Fund Types and Permitted Expenditures

University funds come in three main flavors.  In this document I want to sketch briefly what these are, and what can and can’t be done with funds of each type.


1.         Restricted Funds       These are funds provided for a specific purpose.  The most obvious example is funds on an NSF or other grant.  All these funds have to be spent on the project described.  There may well also be restrictions requiring expenditures to be US-related in some way (e.g., when traveling on NSF money you must use a US air carrier; NSF money for postdocs or graduate students may include the requirement that the person receiving the money is a citizen or permanent resident; and so on.)


2.         General University Funds    These are derived from state appropriations, tuition and fees.  Salaries are paid from general funds so they form the largest part of the departmental budget.  Any individual research funds (startup funds, seminar funds, etc) are comprised of general funds.  Some examples of legitimate general funds expenses would be.

  • Travel associated with attending a mathematical conference or with research collaboration.
  • Purchasing research-related mathematical books
  • Group meals with seminar speakers at which mathematics is discussed
  • Salary for postdoc or research support staff

Some examples of expenses that would not be legitimate general funds expenses would be

  • An award to a student or employee (this would include, for instance, paying tuition for an overseas student)
  • A party or reception
  • Travel for the spouse of a visiting mathematician
  • Professional association (e.g. AMS, MAA) memberships


3.         Miscellaneous Unrestricted Funds (sometimes shortened to “unrestricted funds”).  These come from endowments, donations and other university sources of income.  All the items mentioned above would be legitimate charges to miscellaneous unrestricted funds.  Thanks to a recent policy revision, alcoholic drinks may not be charged to any Penn State funds, even unrestricted.


It is sometimes possible to “trade” between fund categories but the details must be worked out in each particular case.


The department has an essentially zero budget for miscellaneous unrestricted funds.  All such funds have to be generated by “trading” with the dean’s office.  For this reason, any proposed expenditures involving miscellaneous unrestricted funds should be cleared with our budget office before they are committed.


John Roe 1/20/2007