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Glossary of abbreviations and terms used in the manual.

1. Glossary


As of December 26, 2014 – Uniform Guidance replaced A-21  Circular No. A-21Cost Principles for Educational Institutions which sets forth the government regulatory costing principles which must be followed by educational institutions conducting Government Sponsored Research.

Academic Service Centers

Service centers which reside in the academic departments which usually do not choose to recover overhead items in their rate(s) and have to breakeven within +/- 15%. 

Administrative Service Centers

Service centers which provide services to the entire university community must recover all costs, including the costs of utilities, operation and maintenance and building depreciation.  Examples of administrative centers are the University ITSS - Data Center, Operations and Maintenance Facilities, and Surplus Property Sales.  Breakeven is within +/- 5%.

Allocation Journals

iJournal template which allows originator to post expenses to PTAs without routing because the originator has already obtained approval for charges. iJournals will accept manual input or an upload of a formatted text file.  Pre-approval can be obtained by SU-13 forms, emails from authorized approver of PTA, iLab is able to process pre-approved activities, or signed invoices from the authorized approver.

Approved Rate(s)

All service centers budgets and rates must be reviewed and approved annually by ORA.  An ORA letter to ONR lists the service center’s approved rate(s).


A self-supporting entity that exists principally to furnish goods or services to students, alumni, or faculty and staff acting in a personal capacity, and charges a fee for the use of goods or services.  Auxiliary services generally do not support the University departments. The general public may be served incidentally.  Examples include residence halls, food services, inter-collegiate athletics, and the university press.

Break Even

The point at which revenues equal expenses. The policy establishes that service centers should break even at the end of the fiscal year with a surplus or deficit that does not exceed 5% or 15% of annual operating expenses. 

Capital Equipment

Equipment with a purchase price over $5,000 and a useful life of at least one year. The purchase cost of a capital item may not be recovered through service center rates however, the depreciation associated with the asset may be recovered in the service center rates. 

Cost & Management Analysis (CMA)

Cost & Management Analysis prepares F&A cost studies, proposals, and rates; generates ad hoc reports for DoR, department heads, etc. in relation to new venture capitalist pursuits, F&A “what if “ scenarios, works with the Provost office to inform schools/departments what the F&A rate is forecasted to be for fiscal year budgeting and planning; various financial analysts monitor specific service centers for compliance with service center policies, reviews annual budgets and forecasts with the RAPC analyst for approval and rate notification to ONR; and acts as liaison with the Government on matters dealing with F&A topics, proposal submissions, cost study work papers, etc.

Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA)

The Defense Contract Audit Agency audits grants, contracts, and educational institutions for compliance with Uniform Guide and other generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

Dean of Research (DoR)

The Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research and Graduate Policy sets and oversees general University research policy.


A deficit occurs when the service center’s expenses exceed revenues for a given fiscal year.  To the extent that the deficit is WITHIN the 5% or 15% break-even range, that deficit must be carried forward and the rate(s) adjusted in the following period.  Deficits beyond the 5% or 15% break even range must be funded by another non-federal and non-restricted source and transferred into the service center account.

Expenditure Allocation

PTAs that are used for either salary allocations or expenditure allocations.  Generally expenditures total within $30K annually.  See Appendix 1 for comparison of a service center to an expenditure allocation PTA.

External Users

External use of facilities is any use of facilities which is performed by an entity that is not, for the purpose of that use, under the governance, supervision or responsibility of the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University.  Depending on several factors, external use of Stanford facilities is restricted or prohibited. Such factors include, what direct benefits (other than financial) are provided to Stanford because of the use and other relevant circumstances. Restrictions and prohibitions are based on capacity concerns (Stanford’s own use must take priority over any other use) and legal constraints (principally income and property tax).

Facilities & Administrative or Indirect costs (F&A & IDC)

Facilities & Administrative or Indirect costs are those that are incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity.  [Per Uniform-Guidance]  This percentage is applied to the expenditures of federally sponsored projects in order to recover University overhead costs related to building and equipment depreciation, interest, and general administration.

Guarantee PTA

All academic service centers must have a guarantee PTA (it cannot be a Federally Sponsored PTA)  to potentially charge for under recovery exceeding 15%.  The only other option would be charging all users their prorated percentage of the under recovered amount.

Internal Users

These users have a departmental or Sponsored PTA to charge. The PTA could be opened by Sponsored Accounts Receivables in which case specific PTAs are considered external. See Exhibit C for details. Refer to Exhibit K for PTA Manager Authority Instructions. Both Exhibits can be found here.

Long Term Agreement (LTA)

A Long Term Agreement is an agreement negotiated between the University and the Government to allow a service center to price its services and/or to recover its expenses (break even) over a longer than annual period of time.

Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC)

Modified Total Direct Cost is the base to which F&A (indirect cost) rates are applied. The Uniform Guidance excludes participant support costs from the MTDC base and defines this base for sponsored projects awarded on or after December 26, 2014 as follows:

MTDC means all direct salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each subaward (regardless of the period of performance of the subawards under the award). MTDC excludes equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each subaward in excess of $25,000.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

The Federal Office of Management and Budget issues regulatory costing principles which govern the cost policies of institutions doing research under Government-funded grants and contracts. OMB oversees and coordinates the Administration's procurement, financial management, information, and regulatory policies. In each of these areas, OMB's role is to help improve administrative management, to develop better performance measures and coordinating mechanisms.

Office of Naval Research (ONR)

The Office of Naval Research is Stanford's cognizant Federal agency, ONR coordinates, executes, and promotes the science and technology programs of the United States Navy and Marine Corps through universities, government laboratories, and nonprofit and for-profit organizations. It provides technical advice to the Chief of Naval Operations and the Secretary of the Navy, works with industry to improve technology manufacturing processes while reducing fleet costs, and fosters continuing academic interest in naval relevant science from the high school through post-doctoral levels.

Office of Research Administration (ORA)

Office of Research Administration provides an array of services for sponsored projects administration at Stanford University.  ORA collaborates with multiple central and school partner groups to help deliver effective research administration services, systems, policies, and processes.  The premier function of ORA is to provide expertise and service to ensure Stanford is fully compliant with sponsor terms and conditions, University policies, and federal regulations and requirements.

ORA is composed of the following units: Cost and Management Analysis (CMA); Property Management Office (PMO); Research Administration Policy and Compliance (RAPC); Sponsored Receivables Management (SRM); Client Advocacy and Education (CAE); Organizational Insights (OI) and Office of Sponsored Research (OSR).  Within OSR, are the Pre-Award and Post-Award units.  ORA also provides oversight for the Stanford Electronic Research Administration (SeRA) system.

Office of Sponsored Research (OSR)

Office of Sponsored Research provides pre and post award administration of sponsored projects to the University, monitors sponsored projects for compliance with sponsor terms and conditions, University policies and Federal regulations and standards, and works closely with the Office of the Dean of Research and the FMS, Controller's Office to prepare and implement financial and administrative policies, procedures and sponsor and regulatory compliance issues of interest to the research community.

Property Management Office (PMO)

Property Management Office is the central department at Stanford University responsible for personal property (i.e.: capital assets) administration. PMO identifies the availability of equipment for research use; facilitates recording and tracking of asset records, including maintenance and warranty information; calculates depreciation; and issues reports to management and sponsors. PMO also manages the physical inventory of capital and sponsor-owned assets, which includes meeting with department personnel, scanning all assets located in University space and off campus. PMO is the liaison with property auditors and provide guidance to departments, faculty, and staff regarding issues related to property administration and inventory.

Prior Year Balance (PYB)

The Prior Year Balance is the amount carried forward from one fiscal year to the next for a service center whose year-end net balance (current income less current expense, plus or minus the prior year's net balance) is within plus or minus (+/-) 5% or 15% of its annual expenditures (including the PYB).  See Exhibit B for specific examples of +/- 5% or 15% breakeven calculations.

Research Administration Policy & Compliance (RAPC)

Research Administration Policy & Compliance works closely with the Office of Research Administration and the Controller's Office to prepare and implement financial and administrative policies & procedures and regulatory compliance issues of interest to the entire university research community.  RAPC is responsible for the oversight of all the University’s service centers.  RAPC analyst is the liaison with the government and internal audit department concerning service center compliance issues.

Sponsored Projects

A sponsored project is an externally funded activity governed by terms and conditions specified in a written agreement between the sponsor and an entity such as Stanford University. The sponsored agreement is the legal instrument that binds the university to perform the Statement of Work under the direction of a PI (principal investigator) and further specifies the level of funding.

View a full description and comparison to other types of funding here

Specialized Service Facility (SSF)

Federal regulations define a Specialized Service Facility as one which involves the use of highly complex or specialized facilities, such as the Veterinary Service Center (VSC). The cost of such a service shall normally consist of both its direct costs and its allocable share of indirect costs. Stanford has further defined an SSF as meeting all three of the following criteria: 1) the service center must incur annual expenses of at least a million dollars; 2) its business must "materially" affect Stanford's on-campus Organized Research cost rate (by greater than 1/10th of a rate point); and 3) its services must not be easily available from an outside vendor. VSC’s breakeven is +/- 15%.


A surplus occurs when the service center’s revenues exceed expenses for a given fiscal year.   To the extent that a surplus is WITHIN the 5% or 15% break-even range, that surplus must be carried forward and the rates adjusted in the following period.  Surpluses beyond the 5% or 15%  break even range must be eliminated through retroactive rebates to users, unless a long term break even agreement has been established.

Unallowable Costs

The federal Uniform Guidance which replaced A-21, establishes guidelines for the allowability of costs. Costs that are “unallowable” may not be recovered in the service center rate(s).  Examples of service center unallowable costs include alcohol, internal interest unallowable, bad debt expense, stipends and advertising.

Unallowable Expenditure Types

The Oracle Chart of Accounts contains several expenditures that are restricted from federally sponsored PTAs, i.e. 52310 Alcoholic Beverages, 51314 Advertising Unallowable, etc. Service Centers are additionally restricted from direct charging Capital Expenses, Stipends, etc.

Service Centers are additionally restricted from direct charging Capital Expenses, Stipends, etc.  

Uniform Guidance

The Uniform Guidance, issued by OMB (Office of Management and Budget), streamlines and supersedes guidance that was previously contained in eight different OMB Circulars for all new federal awards and increments with effective dates on or after 12/26/2014.

Included in the new guidance are definitions, uniform administrative requirements (both pre- and post-award), cost principles, and audit requirements.