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Direct Costs – Participant Support Costs (PCOST)

Click here to access the Participant Support Costs section of the Post-Award Sponsored Projects Guide on page 27.

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. These costs require prior agency approval.  In addition, these costs must be excluded when calculating the Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC) to determine the overall project’s F&A costs.

Participant is defined as 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 project.  University employees may not be participants.

Because Participant Support Costs must be accounted for separately the Office of Contract and Grant Accounting (OCGA) will establish a separate project to account for the participant support cost portion of the award.

Examples of Allowable Participant Support Costs

  • Stipend. A stipend is a set amount paid to the participant to be used in connection with training.
  • Subsistence allowance. A subsistence allowance is a predetermined amount to be used to help offset housing or subsistence expenses during the period of the training. The cost of a participant’s housing and per diem expenses must be necessary and reasonable for the individual to participate in the training. It should be noted that participants who live in the area local to the training are not entitled to subsistence payments. They can however, participate in the meals and snacks provided at the meeting or conference.
  • Travel. Travel includes the actual costs of transportation, lodging, meals and associated expenses to and from the training location. These costs must follow sponsor guidelines as well as UMBC travel guidelines. The sole purpose of the trip must be to participate in the training.
  • Fees. The fees paid by a participant or on behalf of a participant in connection with training. These fees could include event registration fees, laboratory fees related to participant training, and passport or visa fees for foreign participants.
  • Other. Other costs not listed above should be specifically allowable per the funding solicitation and identified in the approved sponsor budget. These costs are paid to or on behalf of the participant and should be required for their involvement in the training.

What Expenses are NOT Participant Support Costs

  • Honoraria paid to a guest speaker or lecturer
  • Expenses for project personnel or collaborators to attend meetings, conferences, or seminars including meetings to discuss a research project’s progress and direction
  • Payments to participants in human subject research studies
  • Conference support costs such as facility rentals, media equipment rentals, or conference food and snacks
  • Payments to the providers of the training
  • Payments to other employers to reimburse the employer for the costs related to sending its employee to a training.

Re-budgeting out of the line item participant support costs and into the general project budget is not allowable without prior approval of the sponsoring agency. Sponsoring agency prior approval is also required to move budget out of the participant support costs budget lines for Stipend, Subsistence, Travel and/or Fees and into the participant support cost line item of “Other”.

The PI is required to obtain documentation to substantiate participant support costs.  Examples of this documentation may include:

  • Stipend
    • Written agreement prior to program stating the amount of the stipend
    • Stipend rates must be consistently applied across the program and pro-rated where appropriate
  • Subsistence
    • Payments should be documented in the same manner as stipends
    • Reimbursements require the submission of receipts or a previously agreed-upon per diem
  • Program Completion
    • Documentation is required indicating successful program completion
    • Classes or workshops require records indicating program attendance such as sign-in sheets or record of ID being swiped