Research Administration Policies

RA22 Participant Support Costs

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

John Hanold, 814-863-0768,

Policy Steward: 

Senior Vice President for Research and Associate Vice President for Budget and Finance



To establish the requirements that apply to participant support costs.


Funds identified as "participant support costs" are those costs paid to (or on behalf of) participants in meetings, conferences, symposia, seminars and workshops, if allowed in the award budget. Participant support costs are intended to support students and other trainees. Participant support costs may not be paid to individuals providing administrative or logistical support, individuals attending the conference as invited speakers or research subjects participating in a study. Per the Uniform Guidance,

"Participant support costs means 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 conferences, or training projects" (2 CFR 200.1).

Participant support costs are allowable with the prior approval of the Federal awarding agency (2 CFR 200.456).

Participant support costs are excluded from MTDC (2 CFR 200.1), thus F&A is not assessed on participant support costs (unless the budget is being calculated on a TDC or Total Cost basis.) There is no special object code associated with participant support costs, since such costs can be associated with travel, stipends, registration fees, etc. Thus, it is generally necessary to establish separate accounts, one for the participant support costs (assessed 0% F&A) and one for all other costs.

The federal government also expects participant support costs to be accounted for separately. According to the Uniform Guidance, grantees must request the Federal awarding agency's prior approval before transferring funds budgeted for participant support costs to other categories of expense (2 CFR 200.308(c)(5)). As a result, unused participant support costs are generally returned to the sponsor rather than spent on other categories of cost.

Historically, participant support costs have been associated most commonly with the National Science Foundation (especially Research Experience for Undergraduates grants (REUs) and Research Experiences for Teachers grants (RETs)). Please refer to NSF's Grants Proposal Guide, Chapter II, section C.2.g.(v) for NSF specific guidance.


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research or the Office of Budget and Finance.


RAG22 - Guidelines for Participant Support Costs

Revision History:

  • November 28, 2020 - Updated to reflect revision to UG

  • September 17, 2019 - Changed Vice President for Research to Senior Vice President for Research

  • March 10, 2017 - Edits have been made to the POLICY section to better define what participant support costs are, and for what/whom they may be expended.
  • February 26, 2016 - This new policy has been created as part of the policy reorganization brought about by the implementation of the Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200).


Date Approved: 

March 9, 2017

Date Published: 

March 10, 2017

Effective Date: 

March 10, 2017