Participant Support Costs

Policy Approval Authority President
Responsible Division Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships
Responsible University Office Sponsored Programs Administration
Responsible Officer(s) Assistant Vice President
Contact Person Dara Little,
Primary Audience Faculty
Status Active
Effective Adoption Date 03-31-2010
Last Review Date 05-01-2016
Policy Category/Categories Sponsored Funding/Grants and Contracts


To ensure compliance with Federal regulations governing the treatment of Participant Support Costs on sponsored awards.

Reason for Policy

Agencies may fund a project to support outreach programs that bring together experts to discuss research or educational findings or to expose researchers, students, or teachers to new teaching and research techniques. To cover associated costs, the sponsor may include a category of expenses generally referred to as participant support costs. These costs are allowable only with prior approval of the federal agency and may not incur indirect costs. To comply with these federal regulations, NIU must carefully manage these costs to ensure that they are properly identified, are separately accounted for, and are not reallocated into or out of other budget categories without the prior written approval of the sponsor.

Intended Audience

  • Faculty and Staff
  • Departmental/Divisional Business Administrators
  • Finance Personnel
  • Sponsored Programs Administration Personnel


Participant Support Costs

A direct cost budget category intended 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, or training projects.

Participant support costs do not include:

  • Payments made to research subjects as an incentive for recruitment and participation in a research project.
  • Honoraria paid to a guest speaker or lecturer.
  • General conference support costs such as facility and media equipment rentals.
  • Any costs that cannot be readily identified to a participant(s).


Individuals who are recipients of or benefit from a service, training, or experience in connection with formal meetings, conferences, symposia, or training programs. Such individuals may include NIU students, national scholars and scientists, private sector representatives, teachers and others who attend and participate in a formal conference, workshop, or training activity.

Participants do not include NIU employees.

Examples of projects or activities that generally include participant support costs:

  • NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experience for Teachers (RET)
  • K-12 Education Outreach Projects
  • Conferences funded by NSF or another federal agency
  • Department of Education training grants (participants are referred to as “trainees”)


NIU shall manage participant support costs in accordance with 2 CFR 200.75 and per 2 CFR 200.456.

Where participant support costs are included in a proposal budget, SPA will consider agency approval of that proposal and budget to meet the prior approval requirement. Investigators who need to rebudget funds out of participant support costs to another budget line or add participant support costs to a project shall work with SPA to obtain prior agency approval before SPA will make the change. Any unexpended participant support costs at the end of the project will be returned to the agency.

Facilities & Administrative (F&A) costs will not be assessed on participant support costs, unless otherwise directed by the agency.

Managing Participant Support Costs

Budgeting for Participant Support Costs

Projects that anticipate the need for participant support costs should include these costs in the proposal budget. Principal Investigators must identify the number of participants to be supported in the proposed budget and the budget narrative shall include a description of how the cost benefits the project.

Always review funding guidelines as some agencies (e.g. NSF REU’s) have special requirements regarding the treatment of these costs.

Principal Investigators are strongly encouraged to discuss participant support costs with their SPA Research Development Specialist during the proposal development process to ensure these costs are properly classified.

Establishing Participant Support Costs in the Award Budget

When the SPA Grants and Contracts Administrator receives an award that includes funding for participant support costs, the costs are established under the following PeopleSoft account codes:

PS-Stipends             710031

PS-Travel                 710032

PS-Subsistence        710033

PS-Other                 710034

Monitoring Participant Support Costs

Principal Investigators are responsible for monitoring his/her Financial Summary Reports (FSR) to ensure that these funds are adequately spent. Should the PI no longer need these funds, s/he is encouraged to contact his/her Grants and Contracts Administrator to discuss agency approval to rebudget the funds into other project budget categories.

The Grants and Contracts Administrator will also review these account codes at least quarterly to monitor spending. Where there is minimal activity, the Grants and Contracts Administrator will contact the PI to discuss the continued need for these costs and plan for requesting agency approval to rebudget if the funds are no longer needed for participant support.

Any participant support funds remaining in the participant support account codes at the end of the award period must be returned to the sponsor.

Reimbursing Participant Support Costs

The PI or his/her designee must initiate requests for payment of participant support funds by submitting the proper accounting form to the Grants and Contracts Administrator. The reimbursement form will depend on the purpose of the reimbursement.

Common accounting forms include:

PIs considering using a P-Card should check with his/her Grants and Contracts Administrator to confirm the use of this payment mechanism.

PIs are responsible for ensuring sufficient back-up documentation, (e.g. receipts) exists to support charges.

Effective Date: 03/31/10
Revision Date: 05/01/16
Revision No. 2
Approval: Assistant Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs

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