Facilities and Administrative Costs

Learn about Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs at Columbia University.


Facilities and administrative (F&A) costs (which are commonly referred to at the University as indirect costs (IC) or indirect cost recovery (ICR)) are real costs that are associated with carrying out sponsored projects, but are difficult to quantify with respect to any given project. For example, electricity, heat, maintenance, building depreciation, administrative expenses, and library use are all F&A costs.

Similarly, ordering laboratory supplies and maintaining laboratory equipment are F&A costs, unless the activities can be identified as benefitting a particular project. Funds received as F&A costs are reimbursement for funds expended for central and departmental administration, buildings and grounds, and library costs.

Federal F&A cost rates are negotiated with the federal government and vary by campus and whether research or other sponsored projects are conducted on- or off-campus. Different F&A rates have been established for on-site and off-site projects. Thus, identification of where a project will be performed is critical to determining the applicable F&A rate.

A detailed description of the various rates available and guidance regarding the application of the individual rates can be found in the Columbia University Policy on Application of Facilities and Administrative costs.

F&A costs are recovered on sponsored project proposals by multiplying the appropriate direct cost base by the sponsor’s F&A cost rate and including that figure in the total cost of the budget. Depending upon the sponsor, the direct cost base may be either the simple total of all direct costs in the budget (Total Direct Costs or TDC), or the “modified” total direct costs (MTDC), i.e., TDC minus the total of certain items in the budget. Federal sponsors use MTDC. Some federal agencies, such as DOD, have specific F&A cost restrictions. For more information on F&A budgeting and restrictions, contact your SPA or CTO Project Officer.

F&A charges are applied nightly by an ARC automated process and are based on the F&A rate and F&A rate base assigned to a project. It is important to monitor F&A charges to ensure that the rate charged is correct, and that the rate has been applied to the appropriate expenditure base (which excludes all types of expenditures that cannot generate F&A costs as indicated either the terms and conditions of the award or the awarding agency’s policy).

F&A rates and the base to which they apply vary based on sponsor and type of grant (e.g., research vs. training vs. public service). In accordance with the requirements of Section 200.68 (Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC)) of the Uniform Guidance, the F&A rate on federal research projects is applied to a direct expenditure base called Modified Total Direct Costs or MTDC. For more information on F&A application, contact your SPF Finance and Compliance Manager.

F&A Rate Agreement

To find the current and historical F&A rate agreements, see the University's page on institutional information.


To learn more about F&A costs, see the University’s policies on F&A costs, and the F&A sections of the Sponsored Projects Handbook.


Contact your Sponsored Projects Finance (SPF) Finance and Compliance Manager for information about how to correct F&A costs.

Still have questions?

Visit our Service Center.