Award Expense Guidelines

Common Questions

How do I purchase a piece of equipment?

All equipment purchases are made with a requisition which can be initiated by ISU faculty or staff. Please check with your department when you are ready to purchase a piece of equipment to verify your department’s procedure. Back to top.

How do I buy lab and other research supplies for my project?

Iowa State University uses the CyBuy system to purchase most supplies used in general university research. The CyBuy vendor system uses competitively bid contracts to guaranteed the best prices for ISU faculty and staff. Please talk to your departmental administrator or view the CyBuy training videos to learn how to use the system. Back to top.

Do I need to gather quotes for a piece of equipment or service I want to purchase?

The number of quotes needed to purchase equipment and/or services will vary depending on the source of the funds. Federal funding for items greater than $3,000 requires departments or purchasing agents to perform a price reasonableness test. Obtaining three quotes or utilizing existing competitively bid contracts can satisfy this requirement. Documentation must be maintained to prove that this determination was completed. If Federal funds are not used, the requirements are generally less restrictive. If you have a quote, please include this with the requisition. If you need help identifying additional vendors, purchasing can assist with this. All equipment over $25,000 purchased with federal funds needs to be competitively bid. Back to top.

How do I know who to contact for purchasing equipment if I have a question?

Please see the Procurement Services’ staff page to find the best agent to contact. If you need additional help, you can contact Purchasing’s main phone, 294-4860. Back to top.

How do I know if something is allowable on federal funds?

The ISU costing policy for principal investigators is located on the SPA website and can address many of these types of questions. Back to top.

Can I purchase a computer on my sponsored award?

Whether or not you can purchase a computer on your award depends on a number of factors:

  1. Whether or not your award uses federal funds.
  2. Whether or not your award is under A-21 or Uniform Guidance.
  3. Your approved budget.

We recommend that your contact the Grants Hub, your SPA accountant, or your departmental administrator to determine the answer to this question. Back to top.

What are participant support costs?

Participant Support Costs (PSC) are direct costs paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees, who are not ISU employees, for their participation in meetings, conferences, symposia, workshops, or other training projects. PSC’s need to be identified at the proposal stage to be allowable on an award, or a rebudget with sponsor approval would be required. See OSPA’s PSC guide for additional information. Back to top.

What costs are unallowable on federal funds?

Please refer to the Sponsored Programs Accounting guide for unallowable costs. Back to top.

Do I need approval from the sponsor to rebudget funds for specific items or services?

You should review your award terms and conditions to determine the appropriate process for requesting changes to your award budget. If required, submit your rebudget request to on the Rebudget Request Form found at with a justification of the proposed changes. OSPA will transmit approved budget revisions to SPA to update the account in the university’s accounting system. If sponsor approval is not required, you can submit your rebudgeting request to SPA directly. Back to top.

Can I pay for tuition on my sponsored account?

Whether or not you can pay for tuition will depend on the terms and conditions of your award. Generally, Iowa State encourages tuition to be charged on sponsored funding awards that allow it. The rate charged is 50% of tuition for a Master’s student and 100% of tuition for a PhD student. Back to top.

Can I purchase my own airline ticket?

University policy allows ISU employees to purchase their own airline tickets. If you choose to do this, please remember that the traveler assumes all risk. If the trip is cancelled ISU will not reimburse the traveler for the ticket of a trip that was not taken. Trips arranged through ISU’s contracted travel agency and subsequently cancelled can have credits applied to future trips of any ISU traveler. Back to top.

How much will Iowa State reimburse for my meals?

Meal reimbursement rates vary, depending on where you are traveling (in state, out of state, foreign) and the length of time you are in travel status. For additional information, please see our Travel Allowances Overview for a summary of the most common travel expenses. Back to top.

How do I rent a vehicle from Iowa State?

Vehicles can be rented from Iowa State Transportation Services. Back to top.

Are travel expenses from Airbnb and Uber allowable?

Yes, they are. Airbnb accommodations are often cheaper than using hotels. When working with either Uber or Airbnb, be sure to ask for an itemized receipt for your reimbursement. Back to top.