Definition /  Description

Participant support costs are those costs paid to (or on behalf of) participants or trainees (not employees) for participation in meetings, conferences, symposia, and workshops or other training activities when there is a category for participant support costs in the award. Registration fees, travel allowances, manuals, supplies, tuition and stipends may be regarded as participant support costs in this case.

Participant support costs:

  • are identified specifically on National Science Foundation (NSF) awards.
  • are awarded by other sponsors (but not necessarily referred to as "participant support costs") and tend to be by program.
  • are usually allowable on federal grants.
  • are accounted for in separate sub budgets.
  • are budgeted for the full amount under object code 03-34 (registration and conference fees), whereas the actual participant support cost expenditures may post to object codes 03, 04, 05, or 08, as appropriate.
  • are often subject to special sponsor regulations
    • do not allow rebudgeting from the participant support cost category into other categories without prior sponsor approval.
    • may be exempt from facilities and administrative (F&A) costs.
    • require the university to return any unexpended participant support costs to them.
    • are associated with special programs that provide research experience for participants, such as Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) on National Science Foundation grants. Additional sponsor regulations:
      • do not allow participant support costs to be budgeted on REU and RET sub budgets to be spent on non-participant activities.
      • budget allocations cannot offset a deficit in the parent account.

Process Overview/Accounting for Participant Support Costs

  • Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) will request a separate subaccount for NSF awards with participant support costs on the Electronic Funding Action (eFA). Grant and Contract Accounting (GCA) will set up the sub budget.
  • OSP will request a separate subaccount on the eFA for participant support costs for other funding agencies when the sponsor requires special accountability.
  • Participant support costs for REU and RET on NSF awards are set up in REU/RET sub accounts. REU/RET is noted first in the award title.
  • Appropriate indirect costs are charged by entering the appropriate indirect percentage and a specific base in the university's financial accounting system.
  • GCA staff review participant support costs at closing and work with departments to adjust for any discrepancies.

PI/Department Responsibilities

  1. Review award documents at set up, looking for wording similar to "participant support" or "participant costs awarded" to determine if this issue is applicable to your grant.
  2. Check the sponsor's regulations to see if any rules prohibit the university from applying F&A costs to these charges.
  3. If a separate sub budget has not been set up and the sponsor does not allow the university to apply F&A costs to these charges or requires separate accountability for these costs, notify GCA and a separate sub account will be established.
  4. Monitor expenditures for appropriateness throughout the life of the grant.
  5. Work with GCA at closeout.
  6. Obtain written sponsor approval for any rebudgeting into or out of the participant support cost sub budget.