS policy is that sponsored projects should pay full (F&A) cost rates.

The current federally determined contract college F&A rate is 57.0% of Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC). MTDC consists of all direct costs minus the following exclusions: equipment costs $5,000 or greater, subcontract costs in excess of $25,000, participant support, rental of off-campus property, graduate student tuition, and graduate health insurance. This rate has been negotiated and accepted by the Federal government. However, not all agencies, foundations, or other donors agree to this rate. F&A rates for some categories of sponsors are shown in the table below. For sponsors not included in the table or if you have questions about an appropriate rate, consult with CALS OSR.


F&A rate effective 1 July 2017


57% of MTDC unless otherwise noted in solicitation


42.857% of TDC unless otherwise noted in solicitation

New York State (NYS) agencies, including New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI)

18% of TDC

State agencies outside of New York

57% of MTDC

NYS commodity groups and national commodity groups that NY farmers contribute to

18% of TDC

State commodity groups outside of NY

57% of MTDC


  1. Scope of work within guidelines for a standard product testing agreement
  2. Scope of work for a non-standard product testing  agreement
  3. Scope of work for a sponsored research agreement


  1. 18% of MTDC
  2. 37% MTDC
  3. 57% MTDC
Life Sciences incubator funds received by CALS faculty for startup companies physically located at the McGovern Center 18% TDC


If required by the foundation to be less than 57%, the rate is to be negotiated with the investigator, Sr. Assoc. Dean, and foundation.


57% of the first $25,000 of each subcontract for those sponsors that calculate F&A costs on MTDC. For agencies where F&A costs are based on TDC, there are no exclusions on the subcontract.

Training Grants: These are awards that enable CALS to establish, expand, or improve graduate degree programs. Must collect maximum allowable IDC or institutional allowance as noted in the solicitation.

Additional Info: OSP Facilities & Administrative Costs

Special considerations for foundations

When working with foundations or other philanthropic donors, it is important to identify whether the funding will be a restricted gift or a sponsored contract. Usually the criteria listed by the sponsor in the RFP or invitation to apply for funding will help the CALS OSR make this determination. In addition, the wording in the proposal can assist in determining whether an award will be considered a restricted gift or a sponsored project, specifically, the description of activities and deliverables contained in the proposal.

If an award is a “restricted gift,” University policy requires a 10% F&A charge on the award. All other awards from foundations or other donors should assume the full F&A rate will be required, unless the procedures for requesting permission for “variances” to the F&A rates described in the next section are followed.

All proposals to foundations and corporations must be submitted to CALS OSR with a Form 10. CALS OSR will then send the proposal to either the Office of Sponsored Research or the Office of Foundation Relations.

Variances for F&A Rates

Some sponsors use an F&A rate different from those described in Section 7. If a sponsor prohibits the CALS rate and is not specifically named in Section 7, the Unit Chair must request an exception to the standard rate from the Senior Associate Dean. The rates stated in Section 7 are not considered exceptions, so for those agencies and those rates, no special permission is required from the SAD. Requests for variances of the standard F&A rates must be conveyed at least 2 weeks in advance of the sponsor’s deadline. These requests should be accompanied by a summary description of the project, rationale for reduced F&A, and a simple budget for the entire project. Also include the stated policy of the sponsor regarding F&A costs, if the stated policy is to allow a certain maximum F&A rate which is below the University rate. The chair should be willing to convey the priority of this request. It will need to be balanced against initiatives (renovations, equipment, positions, bridging funds) desired by the department as a whole.

For proposals requesting a reduced F&A rate, as many “direct” administrative costs as allowable should be included in the project budget to receive funding from the sponsor. CALS OSR can advise which direct costs may be allowable. This is particularly important for foundations and other sponsors with relatively low allowable F&A rates.

CALS Minimal F&A Recovery Policy

CALS is required to pay a university charge on all external funds received in CALS accounts. For awards that have an F&A rate that is less than 18%, the unit will be required to pay to the college the difference between 18% of total direct costs and the actual F&A recovered. This minimum does not apply to foundations or other philanthropic groups where F&A rates are to be negotiated. This cost recovery does not represent the full cost that CALS pays to the university, nor the full indirect costs for the research.

Note: If the total budget is less than $50,000, CALS automatically approves the waiver request with 18% committed department funding.