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Greetings from SPA/OSP/CGA!

We are excited to debut the new Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) Newsletter! This is a combined newsletter with content from the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), Contract and Grant Administration (CGA), and SPA and we will initially plan to publish twice per year.

This newsletter is also available online at, and may contain extended versions of articles in this issue. Each article includes contact information should you have specific questions related to the corresponding content. For comments related to the overall content of the newsletter, or suggestions for future content, please contact: Jennifer Lafferty, or me. We hope you enjoy our first issue and we look forward to hearing your feedback!

Best Regards,
Twila Fisher Reighley, Assistant Vice President of Research and
Graduate Studies

NEW Budget Development Guidelines

Preparing a proposal budget takes a significant amount of time and consideration on behalf of the PI and research administrator. To assist with this process, OSP has posted Budget Development Guidelines, which provides guidance on the standard budget categories, as well as the budget justification, and also includes the start of an expanding list of Frequently Asked Questions. Questions? Contact Laura Johnston at

What are Participant Support Costs?by Vicki Spencer & Pat Hampton, OSP

Berkey Hall

When preparing your proposal budget, you may notice that the Sponsor allows a budget category called “participant support costs.” What does this mean?

Participant support costs (PSC) 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.

Who are participants? Participants may be students, national scholars and scientists, private sector company representatives, state or local government agency personnel, teachers and others who attend and participate in a conference, symposia, workshop, or short-term training activity supported by a particular award. Participants perform no work or services for the project or program other than for their own benefit; they are not involved in providing any deliverables to the University or a third party and may not be a MSU employee or MSU student that is receiving compensation directly or indirectly from the project.

What may be included as a participant support costs? Some examples include:

  • Event registration fees
  • Event support costs for lodging and meal expenses paid directly to the event facility, only if the payment is made on behalf of, or reimbursed directly to the participant
  • Tuition if required to participate in project
  • Laboratory or training materials if required
  • Stipend – predetermined amount to be paid directly to participant
  • Subsistence allowance – predetermined amount to assist with costs (such as lodging, meals, and laundry) necessary to participate in the project. Note that local area participants are exempt from having these costs covered.
  • Travel costs when the sole purpose of the trip is to participate in the project activity
  • Meals and incidentals when on travel status

What costs are not considered participant support costs? Some examples are:

  • Payments made to research subjects as an incentive for recruitment or participation in a research project. (This is a common budgeting mistake.)
  • Honoraria for guest speakers
  • Expenses for the PI, project staff or collaborators to attend meetings, conferences or seminars
  • Payments to Graduate Research Assistants
  • Payments to trainees who are receiving compensation, either directly or indirectly, from other Federal government sources while participating in the project.

Why is the participant support cost classification important? There are two main reasons for classifying participant support costs correctly. First, if an expense is incorrectly identified as a participant support cost, the Federal funding agency may not consider it an allowable cost as defined by the Federal Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200.75). Second, participant support costs are handled differently when assessing Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A). The Uniform Guidance states that participant support costs are exempt from F&A in federally sponsored projects. Therefore, you need to exclude PSC from the MTDC base so they will not accrue indirect costs. This is why participant support costs are included in their own category in Federal budgets.

For non-Federal awards, sponsor-specific guidelines should be utilized to determine if F&A is allowable on participant support costs. If there are no sponsor-specific guidelines, the Federal Uniform Guidance, which excludes F&A from PSC expenses, should be followed.

What are the post award impacts of budgeting participant support costs? If the project is funded and a PI decides to revise the budget to move costs out of the participant support cost category, the PI must request prior approval from the Federal awarding agency. This prior approval is also required for subaward budgets. For this reason, it is better to classify participant support costs correctly during the proposal stage so you can avoid post award complications.

Budget Tip: When submitting your budget to an OSP Proposal Team for review, it would be helpful to include your budget justification along with the budget so they can determine if participant support costs have been identified correctly.

Where can I find additional information on participant support costs? The OSP Proposal Teams are available to assist with questions related to participant support costs and they can help determine when and how you should include them in your proposal budgets.

Questions? Contact ProposalTeam1@osp.msu OR with questions.

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