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.


  1. It Works. This policy has already been implemented successfully in the UT College of Engineering.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Competitiveness. As things stand, UT is demonstrably at a disadvantage, and losing competitiveness, in the absence of such a tuition remission policy.
  5. Recruitment. Conversely, once this policy is in place, it would provide a powerful and attractive benefit for being part of UT's research community.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Sponsored Projects

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:

Not Considered Sponsored Projects

Activities supported by a donor that are generally not considered sponsored projects may include the following characteristics:

Additional Information

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
(512) 475-9674

Gail Giebink
Director, Foundation Relations
(512) 475-9628

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
(512) 471-6424

Participant Support Costs Guidance

Original Memorandum (Word) (PDF)

OSP Practice

When creating and calculating a budget that involves participant support costs, the following will apply:


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.

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:

What costs CANNOT be included as participant support costs?
Participant support costs do not include the following types of payments:

Conditions associated with participant support funds


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.

Post-Award Management

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.