Participant Support Costs

Awards from Federal agencies and other sponsors sometimes include funds for 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 conferences or training projects. When calculating Facilities and Administration (F&A) costs, participant support costs are excluded from modified total direct costs (MTDC).

Who is a participant?

A participant is an individual who is the recipient of a service or training provided at a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium or other short-term instructional or information sharing activity funded by a sponsored award.

A participant cannot:

  • Be a Tufts University employee, student, or project staff member receiving compensation directly from the project
  • Perform work or services for the project or program other than for their own benefit
  • Be required to deliver anything or provide any service to the University in return for this support
  • Be a recipient of compensation from other federal sources while participating in the project
  • Be a research subject receiving incentive payments.

What are participant support costs?

Participant support costs may include the following expenses, when required to participate in the project:

  • Stipends
  • Subsistence allowance
  • Tuition and registration fees
  • Event registration fees or lodging and meal expenses paid directly to the event facility, only if the payment is made on behalf of the participant
  • Travel costs, including meals and incidentals
  • Training materials and supplies

Participant support costs are those costs paid to or on behalf of the participant(s) only. 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.

Budgeting participant support costs

Participant support costs require prior agency approval and are not allowable for research projects without an education or outreach component.

Participant support costs can be included in competitive proposal budgets for agency approval. Guidelines must be reviewed carefully to determine whether participant support costs can be included as direct costs in an award budget. When participant support costs are proposed, a detailed justification is required that describes the purpose of the requested costs and the way in which the participant support will directly benefit the proposed award’s scope of work.

Participant support costs cannot be rebudgeted for use in other categories without prior written approval of the sponsor, however sponsor approval is not required for rebudgeting of costs between the participant support categories. For example, participant support subsistence allowance can be rebudgeted to participant support stipends, etc.

Management of participant support costs

When a sponsored award includes participant support costs, the Principal Investigator (PI) and the Local Research Administrator (LRA) are required to be familiar with specific requirements as set forth by the sponsor and are responsible for ensuring compliance with those requirements.

The PI/department is also required to retain records detailing:

  • Criteria by which the participants were selected
  • Copies of applications of selected participants, with documentation as to how they meet the selection criteria
  • A list of program participants and documentation of their participation in the program

Central Post-Award establishes separate PeopleSoft scope accounts to house participant support costs.  The award description is entered as “Participant Support for (Home Account)” to allow for identification and isolation of these expenses.

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