Working with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – General Information


Penn State is one of the Commonwealth’s largest research partners. As the Commonwealth’s land-grant university, Penn State performs a wide variety of research, research related services, and training services at its main campus at University Park as well as its network of branch campuses.

When preparing a proposal to the Commonwealth, there are some important pieces of information you should know:

  1. Will the resultant award be issued under the COP/PSU Master Agreement? If so, click HERE for details on the Master Agreement and the proposal submission process.

  2. What is the source of funds? (Commonwealth? Federal flow-through? Another source?) For information on how to apply F&A to Commonwealth proposals, click HERE . The Commonwealth is obligated to inform us of the source of funding per their  Management Directive 305.21.  Additional guidance on charging F&A to COP projects can be found HERE.

  3. Commonwealth travel rates will apply. Further information on Commonwealth travel policies and rates can be found in the TRAVEL section below.

  4. The budget notes for Commonwealth proposals are different than our standard budget notes (reference to COP travel rates being applicable and removal of the reference to ONR as our cognizant agency). Click HERE to see to the COP budget notes.

  5. Resultant awards from the Commonwealth could use one of a variety of agreement formats. Further inforamtion can be found in the AGREEMENT TYPES section below.

  6. What do I need to know about capital equipment? It depends on whether your award is under the COP master agreement (see COP Master FAQ section here) or a standalone award (see Question #11 of Working with the Commonwealth FAQ below)

  7. What are the audit requirements for Commonwealth awards? (see Question #5 of Working with the Commonwealth FAQ below)

Questions regarding Commonwealth related issues should be referred the Office of Sponsored Programs or refer to Penn State’s Office of Governmental Affairs.


Agreement Types

Working with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – Agreement Types


The Commonwealth has at its disposal a variety of agreement formats that could be issued to Penn State to perform research projects and services including grants, purchase orders, and Intergovernmental Agency Agreements (IGA’s). The type of agreement issued is determined by the issuing Commonwealth agency.

  • Grants. Grants fall under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth’s Office of Budget and are intended for the benefit of the public. Agencies have the statutory authority to issue grants which may be competitively bid or sole source. Many agencies have their own grant agreement format (for instance DEP has Form 7C-K-460) which includes many standard non-negotiable provisions, however, the agency grant officer does have the latitude to make changes they deem acceptable and reasonable.  Grants are issued bilaterally and require both Commonwealth and PSU signatures.

  • Purchase Orders. Purchase orders fall under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth’s Department of General Services (DGS) and are considered a service and for the benefit of the issuing agency. As they are considered procurement actions, the terms and conditions attached to purchase orders are considered non-negotiable. Purchase orders are typically issued unilaterally and do not require a Penn State signature. Penn State can receive purchase orders using a variety of terms and conditions:

Purchase orders issued under the COP/PSU Master Agreement No. 4400008014 (link to master agreement page).  Note that these terms were negotiated by DGS and Penn State and are considered non-negotiable for subsequent purchase orders.

Standalone purchase orders utilizing COP standard terms and conditions (please note that the terms and conditions below are non-negotiable and will require a signoff by the college/unit). Here are a few of the terms and conditions sets we have received from the Commonwealth:



  • Intergovernmental Agency Agreements (IGA). IGA's are typically issued to schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and have standard terms and conditions.


Working with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – Travel


The Commonwealth follows the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) rates. These rates may be reviewed by clicking HERE. Manual 230.10 Commonwealth Travel Procedures Manual of the aforementioned website includes important details related to travel.

  • The COP mileage reimbursement rate follows the GSA/Federal Travel Regulations found HERE.

  • Applicable per diem rates can be found HERE. If proposed hotel/per diem exceeds the maximum amount (for instance if a conference hotel rate exceeds the rate for that area), the University may request a deviation from the GSA rate. A rationale for the requested higher rate and documentation of attempts made to find lower cost lodging must be provided to the agency for their written approval. NOTE: The request for deviation and Commonwealth approval must be accomplished at the proposal stage. The decision to approve an exception to the GSA hotel/per diem rates is at the sole discretion of the Commonwealth agency.

  • The travel budget note for Commonwealth proposals deviates from Penn State’s standard travel budget note as it reflects Commonwealth travel rates apply vs. University travel rates. Please click here  for the budget notes for Commonwealth proposals which includes the following travel note:

   All travel will be in accordance with Commonwealth (GSA) travel rates.  The COP mileage reimbursement rate follows the GSA/Federal Travel Regulations found here: Applicable per diem rates can be found here: Mileage and per diem will be charged at the current rate on the date of travel in accordance with Commonwealth (GSA) regulations. Travel costs should provide a breakdown of each trip and the cost estimates associated with each trip.

  • Post Award Note: Regarding travel which is not included in the original budget but is subsequently deemed necessary for the project, please review the agreement for any rebudgeting language/guidelines. In the absence of any such language or if the rebudget does not fall within the guidelines, a request should be submitted to the agency (along with a justification/budget revision) for approval. In most instances an amendment/modification of the award will be issued by the sponsor.



Currently all out-of-state travel (includes travel from Pennsylvania to anywhere outside of the state and also travel from anywhere outside the state into Pennsylvania) on Commonwealth-funded projects is prohibited unless prior written approval is received from the issuing Commonwealth agency (see below for exceptions to this ban). Please contact the person who issued the agreement on behalf of the Commonwealth to request approval.

Please note that Commonwealth awards that utilize federal flow-through funding are NOT subject to this ban on out-of-state travel. Any changes to this policy will be updated when received from the Commonwealth’s Department of General Services. For further details on this restriction and the process for obtaining approval of out-of-state travel, please go to:


The prohibition on out-of-state travel on Commonwealth-funded projects does not apply to:

- Non-overnight vehicle or train travel across state lines. However, the prohibition will be monitored and should not be circumvented by simply driving to destinations.

- Travel funded 100% by third-party dollars, unless Commonwealth dollars are used to cover upfront costs, or the agency regulates, monitors, oversees, or supports the third party paying for the trip.  In such circumstances, travel must be approved by the Governor's office and is conditional upon the total reimbursement of expenditures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Working with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – FAQ's


(For FAQs unique to the Commonwealth Master Agreement, click here)


Q1:  What F&A rate should be applied to Commonwealth proposals?

A: It depends on the source of funding. There is no F&A recovery permitted on Commonwealth-funded awards with the rare exception when an RFP/solicitation states if some partial F&A recovery is permitted. F&A recovery on federal flow-through funding is allowable and subject to the guidelines of the federal funding agency. The source of funding should be verified at the proposal stage – please contact the agency if this information in not readily available. For further guidance, click here and refer to the “Guidance on F&A for Commonwealth Proposals” section or go to the Penn State F&A FAQ.

If the Commonwealth agency cannot identify the source of funding at the time of the proposal, the proposal should be submitted at the full applicable F&A rate (on or off-campus, instruction, etc. as appropriate for the project). If subsequent to proposal submission we receive written confirmation from the agency that the project will be 100% Commonwealth funded or a combination of Commonwealth and federal funds, the F&A can be recalculated at that time and a revised budget submitted.

Q2: What travel rates will apply to my award?

A: The Commonwealth follows the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) rates. These policies may be reviewed by clicking here. Please note there is currently a ban on all out-of-state travel (inbound and outbound) when Commonwealth funds are utilized unless prior approval is obtained from the sponsor. Please click here and refer to the “Travel” section for more details.

Q3: Can we use the University’s standard budget notes when submitting a proposal/budget to the Commonwealth?

A: A separate budget note page has been created to include reference to applicability of Commonwealth travel rates and removal of the reference to ONR as our cognizant agency. Click here for the budget note page to be used for Commonwealth budgets.

Q4: Does the Commonwealth allow reimbursement of preaward costs?

A: Whether the award is a purchase order or a grant, costs are not allowable prior to the start date/effective date of the award.

Q5: Does the Commonwealth accept our A-133 audit or is a project-specific/program audit required?

A: For federal flow-through funding, the Commonwealth typically accepts our A-133 audit. For Commonwealth-funded projects greater than $100,000, some agencies require a project-specific audit - this requirement should be identified in the RFP/solicitation. If required, it is an allowable direct cost as long as we include it in the budget – failure to include this cost at the proposal budget stage will require PSU to pay for the audit from University funds.  Fiscal Year 19, the program audit cost to include in our budget is $7,000 .

Q6: What determines the type of award document issued (grant, contract, purchase order, etc.)?

A: The type of award document issued is at the discretion of the Commonwealth agency.  Because the terms of the COP/PSU master agreement are already negotiated, it is our preference to receive purchase orders under the master agreement but we cannot dictate this to the Commonwealth agency.

Q7: How long will it take to hear from the Commonwealth regarding the status of my proposal?

A: It may take up to several months to go through the review and approval process at the Commonwealth so submit your proposal as far in advance as possible.  For the subsequent award, please note some contracts and grants can be issued with a retroactive start date but purchase orders are typically effective the date they are issued with no costs allowable prior to the effective date.

Q8: How long will it take to process my agreement once it is received by the Office of Sponsored Programs?

A: Purchase orders are issued unilaterally so the processing time is typically shorter than for other types of awards. In the case of a contract or grant, this can be a very time consuming process. Some terms may need to be negotiated but in the event we are unable to negotiate problematic provisions, an internal signoff will be required. Also, contracts and grants are typically issued bilaterally with the Commonwealth signing last – with multiple signatures required on the Commonwealth side, this can be a very time consuming process taking up to several months. Some contracts and grants can be issued with retroactive start dates but purchase orders are typically effective the date they are issued with no costs allowable prior to the effective date.

Q9: Are Commonwealth terms and conditions negotiable?

A: Purchase orders are considered procurement actions and the terms and conditions are considered non-negotiable. Grants and contracts include many standard provisions usually deemed non-negotiable but the agency grant/contract officer does have the latitude to negotiate changes they deem acceptable and reasonable.

Q10: What happens if the Commonwealth cannot make requested changes to an award?

Often the Commonwealth cannot permit changes to provisions which the University deems to be problematic or a financial risk. In such instances, the Office of Sponsored Programs will prepare a signoff which lists the unacceptable terms, the changes we would make if the Commonwealth were willing to negotiate, and a description of the problem (financial risk for example). The PI and PI’s department head/Dean must complete and return the signoff to OSP to acknowledge their acceptance of these provisions as is.

Q11: Who owns capital equipment ($5,000 or greater) purchased under a Commonwealth award?

Under the COP master agreement and almost all other COP awards, ownership of capital equipment will vest with the Commonwealth upon completion or termination of the project.  For non-master agreement awards, If PSU desires to have equipment ownership transferred to the University, contact the issuing COP agency to request a formal transfer of ownership. In the event the COP determines it will retain ownership, the issuing agency should be contacted to request disposition instructions. The COP master agreement has very detailed instructions for the reporting of both capital equipment and expendable property – see the master agreement FAQ and Change Order #3 of the COP master agreement for more details.

Q12: What are the rebudgeting requirements on Commonwealth awards? What do I need to do?

A: Most Commonwealth contracts and grants include rebudgeting guidelines/approval requirements but they are not all the same. Review the agreement to see if guidelines are provided. If none are included, it is highly recommended that a formal rebudget request (this would include carryover requests) be submitted to the agency for approval. Approval may be in the form of an email, letter, or formal modification of the agreement.

Commonwealth Master Agreement

Working with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – Commonwealth Master Agreement


Click HERE for more information on utilizing the Commonweatlh Master Agreement.

Budget Notes specific to Commonwealth Proposals

Working with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – Budget Notes Specific to Commonwealth Proposals


The budget notes for Commonwealth proposals have been modified in response to comments received from several COP agencies:

  • The reference to the Office of Naval Research (ONR) as the University’s cognizant federal agency has been removed.

  • The applicable travel rates have been changed from University rates to Commonwealth rates.

  • A new budget note has been added which states the budget was prepared with the assumption that funding is from (insert prime funding source identified by the COP agency) and should the funding source change, the University will revise the budget accordingly.

A sample Commonwealth budget notes page incorporating the above is available here.

Other Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Information/Forms

Working with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania - Other Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Information/Forms


Commonwealth proposal and awards often mention additional references or forms that we are required to complete and return. Below is a sampling of the most commonly referenced terms and forms:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Management Directive 305.21

  • Requires COP agencies to identify source of funds provided to Penn State.

Pennsylvania Department of General Services (DGS)

  • Agency responsible for coordination of the COP Master Agreement.