PocketGuide To A-21

Cost Principles for Educational Institutions

PocketGuide to A-21, Vol. 1 PocketGuide to A-21, Vol. 2 PocketGuide to A-21, Vol 3 Part A PocketGuide to A-21, Vol 3 Part B

PocketGuide To A-21 -
Vol. 1

Cost Principles for Educational Institutions:

How To Determine Allowable Costs

PocketGuide To A-21 -
Vol. 2

Cost Principles for Educational Institutions:

Supplemental Materials

PocketGuide To A-21 -
Vol. 3 Part A

Cost Principles for Educational Institutions:

Federal Revisions, Reports and Other Documents

PocketGuide To A-21 -
Vol. 3 Part B

Cost Principles for Educational Institutions:

Federal Revisions, Reports and Other Documents

Volume One: $40.00
Volume Two: $40.00
Volume Three: $80.00
Volumes 1-3: $150.00

Purchase Online or by Mail.


Volumes 1,2, and 3 are available as a set: $150

Volume 3 Part A and Part B are sold as a set only: $80.00


Brief Description

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-21 contains the principles for determining allowable and unallowable costs (direct and indirect) applicable to grants, contracts and cooperative agreements (often referred to as “sponsored agreements”) with educational institutions (colleges and universities). This is a large and complex document that has been revised many times since its original issuance as Bureau of the Budget A-21 in 1956. The document was transferred to the Office of Management and Budget as Circular No. A-21. It was completely revised in 1979 and it is this “modern” document that is the primary basis for the PocketGuide to A-21.

A-21 is typically incorporated into a sponsored agreement by reference, either in the award document or in governing Federal agency regulations. Once incorporated it becomes an official “compliance” document. A-21 may apply to major research universities, regional universities, community colleges, academic medical centers including related hospitals, agricultural research and extension activities and continuing education/outreach activities. A-21 is applicable to both public and private educational institutions.

Brief History of PocketGuide To A-21

The CENTER for Grant and Contract Studies has published a guide to A-21 since 1984 through numerous revisions to the present 7th Edition. Thousands of satisfied users are testament to the usefulness of the PocketGuide. The 7th Edition reflects a complete review and updating of the PocketGuide including inclusion of more definitions and descriptions of external reference, key court decisions and appeals board decisions and the DHEW Interpretation of 1979.


The 7th Edition comes in three volumes:

Volume One

  • Appendix A, “Cost Principles”
  • Attachment A to Appendix A, “Cost  Accounting Standards (CAS)”
  • Attachment B to Appendix A, “Disclosure Statement for Educational Institutions”
  • Attachment C to Appendix A, “Standard Form for Facilities and Administrative Rate Proposals”
  • Exhibit A to Appendix A, “List of Colleges and Universities Subject to Section J.12.h of Circular A-21”
  • Exhibit B to Appendix A, “Listing of Institutions That Are eEigible for the Utility Cost Adjustment”
  • Exhibit C to Appendix A, “Examples of “Major Project” Where Direct Charging of Administrative or Clerical Staff Salaries May Be Appropriate”

Volume Two: Supplemental Materials

  • Detailed, Complete History of Proposed and Final Revisions to A-21 Since 1956
  • Overview of A-21: Abstraction of Key Components
  • Special Features of the PocketGuide To A-21
  • Due Diligence Resources: Assurances, Approvals, Certifications, Allowable and Unallowable Costs, Reasonableness, Allocation and Other Resources
  • Complete Text of 1979 Department of Health, Education and Welfare (DHEW) Interpretation of the 1979 Issuance of A-21
  • August 31, 2005 Transmittal of A-21 to 2 CFR Part 220
  • Excess Cash Flow Schedule.

Volume Three: Federal Revisions and Other Documents

  • This volume includes more than 1,000 pages so it is split into Parts A and B.
  • It includes proposed and final revisions (more than 50 documents including the original 1956 A-21.

Volumes 1-3 are sometimes referred to as the Complete PocketGuide To A-21.

Special Features

Department of Health, Education and Welfare (DHEW) Interpretation of the 1979 revision to A-21

  • The March 1979 “revision” was in fact almost a complete reworking of the former cost principles in response to several audits disclosing inconsistent cost treatment, sloppy time and effort reporting systems and undocumented cost transfers.
  • The U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (DHEW) held a series of seminars around the country to explain the new A-21 from its perspective.
  • The “Interpretations” were prepared for these seminars.
  • Even though they never were incorporated offi cially into federal regulations, they are part of the literature and have been influential in negotiations.
  • They are provided as an important part of A-21.

Abstracts of important decisions by the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA) and the Court of Claims have also been included.

Topics covered include:

  • Direct and Indirect Costs
  • Allocability
  • Costs Incurred Specifically for a Contract
  • Cost Benefit
  • Necessary to the Overall Operation of the Business
  • Reasonableness
  • Prudent Person
  • Matching Concept of Revenue

University of Oklahoma Outreach Home - Center for Grant and Contract Studies University of Oklahoma