Proposal Guidance Documents
Tuition Remission for Graduate Research Assistants
Original Memorandum (Word) (PDF)
Regarding tuition remission for graduate research assistants [(RAs)] GRAs,1 the Research Policy Committee (RPC) moves and recommends the following:
The University shall adopt a policy requiring that tuition remission be included in grant applications on grant proposals that employ students as research assistants, unless tuition remission is not allowed by the granting agency.1
If tuition remission is not written into an application, and if the granting agency does allow tuition remission, a written justification signed by the applicant's dean must be provided by the principal investigator to Office of Sponsored Projects.
- It Works. This policy has already been implemented successfully in the UT College of Engineering.
- Increased Awareness. According to information gathered by Graduate Student Assembly representatives from every UT department: (1) the most frequent reason why an [RA] GRA1 is not receiving tuition remission is that the research grant's principal investigator did not realize that tuition remission could be included in a grant; (2) the second most frequent reason is that the [RA] GRA1 is afraid to ask the principal investigator for tuition remission. Adoption of this motion would remove both of these problems.
- Equity. About 1400 [RA] GRA1 graduate students currently receive tuition remission from contracts and grants (about 70%); about 600 more are without tuition remission (about 30%). The majority of principal investigators heading up research grants already do write tuition remission into grant applications. Correcting this clear imbalance, whereby a sizable minority of 600 working [(RAs)] GRAs,1 are left without a tuition waiver, is clearly the right thing to do.
- Competitiveness. As things stand, UT is demonstrably at a disadvantage, and losing competitiveness, in the absence of such a tuition remission policy.
- Recruitment. Conversely, once this policy is in place, it would provide a powerful and attractive benefit for being part of UT's research community.
- Pragmatism. Recruitment of the best graduate students is a priority issue for the University, for the graduate school, and for many faculty members whose research depends on graduate students [(RAs)] GRAs1. Graduate students’ [(RAs')] GRAs'1 needs must be adequately addressed. Tuition remission in grant proposals is an issue on which we can become fully competitive, largely at the expense of the agencies and foundations that make grants. Proposals that do not ask for tuition remission are often leaving money on the table.
- Industry standard. A similar policy on tuition remission in grant applications is common practice at the majority of U.S. universities comparable to UT.
1. Amended by the Faculty Council on April 16, 2001.
Gift, Sponsored Project or Something in Between? A Guidance Document for Processing External Funds
Original Document (Word) (PDF)
Office of Corporate Relations and Office of Foundation Relations, University Development Office
and the Office of Sponsored Projects, Office of the Vice President for Research
The University of Texas at Austin
The Office of Corporate Relations and the Office of Foundation Relations, in the University Development Office, and the Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP), in the Office of the Vice President for Research strive to maximize the University’s ability to effectively attract, process, manage, and steward external financial support.
Proper classification and processing of external funds (i.e., gifts, grants, and contracts) assures the University's ability to comply with any terms specified by the sponsor/donor, meet reporting requirements, properly recover its costs – both direct and indirect – and facilitate acceptable levels of accountability and stewardship for these funds. Classification and processing of these awards is sometimes complex and requires the exercise of informed judgment, particularly in the many cases where the nature of an award is not immediately clear.
The University defines a sponsored project to be any externally funded research or scholarly activity that has a defined scope of work or set of objectives, which provides a basis for sponsor expectations. Sponsored projects enhance and expand the educational opportunities available to undergraduate and graduate students at the University, permit research, scholarly inquiry, and the development of new knowledge, contribute to the academic achievement and stature of the institution, and assist the University in fulfilling its responsibilities to the state and the nation. The following list of characteristics is provided as a means of further clarifying how external funds from non-governmental entities will be classified and processed at The University of Texas at Austin.
The existence of one factor alone may not be determinative of whether projects should be channeled through OSP. Multiple factors should be considered in order to decide whether a sponsored project exists and therefore must be processed through OSP according to procedures set forth by that office.
All research – proposals, contracts, or grants, regardless of funding source – must be processed through the Office of Sponsored Projects in order to assure research compliance. The following are characteristics of a sponsored project:
- Sponsor requires specific deliverables (e.g., final technical report, evaluation, technical assistance, training). This does not include minimal requirements, generally relating to required donor pledge payments and the University's commitment to effectuate the donor's intent (i.e., stewardship).
- Sponsor requires return of unexpended funds.
- Award designates a sponsor employee (agent) as project technical monitor, as opposed to designating a contact person to improve communications.
- Award contains intellectual property rights provisions and/or technology transfer.
- Award restricts or monitors publications or use of results.
- Award payments are contingent upon programmatic or fiscal reporting (e.g., specific milestones, invoices).
- Award includes "boilerplate" terms and conditions imposed by the project sponsor or negotiated with the sponsor by the University.
- Award requires protection of sponsor and confidential information.
- Award contains an itemized budget that requires sponsor approval to modify and/or that is subject to the provisions of federal cost accounting standards.
- Request for funding will be used to fulfill a matching or cost sharing commitment on another sponsored project or requires a matching, cost sharing or other financial commitment from the University.
- The project is linked to other sponsored research projects or contracts being conducted by faculty/researchers.
- Project involves the use of human subjects, vertebrate animals, radioisotopes on humans, radioactive materials, recombinant DNA, human body substances, etiologic agents or proprietary materials.
Not Considered Sponsored Projects
Activities supported by a donor that are generally not considered sponsored projects may include the following characteristics:
- Award supports an unrestricted purpose (including unrestricted support for an area of research) or such activities as endowments (e.g., endowed chairs, professorships), capital projects (e.g., construction or renovation, equipment), general student support (e.g., scholarships, fellowships), general operation of an existing, non-research-related project/program, or other general support.
- Award contains only minimal requirements, generally relating to donor pledge payments and the University's commitment to effectuate the donor's intent (i.e., stewardship).
- Award requires only minimal reporting to the donor in the form of a general statement of how funds were used (e.g., annual report, acknowledgement letter, IRS forms).
- Awards are irrevocable.
OSP and the Offices of Corporate and Foundation Relations will work together to determine a project's classification when it includes characteristics that, taken alone, will not necessarily determine a project's classification. To obtain additional information or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact:
Mark W. Blount, CFRE
Director, Corporate Relations
Director, Foundation Relations
University Development Office
Littlefield Home (LFH)
302 West 24th Street
Austin, TX 78705
Office of Sponsored Projects
North Office Building, Suite 5.300
101 East 27th Street
Austin, TX 78705
Participant Support Costs Guidance
Original Memorandum (Word) (PDF)
When creating and calculating a budget that involves participant support costs, the following will apply:
- When a sponsor / solicitation allows Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs, the rate outlined in the solicitation should be applied. The examples provided below are not meant to be all-inclusive. Be sure to read all solicitations carefully to ascertain the appropriate rate to apply to your application.
- The National Science Foundation (NSF) allows the following for Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) training grants: “Indirect Cost (F&A) Limitations: An administrative allowance, limited to 25% of the participant support stipend amount (Line F.1. on the FastLane budget form and Field E.2. on the Grants.gov budget), is allowed for REU Site and Supplement awards in lieu of indirect costs.”
- Solicitations that instruct applicants to calculate budgets on a Total Direct Cost basis allow full F&A cost recovery on participant support costs
- If a sponsor or a solicitation does not address F&A recovery, OSP will exclude Participant Support Costs from the F&A calculation.
OMB Circular A-122, Attachment B, Item 33 defines Participant Support Costs as follows:
Participant support costs. Participant support costs are direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with meetings, conferences, symposia, or training projects. These costs are allowable with the prior approval of the awarding agency. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars_a122_2004/#b33
Who is a participant?
A participant is a recipient who is not an employee of The University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin), not the provider, of a service or training associated with a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium, or other short-term instructional or information sharing activity. Participants are not required to provide any deliverable to the university and they are not subject to UT-Austin Human Resource policies (e.g., they cannot be terminated for failure to perform). Participants may include students, scholars, and scientists from other institutions, representatives of private sector companies, teachers, and state or local government agency personnel. A person classified as an intern would be paid as an employee and not as a participant, because the intern, while receiving certain training, is also providing services to the university, to the grant sponsor, or to a third party (e.g., counseling students at a local public schools).
What costs can be included in participant support costs?
Participant support costs include the direct costs for items such as the following:
- Stipend. A stipend is a set amount of money to be paid directly to the participant. Certain agencies of the federal government specifically restrict participant stipends. The professional staff in the Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) will assist the Principal Investigator (PI) to determine if the sponsoring agency for a particular project restricts the stipend to be paid to a participant.
- Travel. Travel includes the costs of transportation and associated costs and must follow sponsor guidelines (e.g., U.S. flag carrier, coach class, most direct route) as well as travel rules for the State of Texas and UT-Austin policies and guidelines. The sole purpose of the trip must be to participate in the project activity. If a training activity involves field trips, the costs of transportation for participants may be allowable.
- Subsistence allowance. The cost of a participant’s housing and per diem expenses necessary for the individual to participate in the project are generally allowed, provided these costs are reasonable and limited to the days of attendance. Although they may participate in meals and snacks provided at the meeting or conference, participants who live in the local area are not entitled to subsistence payments.
- Fees. The fees paid by a participant in connection with meetings, conferences, symposia, or training projects are generally allowable costs. These fees may include laboratory fees, passport or visa fees for foreign participants, and registration fees. A sponsor may also allow the costs of any UT- Austin tuition and fee charges that are required to be paid for the individual to participate in the training project.
- Other. Certain other costs in support of the participant’s involvement may be allowable, including training materials, laboratory supplies, and insurance.
What costs CANNOT be included as participant support costs?
Participant support costs do not include the following types of payments:
- Honoraria paid to a guest speaker or lecturer.
- Conference support costs such as facility rentals, media equipment rentals, or conference food.
- Subaward to a provider for multiple training events (i.e. an ongoing contract with specific terms and conditions).
- Agreements with employers (e.g., public school system) to reimburse the employer for the costs related to sending its employee to a conference or workshop. It is recommended that the PI inform participants prior to the initiation of the project about any costs associated with their participation in the project that are not covered.
Conditions associated with participant support funds
- All costs that are reimbursed to or paid on behalf of participants must be incurred within the project period and specifically allowed by the sponsoring agency.
- Participant support costs are budgeted in a separate line and must be accounted for separately.
- Funds provided for participant support costs that are not spent cannot be rebudgeted for use in other categories except with the prior written approval of the sponsor.
- In most cases, unspent participant support costs must be returned to the sponsor.
Are participant support costs the same as participant incentives?
No. Participant incentives are typically used to encourage individuals to participate in human subject research studies. Such payments are different and should be included among the project’s other expenses – not in the participant support cost category.
Can I use participant support costs to pay tuition for my GRAs?
No. The tuition referenced in the participant support cost category is for individuals categorized as participants. GRAs are considered employees of UT- Austin and are therefore ineligible for these monies.
Can I use Participant Support costs for my staff to travel?
No. A separate travel subaccount (75) is available for travel fund for employees of the research study.
Can I use participant support costs to pay for the PI’s travel?
No. The PI must use the travel subaccount (75) established at the time of award to pay for his/her travel.
Can I use participant support costs to pay for my collaborators to travel for project meetings?
No. If the PI is coordinating a meeting for collaborators to travel to a single destination to meet and discuss a research project’s progress and direction, the travel subaccount (75) is to be used.
Can I use participant support costs to pay for registration fees for the project’s key personnel or staff?
No.The participant support budget category is not for costs associated with sending project personnel to conferences or professional meetings.
If the project involves collaboration with a subawardee, in which budget are the participant support costs listed?
The participant support costs should be reflected on the budget of the institution that is providing the training for participants.
What subaccount will be established for participant support costs?
SPAA will create a (37) subaccount entitled ‘Participant Support’.
Can money be transferred from the 37 subaccount to other subaccounts?
Many times transfer in/out of stipend accounts is limited, especially on some NSF projects.
What happens when an expense is determined not to be an actual participant support cost
When an expense is determined not to be an actual participant support cost, SPAA will ask the PI / department to move the charge to the appropriate category. At this point, a determination would be made if an adjustment to the project’s F&A would also have to be made.